It is holiday time again and many of us are anticipating the long drive to our Easter destination. Is the car ready? Tyres, check; service, booked in; better get that chip in the wind screen attended to as well!
An aspect of the trip that can often leave you cold in the pit of your stomach is the thought of strapping a child, who when awake is moving constantly, into a car seat for hours at a time. Now, as we have established in a previous article (page 11). That screens, excessively handed to small children, can be detrimental on a number of levels. And as tempting as it can be to occupy your little ones with a phone or tablet, there are so many other ‘connecting and stimulating’ options available. With a little planning and forethought the journey can be made just as fun as the destination.
Sometimes called the busy bag. It is a small bag that you put together to take in the car on a long journey. This is great because it grows with the age and needs of the child. Now don’t make the fatal mistake of packing a bag full of exciting items and plonking it beside junior as you pull out of the driveway. I guarantee that by the time you have reached the open road the bag will be upturned and all contents explored and subsequently forgotten. You need to ration the activities out over the course of the journey. You also need to ‘disappear’ items when new ones come out so that they can be recycled for later. The list of items to include are exhaustive and really depend on the age and interests of the child. Include but don’t be too reliant on ‘imaginative play’ items as they can be bulky and can be transitioned into the ‘bored basket’ rather quickly. It is items that engage and stimulate that should be on the radar and they need not be expensive. Reactive toys for the very young are good, a flat board and chunky puzzles work well for toddlers. For drawing tape lengths of string to a couple of coloured pencils and then tie the ends to the spiral of a note pad. This works a treat and eliminates the long reach of retrieving the dropped pencil. I suggest a hunt around Pinterest to get the creative juices flowing for The Kit.
The Snack Bag!
Similarly constructed as the Kit Bag, the Snack Bag will hold an array of delectable goodies to be consumed en route. A couple of words to the wise here. Be discerning about your selection. A general rule of thumb is that if it cannot be vacuumed when spilled it is not included in the Snack Bag. If purchasing pre-packaged snacks, low sugar and CHECK THE NUMBERS! The last thing you want is to feed a child food that sends them into a hyperactive state when you have then safely (and somewhat tightly) restrained in a car seat. Again with the Snack Bag use the gradual release model, so that it is rationed along the journey. As always for hydration water is the safest option. Sugary drinks can have the same effect as additive colour and preservative packed foods.
There are a wide variety of audio books available for download from your library app. Audible is currently very popular and has an enormous selection of audio books available. Similar to watching a movie in length, an audio book has the added advantage of absorbing the time and kilometres on a long trip. Unlike watching a movie though, the audio book will stimulate the imagination centres of the brain. In as much, what is being heard is being play on the screen inside their mind.
Either photo copy (disposable) or laminated sheets (wipe and reuse) will work with this one. Set up a piece of A4 paper with a series of grids, 6 should be enough. In each box find an image of something you might see out the window of a car on a highway journey. Cow, 100km sign, red car, blue truck, windmill, white letter box, police car, etc. Each child gets a different configuration of images. Play bingo with a pre-determined prize.
On that board you were using for puzzles and drawings have the children fold some paper planes for testing at the next stop. They can be decorated once they are finished. It consumes time while in the car and gives some purpose to the stop when you take it.
Stop and run
Not only for the kids but the driver needs a regular break as well. When you sense the restlessness creeping in and without alerting the kids, start to look for a safe place to pull over, well off the road. Then when the car comes to complete stop and with some urgency get everyone to jump out and run around the car three times (arms in the air whooping as you go optional) then jump back in, seat belts back on and resume the journey. The kids love the random spontaneity of this activity. It gets the blood pumping and will temporarily circumvent the dreaded wriggles that befall kids in the car. With this less than a minute activity you should get another half hour before a proper rest stop is warranted.
With some preparation invested in the days or weeks before the big trip, you will minimise the drama that can sometimes come with long journeys with kids. Remember that while kids cannot self-regulate as well as adults. A long journey is also a great opportunity for them, in this digital age, to experience boredom and need to manage it. Don’t underestimate the value of boredom, because it is out of the experience of boredom that we can encourage our children to become creative. But that may be a discussion for another time.
At GymbaROO we are invested in the holistic neurological, physiological and emotional development of the child. Our program starts at 6 weeks of age with our BabyROO and continues through to toddlers and pre –schoolers with the aim of setting up their little brains and bodies to successfully make the transition to learning. Between you and I the kids think it is the most awesome of fun but we know that every song sung, every game played and every activity at GymbaROO is specifically designed to increase your child's capability