Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Are We There Yet?

Young children are always on the move.  Their bodies and brain cells are growing at a rapid pace.  They seem driven to play and learn and experience as much as they can during every waking hour.  How many times have you wished that you could bottle that energy?

Waiting times, transitions between activities, are very uncomfortable for children.  Whereas busy grown-ups welcome a chance to stop and daydream for awhile, busy children prefer to stay busy!  Travel becomes problematic as children are forced to stay put and stay quiet for long periods of time.  Most long distance travels are either by car or plane. Each presents its own challenges.  But there are things we can do to make travel time more pleasant for children and parents alike.  

Long car rides with children can be torturous.  Even the most patient parents can lose their cool after hours of whining and fighting in the back seat of the car. Keeping our sanity at these times requires us to plan ahead and prepare.  Personally, I would never leave home with a child under five without some sort of snack.  Eating can be an activity for children.  Of course, it's important to give them healthy snacks, so they don't get sick on the way. Snacks should be easy to eat and not present choking hazards.  Some favorites are crackers, pretzels, juice boxes, fruits, raisins, and string cheese. An occasional treat can go a long way to keep the peace in the car.  My sister had a great idea for long car rides with my kids.  She brought a box of fruit rolls, and handed one out every time we crossed a bridge.

Many parents already have kid-friendly music that they play in the car. Frankly, I find a lot of music intended for children to be of poor quality and irritating.  Children should be exposed to good music. If you enjoy music, of whatever genre, share it with your kids.  There are also great toys and games for car rides.  Car bingo sets get the kids looking out the window for items on their bingo cards.  Finding as many different license plates as possible is also fun.  Children enjoy playing word games with adults, such as Guess the Animal or Geography.  For the first game, you think of an animal and answer yes/no questions until someone guesses the animal.  (You can also play Guess the Person.) Geography is for older kids.  One person names a place (city, state, country, river, continent, etc.) and the next person has to name a different place that begins with the last letter of the first (eg., New York / Kentucky).  Books are a great pastime for kids of all ages, and younger children will enjoy sticker books.  Magnetic shapes and letters can keep them busy too. You don't have to buy a fancy set; a child can maneuver magnets on a cookie sheet.  Etch-a-Sketch is another good toy for the car, as is Simon, an electronic memory game.  And while I don't encourage electronic games or videos, a long car ride could be the time break them out.

Babies often sleep in cars, which is the best case scenario.  Occupying an infant in a car is very trying.  Teething toys, finger foods, board books and rattles will help for a time.  Frequent stops will help everyone stretch and move and get some air. Tossing a ball at a rest stop can be fun, and the gross motor exercise may help the children relax when back in the car.

In addition to restlessness, car rides can cause some children to get nauseous.  These children should be taught to look far ahead, never close up while the car is moving.  Dry crackers, like Saltines, can help with nausea, as can ginger ale.  Bringing a pillow so the child can close her eyes and rest may help the most.

Planes are a bit easier because you can get up once in a while.  But they are harder because you don't want to inconvenience other passengers.  I just heard on the news today that George Clooney and his wife Amal gifted earbuds to their fellow air travelers, as an advanced apology for any crying from their six month old twins.  Many of the suggestions for car rides will apply to plane rides too.  Other good activities for plane travel include coloring books and crayons, mazes, dot-to-dots, magnetic checkers, tic-tac-toe, mini Connect Four, and playing cards.

There is so much that children can learn from traveling, and so much to be gained by experiencing new places.  Planning ahead for those empty stretches of time can help everyone enjoy the ride.


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