Happy Kids, Happy Trip:
How to Keep Your Grandchildren Engaged While Traveling
Most grandparents will remember… the trip – or trips – where everyone looked forward to leaving but quickly regretted as soon as the kids got entangled in those cycles of bickering or complaining. Whether you’re flying, driving or going by train, there’s the certainty that your grandchildren will become bored, hungry, cramped, or just plain old feisty. Happy kids make for happy trips.
An unhappy child can turn the most eagerly anticipated journey into a miserable ordeal for everyone, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep those kids occupied as much as possible.
Pack a backpack
Fill a backpack with coloring books, crayons, colored pens, assorted games and each kid’s favorite healthy snacks. Place electronic devices including portable DVD players, tablets, handheld gaming devices, smartphones, chargers and video games in a separate backpack to make everything easy to find.
And consider putting names on each object to eliminate misunderstandings and reduce the likelihood of fighting. If you have young kids, don’t forget to bring along comfort toys such as stuffed animals and security blankets, which come in handy when kids start feeling anxious.
When kids are traveling, any time can be an opportunity for a super healthy snack. Substitute healthy foods including carrots, grapes, raisins, oatmeal cookies and granola bars for all those Twinkies, Doritos and chocolate chip cookies. Be sure to bring along plenty of water bottles and, for variety, a few juice boxes, though keep these to a minimum because of the sugar content.
Put some thought into the snacks and drinks. Be sure to bring along goodies your kids enjoy but avoid going heavy on the candy (remember they’re staying WITH YOU, not going home to your kids’ house) so they’re not bouncing off the roof before your first bathroom stop. Wherever you keep the snacks, in a cooler or backpack, make sure the kids can get to it without having to unbuckle and crawl over other kids.
Keep them happy with apps
Smartphone apps can be a real lifesaver if your children love video games. The right apps turn a smartphone into a powerhouse of games and online activities that can keep children occupied for hours. Petting Zoo, Chatterpix Kids, Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island, Dinorama, and Little Red Riding Hood are among the most popular new gaming apps based on a USA Today poll published recently.
Use your trip as an opportunity to teach the kids about geography and learn about your destination. Pick up some geography books for kids such as National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas, with state-by-state information with fun things to do, roadside must-sees and quirky traffic laws from different towns around the country.
Let the kids chronicle the trip in their own way with cameras so they can keep a photo journal of the experience. Give them an easy-to-access roadmap so they can chart your trip and keep track of the distances involved (one way to keep them from asking how much longer over and over).
Don’t forget about the road trip games you played as a kid to while away the miles and hours. Introduce your children to Count the Cars, a timeless favorite. Just pick a color and have the kids count the cars they see in that color. Or, play State Capitals and see how many they can name. Be sure to keep a smartphone handy so they can check and correct their answers.
If you have toddlers, finding an appropriate place for them to sleep can be a challenge when you’re on the road. A portable travel crib or pack and go is an ideal option if space is an issue in the trunk or wherever you’re staying. They’re lightweight and easy to set up and take down. Versatile mini cribs fit in compact spaces such as hotel rooms, a relative’s house or in an Airbnb. Your little traveler also will have a comfortable place to sleep and play.
Factor in the kids’ happiness when planning for a trip. Make a checklist of what you need to bring along and refer to it frequently so a favorite item doesn’t get left behind. It could be the difference between happy kids contentedly playing a favorite game and one bent on making everyone unhappy.
(Dadsolo.com has great ideas for everyone. He specializes in kids, especially everyday activities with Dad.)
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