Traveling with Children 101

Destination – picked; Plans – made; Luggage – packed… But what about the journey there?!?!

You plan a great vacation, but then remember you must travel for SEVERAL hours with young children before arriving at your destination.  You may be thinking to yourself, “Whoever said ‘the fun is in the journey’ did not have to travel with toddlers.”

Developmentally, young children have very short attention spans and require interaction and physical movement – all of which can be difficult to accommodate in the confined spaces of a car or an airplane.

Helpful Tips for Your Trip

Timing is everything. If possible, plan to travel either early in the morning or later in the evening when children are more likely to be calm.  If you must travel during regular waking hours, plan stops along your route.  Rest areas are wonderful places for children to run around or enjoy a picnic.  If flying, plan to spend time getting up and walking with your child once the fasten seat belt signs are turned off.

Location, Location, Location. If possible, sit next to your child in the car instead of in front of him.  Doing this provides a way for you to interact with your child more easily.  It also allows you to give your child things he may need throughout the trip and to pick up items that he may drop.

Talk & Sing. Talk about what you see as you are traveling (put together a road trip BINGO game to play while you are talking about what you see).  Tell stories about trips you went on as a child.  Prepare a list of children’s songs you can sing together (ones with movements can allow children to wiggle while sitting).

Read & Write. Stop by your local library to pick out some “new” books to read or look at together.  Listen to books on CD or digital downloads.  Use a magnetic drawing board or paper and crayons for drawing a picture to tell a story or “write” a story together.

Play & Imagine.  There are several games that are easily adaptable for a variety of age groups like “I Spy,” “BINGO,” and “Tic Tac Toe.” Here are some additional ideas for types of activities that will accommodate different age groups.

9-15 months: (If flying, use a front carrier for getting on and off the plane)

  • Textured teething toys: Children in this age group are still learning about their world through touch and taste.
  • Interactive toys with suction: A suction will allow toys to stick to a flat surface, since infants in this age group tend to drop or throw toys, a suction helps to reduce this on a long trip.
  • Water-safe bath books: these books will not get ruined if they are chewed on and can be washed easily if the fall on the floor.

15-24 months:

  • Interactive board books: these books enable the child to experiment and play while listening to a story
  • Child-safe mirror: Children in this age group begin to make connections between who they see in the mirror and who they are.
  • Deck of Old Playing Cards: I did not believe this at first, but showing my child how to pull a card out of the deck and put it back again kept her entertained for a solid twenty minutes (that is saying something for a child in this age range)

2-3 years:

  • Sorting Games: circular solid colored stickers and squares of same colored paper for children to sort and match.
  • Play mats and favorite toys: Consider making or purchasing a play mat for children to use with their favorite toys (railways for trains, roads for cars, jungle or oc0eans for animals, house or town for people)
  • Velcro blocks: attach small circular Velcro stickers to foam blocks or large wooden popsicle sticks so the child can create even while traveling.

3-5 years:

  • Magnetic toys and cookie sheets: Magnetic letters, blocks, or puzzles stick to cookie sheets and help to keep the fun at their fingertips.
  • Window Clings: use the car window as a canvas. Window clings can peel off and be used again and again.
  • Silly Straw bead sorting: place beads and bendy straws of the same color into a container. Children string the beads onto the straw as they sort the colors.

School Age (K-5th grade):

  • “Would you rather” or “Which is your favorite” questions: Put together a series of questions like “Would you rather be able to fly or have super strength?”
  • Travel Notebooks: fill a three-ring binder with games and activities like Sticker sheets, paper for writing/drawing, tic tac toe, Road Trip “I spy” and “BINGO,” “Complete the doodle” pages, word searches, Sudoku, and mazes. Add in a three-ring binder pencil bag containing colored pencils, crayons, or markers.
  • Small hand crafts: braiding string to make bracelets and origami or paper airplane books allow children to be creative while sitting for long periods of time.

Finally, Flexibility.  Above all, flexibility will be your greatest ally.  Be flexible with your expectations and time constraints.  Frequent planned stops provide time for interaction and physical activity.

Prepare for the journey as a part of your vacation and “getting there will be half the fun.”


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