I remember all too well those pre-planned family vacations that were supposed to be so fun; you see yourself in the car having a good time listening to the kids laughing and singing songs only reality happens and it ends up being screaming toddlers, whining children and exhausted parents! And all those wonderful memories you were going to make end up being "not so great" memories. So I thought I would share some great traveling tips from Parenting.com to help keep the peace on your next family vacation and make wonderful memories.
Keep Healthy Snacks Handy
To keep the kids on an even keel, stock your car with healthy foods and forgo sugary snacks and junk food. Too much sugar, or perhaps even food coloring may cause children to become hyperactive. With no place to go, all that excess energy can turn your car into a madhouse. On your next vacation, try bringing some of these along:
Cheese sticks: You'll have to pack a mini cooler to keep cheese sticks cold on the road, but they have lots of protein to keep kids satisfied. For bonus entertainment, get the twisted variety that kids can unravel as they eat.
Fresh fruit: Fruit comes packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and can keep a sweet tooth happy. Just be sure to bring along wet wipes, paper towels and a few small trash bags for peels and cores.
Jerky: Though toddlers can't manage a piece of jerky very well, it does make a nutritious snack for older children. A great alternative to chips, protein-rich jerky takes a really long time to eat, which keeps grumpy children quiet in the car.
Plan Ahead for Car Activities
The experts at Kidoodle.TV suggest putting together a few boredom busters that will keep little hands and minds entertained for hours. Although they require a little planning, these traveling activities can save you aggravation on the road.
Magnetic busy tray: You can make a magnetic activity tray to entertain active minds on the go. Paint a small baking sheet with colorful spray paint and attach decorative wallpaper or scrapbook paper on the inside. When the tray dries completely, fill it with a variety of magnets that your children can mix and match.
Eye spy bottle: Little kids love to search for hidden treasures, so keep them occupied with a treasure hunt on the road. You can make an eye spy bottle using materials lying around the house. Use a funnel to fill an empty plastic soda bottle with about 1/4 cup of rice. Drop in a few tiny objects, such as sequins, plastic jewels, plastic figures or marbles. Repeat this process until you fill the entire bottle with layers of rice and objects. Then hot glue the bottle cap in place to prevent spillage. Write a list of the bottle's contents on an index card, punch out a hole in one corner of the card and attach it to the bottle with a piece of yarn or string. Kids can check off the items as they find them among the rice.
Remember the media: Technology gives today's parents kid-quieting opportunities their own parents never dreamed of. Attach portable DVD players to the backs of the front seats and play your kids' favorite movies. Bring portable gaming advices, or stream TV programming if you have mobile Internet service Kidoodle.TV and other streaming services offer kid-friendly media on your iPhone, iPad or Android devices.
Schedule Lots of Kid-Friendly Stops
Let kids release pent-up energy by stopping regularly. Pick some roadside stops ahead of time and mark them on your itinerary. You can choose unique sites, like the world's largest ball of twine or tiniest horse, or go simple by marking fast-food restaurant play areas on your route. Pit stops will allow those little legs to stretch - and if you're lucky, they'll wear the kiddos out enough to nap in the car.
Just remember that if you have little ones, it's going to take a little longer to get places and your patience has to be a little stronger. Children aren't meant to be confined for hours at a time; and actually adults aren't either. So let those little ones get out and run and play for a while. You as the parent might actually feel less stressed if you get out and move a little also ... remember, vacations supposed to be fun!
Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Support Specialist for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit www.iowarivervalleyeca.com