With summer drawing to a close, there’s still a bit of time left for one last road trip with the kids. By now, however, you may be dreading going out on the road with the small fry again. They can get so antsy, always asking, “Are we there yet?” and pinching each other until they cry. It’s a good idea to be prepared with ways to occupy the kids so that they’re engaged and having a good time.
Begin by having the children design litter bags while you’re packing what you need to take along. Give children paper bags and crayons and tell them how much you’re depending on them to make attractive receptacles for litter so as to prevent car passengers from say, sticking their gum to the underside of the driver’s seat. Decorating the bags should take them some time and keep them quiet and happy while you’re getting ready for the trip.
Now that you’re actually in the car, start with a contest. Ask the kids to sing the Kars4Kids jingle one at a time, and offer a prize to the kid who sounds the most like the original jingle as heard on the radio throughout the East Coast. The prize can be something small you purchase in advance of your trip, or you can offer something small like a handful of chocolate chips.
The jingle contest should offer you a nice way to segue into a family sing-along of the old favorite, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Each time you sing it, sing it just a bit softer and when you get to the la la la of the chorus, sing it loud. It should take about five verses for the lyrics to become a silent whisper followed by loud tra-la-la-la-ing and laughter. The song is a family unifier, has everyone trying to match each others’ volume. And of course, everyone likes to laugh when it goes really, really loud.
And of course, in the same genre is 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. That one lasts a LONG time. It should take you at least 10 miles until the kids reach the end. Not bad, huh? Some parents may not like the reference to alcohol, but hey, it’s just a song, right? You could even argue it teaches MATH.
By now, the kids will want a break from singing (and so will you). The next activity to try is a version of “I Spy.” Ask the kids to call out when they see something red. Then ask them to count how many cows they see between now and the next rest stop. Get creative and make it a challenge, each time you identify what it is they are going to look for next.
Keep in mind that it’s hard for kids to sit still for so long. Be flexible when you have kids along for the ride and look for picnic areas where they might stretch their legs for a bit. You can have them play Mother May I for 15 minutes to give them a chance to be active before the next leg of the trip.
Before you know it, you’ll be at your destination with happy kids in tow. You kept them from boredom, you gave them a chance to stretch here and there, and they will (hopefully) be calm and cooperative. Enjoy your summer vacation time together—they’ll be all grown up before you know it.