Filed under: Family Weekend Trips, Kid-Friendly Trips, Kid-Friendly Trips
On the road with kids in tow…
I LOVE to travel with elementary aged kids – they are so involved, and are great travel companions! Since they are also generally quite opinionated at this age, and making certain decisions for themselves, we will skip the ‘dress’ and ‘food’ ideas ;), and get straight to the ‘things to do in the car’ ideas! I’m going to steer clear of electronic gadgets (specifically gaming stuff) because either you have them and allow them, or you don’t (we don’t). One of the best things that you can do on any trip, with any children, is to get them involved! For this age, it is a great time to have them be involved starting in the planning stages. Let them help look through state planners, camping idea books/mags, or destination brochures (if you help them, the internet can be a great place to find site specific destination ideas also). The kids will be more invested in the trip if they feel that they have a part in planning it. If time allows, consider letting them choose a destination/activity or two.
Games – We are big on history tours/trips, so our excursions often have an educational bent to them anyway. We enhance that by choosing games that have some sort of link to where we are going, if only just a theme. We mostly use printables in the car – it is easy to use a search engine and find printable paper games that would work great for taking in the car. For historical destinations, we have found some great printables at: http://www.historyonthenet.com/Lessons/worksheets.htm or http://www.education.com/worksheets/history/. For site specific/state learning, try: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/usa/statesbw/ or http://homeschooling.about.com/od/freeprintables/qt/geogprintables.htm (scroll 1/2 way down page and choose (state)printables, then scroll through available crosswords, word finds…). You can also do a generic search for ‘printable games’ and get all sorts of fun printable sheets for games ranging from mazes to connect-the-dots (or letters) to quizzes. One of our fav sites for generic printables is http://familyfun.go.com/printables/printable-games-and-puzzles/. When using printables, or if you have kids that enjoy drawing, you might consider picking up a clipboard for each child (and maybe attaching a pencil to the clipboard via a piece of yarn if your kids are continually losing their writing instruments!). My kids enjoy getting a new ‘journal’ with a set of nice colored pencils in which they can record the places that we have visited and just neat sites that we have driven by even if we didn’t stop.
Camera – kids this age, boys and girls alike, love to take pictures! It took my hubby years to convince me to try a digital camera, and now I wouldn’t go back! Digital cameras have become fairly inexpensive, and many kids already have one – if yours do, be sure to have them take it in the car! Digital cameras are great in that the kids can take hundreds of pictures, and you don’t have to print them all off - they are often happy to go through the pics and pick out their favorite 20 or 50…and it doesn’t cost anything for you to upload them to your computer to keep. Kids often take pics from such a different point of view than we adults do, and will stay busy capturing the trip instead of asking if they are there yet! Plus, you get the bonus of access to photos of the trip that you didn’t have to take (gee mom, you might just make it in the scrapbook after all!).
There are all sorts of interactive games that are great for the car, like ‘I Spy’. How about a scavenger hunt; depending on the area that you are driving through, it could consist of items like a barn, a person walking a dog, a lake, a license plate from X-state, a tractor, a person talking on a cell phone, a vehicle like yours, a river, a house with a white picket fence… Try locating items that begin with a certain letter, for instance, if the letter is T, the kids might spy a telephone pole, a truck, a tree… And don’t forget about 20 Questions.
Dry erase boards – I told you in the traveling with preschooler post awhile back that these were my fav on the road activity. Because they are wildly versatile, dry erase boards are indispensible! Be aware that there are washable dry erase markers out there, so if the safety of your leather or upholstery in the rig is a concern, don’t worry. Ideally, we like to have a lap-sized board for each child and a larger one for them to share. The smaller boards are very inexpensive, (anywhere from $1 – $3), and some of them even have a little loop on the top to hold a dry erase marker (and come with one too!). Individually, the kids can use the boards for drawing, tallying up state plates, or doodling. Together, kids can use them for playing hangman, tic-tac-toe, or dots & boxes.
Also, consider other activities like origami, travel games (like magnetic checkers, or connect four or battleship made for travel), or dice games on a tray. And don’t forget our very favorite, when-all-else-fails, solution: a new audio book/story. Our favorite dramatized audio stories can be found at: Lamplighter Publishing
(Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince is our current favorite ;). These engaging stories are sure to entertain kids from 4 to 104, and can either be purchased on cds or purchased as a download for instant use.
Since many of these ideas apply for older kids as well, this will be the last installment of my traveling with kids posts. Traveling with older kids is (or at least should be) great fun. While you may have to provide ideas now and again for activities, they can be such a big help in both the planning stages of the trip, and also in the trip itself. Getting there is half the fun, so don’t forget to enjoy the journey as well as the destination!