If your kids are anything like mine are, they have mastered the art of tormenting each other to death in the car. Whether it’s a road trip to the grandparents house or a simple trip to the grocery store, kids can drive each other (and subsequently you) crazy in the car. So, short of leaving them on the side of the road somewhere, which we all know would land us in jail faster than you can say “but officer, seriously….you don’t understand”, what can you do to keep the kids happy, entertained and not killing each other in the back seat? Here is some of my own personal, motherly knowledge that I pass along to you. Hopefully it will help.
1. Separate, separate, separate!!
This would be my number one tip to anyone who can manage it. We are fortunate enough to have finally joined the mom-van club last year. Some would gasp in horror at the thought of owning the dreaded symbol of soccer moms, track suits and a gaggle of muddy, sticky, screaming children piling in and out at the fields. But alas my friends, I made the jump, I am not a soccer mom, do not own one track suit and I don’t have a gaggle of screaming children, just two, though, they are frequently sticky and muddy. My two sanity sucking….uhhh, I mean darling cherubs, are the single solitary reason I begged my husband to make the leap to our Honda Oddessy. They are now, at all times, at least one row away from each other, sometimes two. This one thing has made car rides SO much easier. They can still lob verbal javelins at each other, but, at least, for the most part, physical confrontations are a thing of the past.
Ok, so not everyone is fortunate enough to own a mini-van. It’s ok, there other ways around the sibling squabbles, and technology is on the top of the list. In today’s day and age, our kids probably get a lot more screen time than they need, but this is no place to enforce limits (in my opinion anyway). If you’re like me (and one of my kids), you can’t read in the car. I get horribly car sick, and I make the worlds most horrible passenger. Don’t ask me to navigate a map, follow the GPS, google directions for you or anything of the like. For your benefit (and the benefit of everyone in the car, trust me) pull over and do it yourself. But I digress…some people just can’t handle reading, puzzles, license plate bingo or things of that nature. I like this set of headrest DVD players from Ouku. Don’t forget the headphones!
3. Set Boundaries
“Mommmmmm, he’s touching me!!” “Nuh uhhhh, she’s on my side!!” How many times have you heard that from the back seat? If you’re reading this, likely dozens of times. Here’s the simple answer…painters tape! Literally draw a line down the middle of the seat and, at least in theory, keep each of them on their own side. It may or may not work, but you can try. And as an added bonus, you can give each of them a long piece of tape and they can create a picture on the window with it. It comes off fairly easily with very little goo, and it just might give you a few minutes of peace that you need.
4. Bring Snacks and Drinks
No one likes being stuck in the car with hungry whining children (or husbands). Keep things in the car that aren’t full of sugar or prone to melting. If you’re packing for a road trip, a lunch bag with a freezer pack and some fruit would be great. Granola bars travel well, as do pretzels, beef jerky and raisins. Seriously on the sugar though…avoid it like the plague. The mini water bottles are also perfect for kids. Juice boxes are full of sugar, they stain and they’re sticky when spilled. Water all the way. And if you have a kid that is picky about not drinking water, keep the little travel packets of Crystal Light. It’s only 5 calories and sugar free.
5. Make Them Work Together
If you’re on a longer trip, offer up an incentive to work together and get along. Say you’re going somewhere where they’ll want a little spending money. Set an amount, anywhere from .25$ to $1.00 or any other amount you feel is appropriate. Set time increments, 5 minutes for little kids, 15 minutes for bigger ones. Every time they hit one of those time increments and they haven’t fought, hit or anything like that, give them their reward. This can be actual money in a little jar or symbolic money, like a running tally on your phone, if they’re old enough to understand that it’s theirs even if they don’t actually have it in their hand. The caveat is that they either both earn it or none of them earns it. It offers up a little incentive to think twice before picking at each other, and it also makes them accountable to each other, fostering a sense of truly wanting to help the other be good, and ultimately helping themselves too.
For those that can read in the car, books or a nook loaded with some favorites and new reading material is great. Travel games are also great fun. Try Spot it!, the Melissa & Doug License Plate Game, Travel Bingo, and this Fun On The Run 4 Pack of everyones favorite classic board games made into travel friendly versions. They will all help pass the time. Post it notes, the ones that are mini, and the ones in different shapes, colors, the little arrows and tabs are all great alternatives to stickers. Mine love making mosaic type pictures on the windows with the post its and it’s SO much easier than peeling stickers off of everywhere for hours on end!
7. Accessories and Organization
Here is a list of links to some must-have and other just-plain-convenient-to-have accessories for travel that our family is using or has used and has found helps out with keeping little ones stocked up on all the things they need to travel happily.
Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Tray
Cup Holder Power Inverter with USB Port
High Road Kids XL Car Seat Organizer and Play Station
Munchkin Backseat Organizer
Skip Hop Zoo Neck Rest