Erin Buhr MEd, early childhood educator, book reviewer, and author of Little Walks, Big Adventures: 50+ Ideas for Exploring with Toddlers, shares three tips for traveling on the road with young children.
3 Road Trip Tips for Traveling with Children
I love going on adventures with kids, and one of our favorites is a road trip. Here are three tips that I've learned in 10+ years of going on road trips with young children.
1. Stop for movement, not for food
My instinct when planning a road trip with young children was to stop at lunch-time, and get them back in the car for a nap. It didn't go well! Taking my highly-active kids from a seat in the car to a seat in a restaurant did not give them a chance to really move around. Now we stop at a playground or even just a rest stop and pull out a ball or some bubbles. We’ll pick up food or bring sandwiches and eat when we’re back on the road. It takes the same amount of time, and this way we all get a chance to really stretch our legs.
2. Listen to audiobooks
To avoid too much screen time while in the car, we love listening to audiobooks! It’s perfect for when we want to check out local scenery. I also encourage my kids to play with fidgets or tactile games while listening. I borrow audiobooks from the library. Most library systems allow you to check out CDs with books on them, or they have an app that you can download audio books onto. We use these so much when we are traveling!
3. Bring tactile games & save some for the end of the trip
Everyone likes to have travel games or activities. I like fidgety and tactile ones where the kids get to move things around. Games like a tangrams set or magnet sticker scenes, so they're sticking things down, moving them around, and telling a story. It's about as active as you can really be in the car. I always get a couple of things (either new things or things that they just haven't seen for a while that will be exciting and new to them), and I put half of them in my suitcase to save for the return trip. It's not something they see on the way to wherever our destination is. It's not something they see while we're there. It's only for when we go home. The end is often the hardest part of the trip. People are tired, crabby, and ready to be home—myself included. Having some new, fresh, exciting things to do on the way back has been really the key to us having a happy end of our road trip.
Happy road tripping!
An experienced early childhood educator, Erin Buhr believes in capturing and celebrating everyday child adventures and moments: the big happy stuff, the big hard stuff, and everything in between. In Little Walks, Big Adventures she offers 50+ great ideas for taking toddlers on explorations in your local community. While you walk, young children will have rich opportunities for learning new vocabulary and developing cognitive, language, math, and motor skills—not to mention the excellent exercise and fresh air they’ll be getting. The book is divided into four main adventure topics following common toddler interests: Home and Community, Our World, Vehicles and Animals. Within each theme there are thirteen adventures, each with corresponding activities. The adventures are intended for toddlers roughly aged fifteen to thirty-six months of age an all developmental abilities. Throughout the book there are tips to make these adventures and ideas accessible for the different abilities and special needs of children in this age group.