The internet is full of articles about ways to keep your kids entertained on a long trip. These can include car, train, or plane rides- weekend getaways in Ontario, tropical vacations, or international excursions – although it is slightly easier to keeps interested while they are flying through the sky. Every family will have their own resources – maybe you’re bringing hand-held gaming systems or a DVD player, in which case you have it all figured out apparently – but if you’re anything like me you grew up staring out a window.
There are a lot of things kids learn from taking car rides without entertaining stimulation; it has been said that long trips teach kids the value of waiting for things. That being said, the lesson still applies if creative solutions are applied to make the wait better. While these tips are mainly targeted for car trips for things like weekend getaways in Ontario, these can be applied to any form of travel in any location.
One of the first go-to solutions for a long car ride is to do a game like I Spy. Obviously this is much easier when the terrain you’re passing through is full of landmarks and curiosities, and you might not have much luck if you find yourself surrounded by fields. You can expand this game to cars or who can read a sign the fastest, or make a game out of reading license plates and trying to construct words from them. These are just a few possibilities, but ultimately the effectiveness of these activities diminishes the older the child is.
It’s important to remember the main reason we are doing this (aside from keeping kids entertained): developing their creativity and engaging their mind. It’s easy you segue from one of these activities into another, but there is another benefit that people often forget: these games are good jumping off points for stories or other conversations. This aspect will depend on your skills as a storyteller, but as the kids are developing their creativity so are the parents. Let your mind wander and take breaks from the game as it happens organically.
There are two schools of thought on bringing things for kids to read: books or magazines. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but it could be argued that books develop a child’s imagination while magazines are filled with ads and other visual stimuli. However, depending on the magazine you get, this visual stimulation could be in the form of charts, graphs, infographics, or other ways that allow a child’s eyes to scan the page in more dynamic ways. I find that technology magazines are great for this, especially places like Wired that also deal in subjects like environmentalism, robots, and space travel.
Additionally, a fun game we recommend to parents (especially if they’re for shorter weekend getaways in Ontario) is to combine the magazine reading with a scavenger hunt. If you give the kid/kids a magazine they find interesting, get them to read through it and find an interesting article or fact. Their job will be to report it to everybody else. This could include picking out specific paragraphs that interest them. On top of that, you could make a competition out of it and make siblings race to find blurbs related to math, education, or travel. The first one to have the most after half an hour wins a prize. This one is perfect for weekend getaways in Ontario due to the fact that travel time will be relatively low and the variance of scenery will be pretty low.
Give Kids Responsibilities
A really interesting concept to work into any family activity – especially anything you’ve never done before – is to put the kids In charge of something. This is limited only by your own knowledge of the activity (you will be secretly supervising it, anyway) but involving the kids in any sort of leadership exercise is a great way to keep them engaged. For example, have them keep an eye out for a specific town along the way and make it their responsibility to tell everybody else when they’ve reached it (they’re the “navigator.”) For weekend getaways in Ontario especially, it;s good to assign these early in the trip and reserve the more passive activities until later; it’s likely that people will get tired midway through.
These have just a few concepts to help you plan to make your ext road trip a lot smoother. Even if you’re new to this, you know these people well enough to know what will work and what won’t so experiment. Drop a comment on our Facebook page if you’ve come up with anything different!