Phase 4: Books and Activities.
- I always try to pack a few books for each of the kids that I know they can enjoy on their own. These could be familiar favorites that they can read (or “read”, in the case of my 3-year-old), Look and Finds, or interactive ones like Usborne sound books. Depending on how long our trip is and how many tricks I need up my sleeve, I may also have on hand some prepared paper-and-pencil activities like Travel Bingo, mazes, or a license plate search. I usually find these free online and print them out—just make sure you have a clipboard for each kid so they have a hard surface to write on! My pro tip in this phase (that I learned the hard way) is to parcel these activities out. If I hand my kids three books, they will be done with them in ten minutes. If I give my kids one book, they will still be done with it in ten minutes, but then I can give them the next book and get another ten minutes. You see what I mean? The same goes with the travel game worksheets … handing them out one at a time keeps them engaged much longer than handing over a packet.
Phase 5: Screentime.
- Once we’ve exhausted all of our other pastimes, the whining is getting real, and I just want some peace and quiet to talk to my husband or listen to the radio, I pass back the tablets. Road trips with small children are a run out the clock situation, and if buckets of screentime get us from point A to point B, then that’s fine with me. However, the reason I save screentime as a last resort is because the tablets never really hold my kids’ attention for as long as I think they will—yet if I hand them over too soon, it’s all they want to do. It becomes a strange paradox of the kids not really being into the tablets but not wanting to try anything more open-ended either … it’s as if the early screentime closes off their little minds to other avenues of entertainment. Depending on the length of the car trip we certainly may revisit other phases after working our way through all five, but I have found that things go best if we don’t have any screentime until we’ve used up our other activities.
- It’s worth noting that a nap is a welcome activity at any time, and I may hand out snacks at any point, too. (Pro tip: Make the snack its own activity, not combined with screentime or a game, etc. We’re aiming to kill time!
- Also please realize that we can go back to any phase at any time … after a podcast story, my kids may be ready for some more quiet, staring-out-the-window time. After 20 minutes on their tablets, I may tell them it’s time for a snack break and then a game of I Spy.
- Whenever you stop to use the bathroom, take advantage with quick game of tag in the rest area grass to stretch and burn a bit of energy. My kids also think it’s the coolest thing ever to put in the coins and push the buttons to get something from a vending machine.
We hope that you have a fabulous time making memories with your littles this summer! Let us know how your kids do on your road trips, and if you have any tips to add to these, make sure to write back and we’ll share them on our Instagram!
~ Elizabeth Guerrero @schoolofchildhood