It’s summer and I am off to Toronto, Canada with my kids Luca and Lila. I am originally from Toronto and now reside in LA. Upon our return to Canada our summer will be filled with lots of small trips to visit friends and family. Keeping my two kids occupied in the car is always a challenge. I want to share these useful tech free tips from our friends at Red Tricycle:
1. Stick it up. When you see windows, think blank canvas for your littlest road trippers. Dollar-store gel clings and window markers work great when the only view around is farmland and open country. You can even break out a pack of removable stickers to kick it up a notch, if you’re feeling brave.
2. Lay it out. Let your cookie sheet pull double duty on your summer journey. The flat, hard surface makes it an easy choice for coloring and play dough molding. Plus, a cookie sheet is just as user friendly as the fridge for all those magnetic letters and numbers that like to hang out there. Gather a bunch and use them to spell out sights and places you pass on the route.
3. Mix it up. Like any extended activity with wee ones, keeping it fresh is key. We heart using a mileage map in lieu of a timer to let you know when it’s time to change it up. Map out mileage intervals set to just the right speed for your mini me (think 10 miles or so for each year and you’ll be right on track). For each marker passed, pass out a new activity. Be sure to let your little navigator help you with this one because maps are cool!
4. Dress up dolls. Paper dolls sure have come a long way, baby. For one thing, they’re now stickers. But what hasn’t changed is the way they engage the imagination over and over again. That’s why we love them for travel. Usborne Books makes loads with wide appeal so everyone in the car can play dress up too!
5. Make a list. Before hitting the road, catalogue the kitschy, the weird, the wonderful sights to see along the route. World’s largest ball of twine, anyone? Wall Drug pit stop? You bet! Then, make sure to stop and gawk a while so the minis can stretch their legs and you can grab a few family selfies to post. Find memorable roadside attractions that made Red Tricycle’s list or choose your own landmarks to love.
6. Tell a tale. Spin a yarn to rival Homer’s Odyssey by creating an epic story-in-the-round with your little literati. One person begins the story (think once upon a time or in a galaxy far, far away…) and takes it to a cliffhanger moment (gasp!) before passing it to the next bard of the car. Keep it going as long as you can. Imaginations, engage!
7. Get crafty. Make your preschool teacher proud and pull out felt boards for your journey. These individual boards (look for them at your local craft store or indie toy shop) lend themselves well to car travel. Scenes can be continually recreated and the felt sticks to itself, but nothing else. Easy-peasy preschool fun!
8. Play games. Three words: License Plate Game. Bring this vintage fave back into fashion with your mini crew. Find plates from all 50 states (C’mon Alaska and Hawaii!) or modify it into an alphabet game starting from A to Z, using the plates you pass along the interstate.
9. Start clicking. Unearth grandpa’s old Polaroid camera or get a few disposable ones before the trip. Have your adorable Ansel Adams wannabes snap pics when the mood strikes them. From the car, at a rest stop, when there’s just 10 miles to go. Then, use these photographic masterpieces to create a journal of the trip when you return.
10. Keep hands busy. Toddler hands are best kept busy between those hypnotic highway naps. A large plastic yogurt container with a rectangle cut out of the top. A Tupperware full of colorful pom-poms. And little hands to stuff the fuzzy balls into the container are all it takes for these wiggle worms to have fun. Or try threading oversized buttons onto ribbon when the second wind hits.
11. Go old school. A good retro road trip deserves some good retro toys. Thank goodness so many are making a comeback. Etch-a-Sketch equals mess-free drawing (and a whole slew of questions about how it works) for the older bunch. A View Finder takes the edge off for the Littles who want to watch something; throw in a classic Fisher-Price chunky camera and we dare you not to join in on this nostalgia fest.
12. Hide trinkets. Set up your own Hidden Object game around the car before heading out. Place little trinkets (think leftover plastic spiders from Halloween, colorful paper clips, vintage buttons) in plain view around the car. Then when your little road trippers are getting antsy, challenge them to see how many they can find. Game on!
13. Tell more stories. Get inspired to tell tales along the road by using story stones. Make your own with fabric or paint ahead of time. Or grab an adorable set on Etsy, like this hand-painted one from Story Stones Lou. What you do from there is as open as the road. Pick them blindly from the bag and let fate determine the direction of your story, or let the munchkins lay them out first and create a story from there.
14. Fold paper. Hit the craft store before hitting the road to snatch a pack of origami paper for the six and up gang. A simple instruction book from the library and a surface to fold on (hello, cookie sheet!) and you’ll be swimming in Chinese stars, fortune tellers and pirate hats before you’re even out of town!
15. Pack a Kit. Building toys are always good in the kid-iverse, but on road trips? That can be a challenge. We love this idea from Desert Chica because it brings buildable to the car. Easy to make, easy to pack and it’s simple enough the tot lot on through to big sibs can use it.
16. Hand out rewards. Inject a little motivation into the trip with a prize box. Have one at the ready to help tiny travelers get over those restless times or simple squabbles. Try playing the quiet game if things get too loud. The winner gets a prize. Or offer a dip into the prize box if they can make it 10 more miles. Prizes can be simple like getting to pick the next song or choosing the next activity, or stock up on a few dollar store items before heading out of town.
17. Read a book. Who needs a screen when your sidekick can cuddle up with the ingeniously creative Press Here and Mix it Up? They’re 100% interactive but don’t take batteries. And they’re totally mesmerizing to the tot lot. Queue up some choice audio or e-books for the trip, too! Check out Red Tricycle’s picks for awesome e-reads for the next time you hit the highway.
18. Play with puzzles. These super cute Melissa and Doug puzzle boxes help pass the miles for the preschool bunch. Plus, they win the road trip trifecta. Work surface? Got it. Easy to pack? Of course. Tons of fun in a small space? Check!
I hope you have a wonderful summer!