As I mentioned in yesterday’s library hits, we’re leaving Friday on a road trip. It’s going to be our first road trip ever with Monkey (age 2.5) and Sailor (age 11 mos). If you’d been at my house the last few weeks, you might think I was over-planning for a dinky 14 hour, one day road-trip from Seattle to Salt Lake City. There are bags of toys and distractions everywhere, several new spreadsheets have been generated, and I’ve been refining the perfect mix CD of singable adult and children’s music. This might be overkill, but right now I live in fear of three words: road trip meltdown. There’s nothing that turns me into an irrational mess like hearing my kids crying in discomfort and boredom from the back seat and not being able to do anything about it.
Sure, I could probably just hand Monkey a portable DVD player with some Fraggle Rock or Word World, or even better, use my Grandma’s time-honored trick and knock them out with Benedryl (don’t worry, I won’t). But part of me says that my kids need to learn to entertain themselves on a road trip, not just send them into a coma; it’s morally beneficial, right? (Additionally, we don’t have a portable DVD player. Hey, the kids should feel blessed that we have air conditioning. Back when I was a kid . . .)
So, how do you entertain toddlers on a road trip when so many traditional road trip games depend on more observant eyes, more brain power, or more ability-not-to-drop-everything than they currently have? Well, I loved the idea for “surprise packages” found on Mom’s Minivan. In fact, that whole page is filled with fantastic ideas. I whipped up a quick driving schedule spreadsheet and calculated how many 30 minute periods I expected each child to be awake: 15 for Monkey, 9 for Sailor. I’m preparing that number of surprises for each of them. Monkey has been anticipating his “special toys” for weeks. Here are some of the contents of their bags:
Monkey (Toddler, age 2.5)
- Books – Desirable qualities are lots of flaps and great length in small form factor. Check out alphabet and counting books as we all know these take forever to read. I also got Monkey (who can read) a copy of Harold’s Purple Crayon Treasury, which he loved at Grandma’s house at Christmas. This might not work if your toddler can’t read to himself.
- Bubbles – I got the no spill kind but even otherwise, the novelty of blowing bubbles in the car should certainly buy me 30 minutes of sanity.
- Racecar shoebox – Line the inside of a shoebox with paper, then draw on a racecar track and surrounding scenery. Add a pack of cars, and you’re set. I even added some cows and horses for more realistic road trip play. :D
- Pipe cleaners – Monkey has never as yet laid eyes on pipecleaners, so I’m interested to see what happens. I made some of my own lacing cards out of cardboard, just to get things started.
- Classics like a magnadoodle, Wooly Willy (in mini size for small hands), a homemade treasure hunt/I Spy bag, giant pen and paper, and a bunch of cheap stickers.
Sailor (Baby, 11 mos)
- Books – Since Sailor is obsessed with turning pages right now, I was thrilled to find these books with baby-hand-friendly pages. I hope he can keep his hands on it. I also grabbed a nice chewy cloth book. Yum.
- Sensory box – I’ve learned from reading mommy blogs that “sensory” is the code word for “a bunch of random junk that babies love to play with.” In this case, I’ve stuffed an old tissue box with a bunch of different textures from the craft store: a feather boa, lanyards, lace, vinyl, beads on a string, crochet headband, etc. etc.
- Metal bowl with chopsticks – We’ll see how tolerable this one is in close quarters.
- Stringed objects – I have a string of bells, a string of fabrics of varying textures, and a string of various spongy materials.
- Ball of string – This one is the project I most regret taking on. Whatever made me think that stringing and securing beads and other small objects onto 100 feet of string would be an easy and simple project? Anyway, it’s done now, so we’ll see if the hard work pays off.
- An interesting new teether – I’m hoping the multiple knobs will lead to less droppage. (I also picked up some of these, in case droppage does become an issue.)
I’ll report back to you on how these ideas work out. What are your sanity-saving tricks for dealing with little ones in the car? Do you want to see my CD playlist? I can assure you that the spreadsheets will show up tomorrow.
And tell me that someone else remembers the Sesame Street song I’m hinting at in the title.