By Amy Toman
Tips for Entertaining Children on Trips
As stated in the last post, our family travels around quite a bit to different churches. There are many challenges when traveling, but the biggest for me is how to keep our children happy, quiet, and entertained. Depending on the location and environment this can be difficult or quite easy. For instance, when Jacob is speaking during Sunday School or a mid-week gathering, our children usually attend the same program as the church’s children. It becomes a bit more complicated when we are talking about Sunday services, long car rides, and homes that are not child friendly. Here are some of my go-to tips for entertaining children in the car, airplane, church or other’s homes.
1. Technology: You had to know this would be on the list as we are all about technology in our house. We have a few different devices to help keep the kids occupied. We have an iPad that contains kid-friendly games and apps that both Alethea and Ezra can enjoy. We also have a portable DVD player for the times when they both want to watch something, or we are trying to get them to sleep and don’t want them changing the show. We bring around 5 movies with us on long car trip that both kids enjoy. These work best for the car, plane, airport, in others’ homes and times when they kids do not need to be quiet.
2. Audiobooks: Going along with items for car trips, audiobooks are great. We love to listen to family-friendly audiobooks (such as the Redwall series) when in the car. You can also put audiobooks on your laptop and let your child listen to them with headphones. If you are looking for a way to get free audiobooks, check our your local library; our library carries physical audiobooks but also digital copies that you can rent and download. This works better with older kids, I would suggest 4 and up.
3. Map out your trip: Another for car travel is to make a map of your trip. Each time you stop move your car further down the map. This allows your children to have a visual of how far you have gone and how far you have left to travel. Here are some ideas on how to make them.
4. Busy Books: There are times when you need a quiet activity that is not technology based for your children and this one is great. You can make your own, or purchase a custom made one for your child. These books are great fun for your child and also have the benefit of being educational and entertaining.
5. Coloring: If your child likes to color or draw this can be a great activity to keep little ones entertained that can be found anywhere. My kids are not big fans of coloring books, but give them a blank sheet of paper and markers and they will sit still for a good 20 minutes.
6. Magnetics: I have a love hate relationship with magnetics. I think they have their uses and one of those is to entertain our children during quiet times. We own these animal magnets and the kids love them. Since the magnet is fully attached I’m not too concerned when Ezra sticks one in his mouth. (I do NOT let him chew on them, but being 18 months toys still end up in the mouth) You can use a dry erase board to stick the magnets on or a small cooking sheet. Ezra is content with a cooking sheet and his animal magnets, while Alethea prefers to use a dry erase board so she can draw a scene first then add her animals.
7. Sticker Books: These work better for older children who won’t eat the stickers and can easily peel them off themselves. Alethea has gone through a few different sticker books, but the one she is currently using is Princess Sophia. You can find these books for different ages and skill levels. This is another activity where Alethea is learning without realizing that she is learning.
8. New books: If your kids are readers, picking up a few new books can keep them still and entertained for a while. Alethea loves any books to do with princesses and fairies while Ezra likes to touch and feel and look and see books. I do need to be careful when we use these as Ezra loves to talk about the pictures he is seeing. These work best for us when we are at someone's house, in the car, or in an environment where it’s ok to talk quietly but the kids still need to sit still.
9. Snacks: Another one you had to know was coming. Snacks are VERY important to keeping kids happy while traveling. When we travel our kids’ normal routine is off, which means that we might be eating lunch and dinner hours from the times they are use to. This is when snacks come in handy. I make sure to have healthy portable snacks, as well as exciting special snacks that they only get during trips. A hungry kid is never a good thing, so food is ALWAYS available whenever they want to eat.
10. Movement: I think this is one of the BEST tips and one that I tend to overlook. In the past Alethea would be fine with walking up and down the halls a few times and then be able to sit still for a church service or a car ride. Ezra, on the other hand, has a lot of energy and needs a ton of movement. I have learned that it is NECESSARY to allow him and Alethea to run as much as possible until the last second when we need to leave. If we are traveling in a car, this means stopping every 2 hours somewhere the kids can run and explore. Sometimes that is a rest area, a park, or just a playplace. At churches this means letting them play outside or walk the halls and be noisy until the service or class starts.
These are just a few tips that I have when traveling with kids. If you would like to know specifics about what books we use, movies we watch, snacks we eat, leave a comment below or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love to share more details with you on the wonderful tools we use while traveling for fundraising trips.