This blog is here for you to find fun learning activities to do with your children. We share great ideas we find and love on the Internet, as well as ideas we come up with on our own! We also like to share resources we find helpful.

To find ideas for your child, click on the age range blog label or on the theme/topic you are looking for (on the left side of the page). In each post, we try to list optimal age ranges for the activity, but you must judge for yourself if it is appropriate for your child. When you try an activity out, please comment and let us (and everyone else) know how your child liked it!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Learning While Traveling-Scheduling for Car Trips

In my last post I listed my picks for best traveling toys. I chose those toys particularly because they fit well into my idea of how activities should be scheduled during traveling. And yes, I do keep a schedule while traveling :) I create a simple document in Microsoft Publisher or Word that outlines our trip so I can calculate driving time and where we'll need to make meal and hotel stops. We've driven places where you can go 50 miles without seeing a gas station or Mcdonalds so I quickly realized the value of planning stops ahead of time!

During any long car trip you want to schedule in as much gross motor activity as possible. Young kids can quickly get frustrated, bored, and cranky being stuck in a carseat for hours on end.
  • get kids outside before you even leave for the trip
  • plan for as much driving while kids are sleeping as possible
  • practice patience
  • practice patience
  • practice patience
Traveling with newborns is easy. Here's what you do when taking a long trip with a child under 5 months of age:
-plan to drive in 2-3 hour chunks of time
-during stops: feed, change diaper, allow for 5 minutes of cuddling/tummy timy
-in the car: provide soft toys and a mirror, play softer music or white noise cd when it's time for sleep. Do Not Over-dress! Newborns have an easier time regulating their body temperature to warm up than to cool down for the first 3 months. When in doubt, dress them lightly and tuck a blanket in around them afterwards that can be removed. Newborns sleep a lot (thankfully) and that is why traveling with them is relatively easy.

Traveling with the 6-12 month crowd is a bit trickier, especially if they have discovered crawling/walking:
-plan to drive as much as possible while they sleep! This can mean 4 hours of daytime driving and 5 hours of nighttime driving after bedtime (7pm-12am). I do not recommend driving all night unless one parent can sleep in the car, otherwise you will be two cranky and tired people the next day.
-keep a routine:
  • eat solid foods, clean up
  • independent play-fine motor skills, stacking, sorting
  • play with parent-reading, pretend play, drawing, singing
  • pit stop-diaper change, tummy time/crawling, nurse/bottle
  • sleep (1-2 hours, expect a shorter nap than normal)
Traveling will full-blown toddlers is much the same as traveling with pre-toddlers, except with more options for activities! There are a few differences:
  • toddlers take 1 longer nap, so the day's schedule moves from the cycle of activities and into a normal schedule based around mealtimes.
  • there is no need to stop for toddlers to eat, unless they are still nursing. Most foods can be eaten in the car, though I recommend a parent sit in the back seat to supervise.
  • toddlers need a longer time to stretch their legs outside the car.
  • toddlers can be a lot more vocal about wanting to be all done with the car, prep them before traveling by practicing quiet sitting time each day, working up from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. Give them a pile of books or some crayons, they may play or not but need to stay on the couch/chair.
Traveling with preschoolers (3 and up) gets a bit easier again, but there are potty breaks to take into account.
  • take more frequent, but shorter breaks to provide opportunities to go to the bathroom.
  • plan gas stops/meals to coincide with potty breaks so you're not stopping unnecessarily.
  • bring more toys/books and bring kid cd's to play in the car
  • consider using a portable dvd player or iPod to play a movie at some point during the trip when you anticipate your kids getting antsy.

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