Take the stress out of family road trips

By Colleen Sheehan

Planning for a family road trip can be both fun and stressful. Today, with the many electronic games and portable devices to keep kids occupied, we often miss the opportunity to spend quality time with our kids while there are no outside distractions to compete with. Some of the classic road trip games include the License Plate game, the ABC game and “I spy.” Here are a few of my favorite activities to pass the time with your kids during your next road trip:

Infants:

-- Bubbles - These are a quick fix for any sticky situation. The small party pack bubbles are perfect for the car.

-- Puppets - Buy a variety of puppets at lakeshorelearning.com or make your own from a pair of socks.

Toddlers:

-- Aluminum foil modeling - A cheap box of foil can spark hours of creativity. They can make animals, bracelets, hats, and many other fun things. Supervision may be needed if smaller pieces are torn.

-- Cookie sheet magnet board - A neat and easy way for magnet play and letter recognition if you use the alphabet magnet, but any magnet will do.

Preschool & Pre-k:

-- Pipe cleaner activity - Grab a bag of colorful pipe cleaners at your local dollar store and let your child’s imagination run wild. They can create letters, flowers, jewelry, and hair twists.

-- Counting games - Choose something to count: blue cars, red stop signs, or tractor trailers.

School age:

-- Word Play - Have your child write down words they see from billboards, signs, and bumper stickers and then have them make up a story, poem, or song using the words they found.

-- Travel Journal - Give your child a new notebook and have him record his favorite experiences along the way. Journaling keeps kids busy and preserves memories.

A little creativity and planning will help keep the kids entertained mile after mile and keep parents’ sanity intact. Try out a few of these suggestions on your next trip and to create both on-the-road entertainment and memories to last a lifetime.

Colleen Sheehan is director of the Children's Creative Learning Center at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

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Last Updated June 30, 2011