New Mom On The Block: Car Activities For Youngsters

The author’s neice, Avery Jones, gets ready for a car trip. Courtesy photo

Katharine Coggeshall
Los Alamos

The idea of taking a car trip with your kids can feel like the perfect remedy for isolated mountain life. That is, until you hear the dreaded words, “He looked out my window!”, “She touched me!”, or “I didn’t need to go when we left but now I have to emergency potty!”

Car travel with kids can be a serious test of patience. But with a bit of planning you can smooth out some of the common bumps in the road. Car activities will keep your kids occupied throughout the long journey. Of course, these activities will vary depending on the age of your child.

Car Activities for Babies and Toddlers
This is simultaneously the easiest and hardest age group to entertain in a car. The easy scenario involves a prolonged nap that rivals hibernation. The hard scenario involves a temper tantrum about anything ranging from a wrinkle in their sock to their aversion to a seatbelt. Some car activities to consider for this age group include a hanging mirror, lots of toys they can handle and mouth, and safe snacks they can feed themselves. Nesting toys inside each other gives them a surprise, and housing these in a bag with an easy zipper, Velcro, or snap will keep them entertained.

Car Activities for Preschoolers
This age group is rather curious. Car activities for preschoolers include guessing games, hidden picture puzzles, and coloring. You can print so much from the Internet now, you could make a binder of activities before you leave your home. Preschoolers also like to snack. Your child can make several cereal necklaces out of circle-shaped cereal and string or dental floss. They can wear their snack in the car and munch anytime.

Car Activities for Elementary Kids
Elementary kids are used to routine and longer periods of concentration. They get bored quickly in a car. Have them bring a few books, sudoku or crossword puzzles, and some blank paper and a pencil. They can draw or write a story. Offer them stationary for writing letters to family and friends about their journey. If your child likes crafts, consider bringing string for making friendship bracelets or yarn for finger knitting.

Car Activities for Tweens and Teens
This age group is generally pegged as being withdrawn and sullen. It takes more of an invitation of excitement to keep them entertained. So, if they can drive, let them. Do not take a nap during this time. I repeat, do not take a nap when your teen is driving! We were all teens once and know the temptation to speed on the open road. When I was a teen, I drove my dad to Las Cruces. He slept during the trip and awoke to our record-breaking arrival time, which he did not attribute to “tailwind” like I had adamantly explained.

Whether you are driving to Albuquerque or planning a full road trip, keeping your children entertained is essential to the success of your drive. Try to stop frequently to let them stretch their legs and run around. Extra water also is important while traveling.

Do you have any tried and true methods for entertaining your kids in the car? Please share the knowledge by adding a comment on Facebook.

I would like to thank you all for being a great audience and contributing to the wealth of parenting knowledge in this town. This will be my last column for the Los Alamos Daily Post as I will be moving on to another publication.