My two oldest children have just gotten to the age where I find myself spending more time in the car than I would like shuttling them back and forth between here and there. I had to figure out a way to make this time in the car more productive.
I started thinking about things my kids and I could do in the car while waiting in lines or attempting to get from point A to point B, when everyone else in town has the same idea. Give these ideas a try to help pass the time.
- Dance parties in the car can still take place sitting down. Play a CD that you know your kids like to dance to and encourage them to sing their hearts out. With songs averaging 3-4 minutes apiece, a CD will get you through the trip, or play a new one on the way home. This type of fun gets everyone involved and will even put a smile on those attitudes that can throw us curveballs.
- Highs and Lows. This is a great game and an important one to play, especially at the end of the day. Ask each of your kids what their high and low was for the day. High means the best thing that happened (movie at school) and Low means something they’d prefer not to deal with again or a situation they would like to do over (someone hurt their feelings). Not only do these questions get your kids thinking, but it facilitates parent/child communication. Even if your son doesn’t feel like talking or says he can’t think of anything, say, “Okay, well, when you’re ready, I’d love to hear it. I’ll tell you mine first.” And then go ahead and share. Keep your “Low” age appropriate, but do share a bad moment or disappointment during the day, to remind your kids that you’re human too!
- The Alphabet Game. You might remember this one from road trips you’ve taken in years past. Tweak the game a little bit and see if your child can find the letter and then tell you what the word says. For example, “Hannah, tell me when you find the letter ‘B’ and then tell me what the word spells.” This is great for elementary aged kids who are learning how to read. For the younger ones, just have them spot the letters for you. It’s still fun and they’ll be encouraged to get through the entire alphabet.
- Breakfast Bar. Lately, we have been eating breakfast in the car. This is not something that I want to become a habit, but there are some mornings when we just don’t have the time to sit at the table. The night before, when I know it will be a busy next day, I will put my kids’ breakfast in little snack bowls and get their cups filled up and in the fridge so that I can just pull everything out in the morning. Think dry cereal, granola bars, yogurt drinks, muffins, and fruit. For a low-key morning commute without a lot of screaming, yelling and whining, food is always the answer. Always. This is also true for the car ride home. Make sure you have snacks in your glove box at all times. Kids are always “starving” when they get of school and there’s nothing like a full belly to get geared up for playing outside, homework, dinner and bedtime.
- Encouraging Phone Calls. I sometimes use my commute time to make phone calls. I am also specific about who I call during that time. Ever heard the phrase, “Little ears are listening?” That’s right. Your kids are super close to you in the car and can hear what you’re saying even when you think they can’t or even when you assume they are not paying attention. I am intentional about this part of my day which is why I usually call my grandmother. I want my kids to hear me speaking words of encouragement as much as I want them seeing me listen to her words of wisdom.
Embrace the car ride for what it is; something you have no control over.
Get yourself ready for tomorrow’s car ride. It’s going to be a good one!
Parenting journalist Meagan Ruffing came up with this list
after spending many hours in the car each day.