“Are We There Yet???” Surviving the Long Holiday Car Ride with your Toddler in Tow

The holiday season is upon us and it’s inevitable that we’ll all be stuck in traffic at some point. Whether you’re off on a cross-country jaunt or just a painful ride down the Long Island Expressway (our family calls it the big LIE), we’re all bound for some bumper to bumper. Add a toddler meltdown to the mix, and it just might be the perfect storm.

Keeping a variety of activities handy can be the key to turning a seemingly endless haul into an enjoyable ride (and of course, don’t forget the snacks!). By offering a variety of stimuli, your child will be entertained for longer than if just one option is available. Try out these ideas for a more pleasant drive down I-95 (that is, if your darn lane would start moving again already… UGH!)

Start with Family Fun
At the start of the ride, take advantage of everyone’s spirits being high (no one, not even the driver, is cranky… yet). Turn up some family friendly tunes – maybe see which family member does the best rendition of the latest Glee hit – or what’s that Yo Gabba Gabba song about being patient (that song is not about traffic?). What about starting a yearly story tradition where every family member adds a line to the plot – “You wouldn’t believe what happened on the way to Grandma’s house…” – and record it for future laughs.

Leapfrog’s New LeapPad

Got Apps?
If you’re app-enabled, try out some new learning games like Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (99 cents on iTunes) or Super Why! ($2.99 on iTunes) based on the popular PBS show featuring superheroes with the power to read. If you’re not thrilled about losing your phone or iPad for the long journey (I mean, moms get bored too!) there are a bevy of hot-for-the-holidays tablet-inspired toys like Leapfrog’s LeapPad and VTech’s Innotab Learning Tablet that come with a bunch of games installed and an online store full of more (if you spring for one of these, read some online comparisons first – they each have some unique features worth considering).

Turn your Tot into a Traveling Artist
If you’ve got a clipboard and some paper, you’ve got an instant portable easel – or for a guaranteed mess-free scenario, Crayola’s Color Wonder Lap Desk gives them a comfy spot to color and clear markers whose vibrant colors only appear on Color Wonder paper. Alternatively, there are a ton of sketch pads with attached stylos like Fisher Price’s Doodle Pro Tag Along to satisfy a budding sketch artist.

Rev up Some Reading
Bring along their favorite books in a bag or pocket that they can easily reach. If your child is not yet reading on their own and you don’t have a digital reader (and you’re not available to crawl into the back seat), a toy like My First Story Reader (with Sesame Street starter books) offers a great option.

Time for Carseat Cinema
If you’re lucky enough to have a car with built-in video screens, or if your kids have a DVD player or tablet that allows them to view movies, TV and the like, bring along a variety of different length programs so you can tailor viewing time to your trip length. You don’t want them having to watch a short program eight times, nor do you want an engrossed viewer to refuse to leave the car when the trip is finally over (but MOM, I want to see the END!). Some favorites and a fun new introduction will keep them most interested. Driving in the evening? Introduce some movie theater snacks and pretend your car is a traveling theater!

Bust out some Old School Cool Games
We can get so wrapped up in our electronics that we sometimes forget the old school greats. Before the trip, print out Dora’s Colorful Car Bingo from the nickjr.com site (it’s one option of many!) or other free printable games from sites like Momsminivan.com. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of bingo or the “Spot the States” license plate game to keep kids eyes looking out the window and enjoying the ride for a while. And after all the bells and whistles, it might even be a relaxing departure.

Time won’t fly, but it’s guaranteed to feel at least a little quicker when everyone’s content. And don’t worry – you’ll eventually arrive at your destination. Someday.

Sharon Marcus is a working mom who blogs regularly at http://mamadoitall.blogspot.com/.

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