The summertime often brings travel. How can you make your travel both educational and fun? Read on for some suggestions from Prof. Ellen Booth Church.

“Are we there yet?” Travel can be a difficult concept for your young child to understand. His understanding of time and space is based in the “now”. This makes it difficult for him to see the difference between getting into the car to go to preschool or to drive a long distance. This is why parents often hear “Are we there yet?” on long trips. It is difficult for the child to understand that this trip will take longer than others. But you can help!
Talk about the trip before you go. IF possible show pictures of your destination. Discuss how long you will be in the car. Instead of using time words (such as 5 hours)…express the time frame with something your child will understand. For example, you can say we will be driving from breakfast, through lunch and get there at dinnertime. You can also make a paper chain representing the number hours for the trip. (one loop for each hour) As you drive along have your child take off one loop for each hour passed. Then have him count how many loops or hours are left!

Extra Loving Attention. There is nothing like your loving attention to help a child feel happy…no matter what you are doing. Unfortunately traveling can be so consuming that your child can actually get less attention than he normally does. Of course this is often the time when he needs it most. Make a point to connect with your child in little ways frequently. Quiet talks, sweet smiles, little winks and shared games can make all the difference in your child feeling connected to you even if he is in the back seat!

SING Your Way! A song is the perfect way to get your child’s happy attention.  If your child is fussing… start singing a silly song and watch his mood switch. Often children will forget what they are upset about. Best of all, you don’t have to be a good singer. Children in the early years think every adult is a great vocalist!
Try using songs that involve hand or finger motions. This will keep your child more engaged and also stimulate his brain. Songs such as The Itzy Bitzy Spider, Thumbkin, This Old Man, and the Wheels on the Bus (change it to “car”) are all great choices. You can also ask your child to teach you a song!
If you have directions to give (“put on your seatbelt”, “close the door”) sing the words to a familiar tune such as The Farmer in theDell. “Time to close the door, Time to close the door. Hi Ho daddario. Time to close the door.”Your child will hear and respond to your directions better if they are presented in a song.

Stop often . They break up the monotony of riding and provide a welcome change of space. The few minutes used in a stop for running around, stretching and toileting are worth their time in gold because they keep tensions from building up and allow your child to feel free of the confinement of his car seat or seatbelt.

EAT it Up!  It is important to keep your child well fed while you travel. Low blood sugar can add to cranky fusses. Choose some of his favorite treats and wrap them up in wrapping paper. Then when it is time for a snack he has a surprise present to open!

Pack Extra Clothing. Spills and plops just seem to happen more when you are traveling. So instead of getting upset that your child has dirtied his outfit…be prepared to change clothes! In fact, it can be a good idea to choose an easy outfit for the ride and stop at a rest stop before you get to your destination to change into his arrival clothes.  Your child might like to have is own backpack or rolling suitcase. Allow him to choose clothes, toys and books he wants to take along. He will be more responsible for his bag if he has had an active part in packing it.

Play Games.The classic “I Spy” game is perfect for driving. You say, “I spy with my little eye something that is round and red. What is it?” Your child has to find the object in the environment. A simple counting game is always a hit for the entire family. How many signs, blue cars, or birds can you count?

“Must Have” Travel Supply List

·         A large variety of small toys
·         Books, books and more books
·         Recorded songs and stories
·         Easy snacks in small zipper bags, wrapped with gift paper!
·         Hand wipes
·         Basic medicine/first aid kit
·         Surprises such as a small bubble blower
·         Crayons, stickers and a spiral notebook
·         Easy to clean plastic play mat or disposable table topper for the restaurant