New Zealand is such a beautiful and easy country to travel by car, the scenery is spectacular and roads generally uncluttered, yet within minutes of beginning a long trip our kids transform from excited angels into bored, whining, scrappy little imps and we wonder if perhaps we had made a mistake setting out!
Sometimes the thought and dread of long car trips with the kids, makes us reconsider our decision to travel. Is is easier just to purchase a plane ticket and fly, can we rearrange the usual seating configurations to split the two older kids up or do we avoid travelling to farther destinations all together! I am so pleased for other parents who decide that technology, either iPads, iPods, DVD players or other such devices, is the answer. But I have the dream - however unrealistic - that car trips are a way for a family to bond, laugh, communicate, LEARN, and are the start of the holiday, instead of it starting when you actually arrive at your destination.
Whilst its easy to get grumpy back at the kids, we have to remember why the antsy behaviour actually happens, why do they magically transform from exciting kids going on a holiday or amazing adventure to horrible little ratbags kicking the back of the backs of the seats or each other!!!! The answer is they are usually bored, bored and bored. Scenery doesn't distract them for long, the promise of play at the destination seems mythical and they start on the "Are We There Yet?"
So wonderful parents, my advice is plan, plan, plan. Have plenty of stops and exercise breaks, plan them in advance and count down the Kms, have a range of healthy yummy snacks (or stop at roadside orchards along the way), and have an arsenal of activities. A recent Facebook Post, asking other parents about how they cope, came back with some amazing advice on games and activities to keep the kids distracted and amused. I have listed some of my ideas and a couple of our wonderful friends ideas below to help with your next trip.
* Our kids LOVE music, so we agree with the advice to go with your favourite music and artists, turn the stereo up and sing like you are alone in the shower!
*Story CD's are a great amusement for the kids and they can keep looking out the window to ward off carsickness. Bad Jelly, Little Flick and other classic stories are a fun walk down memory lane for the adults too.
*Eye-Spy is the ultimate car game. For the littlies try using colours instead of letters i.e. eye spy with my little eye something starting with yellow. It's wonderful for the wee ones to achieve when they don't yet have to have a full grasp on the alphabet.
*General knowledge quizzes, plan in advance, have either fake buzzer races to answer or have specific aged questions for each kid. Its neat for their learning and really interesting for the adults. Get the older kids to plan some for you too, they will love the research and chance to know some facts that you may not know.
*Classic car counting games. We have some variations on this - on the rural roads we just do car colours (banning white and grey choices as they are too common and a little unfair on the ones that miss these popular colours). In the cities its too busy and difficult to count the colours so then we switch to emergency vehicles. Ambulances vs Fire Engines vs Police Cars vs Tow Trucks etc. Our boys LOVE emergency services anyway so this is a heap of fun for them.
*Car Cricket, which is a new one to me and I can't wait to try it. Basically it goes like this - each type of vehicle is a set amount of runs and a truck is out! Most runs wins!
*Memory games, our most recent trip involved the alphabet supermarket memory game - I went to the supermarket and bought...... an apple, a banana, a cauliflower with cheese sauce, a delicious date, and an egg.............. Its fun to add adjectives to help you remember the items for example apparently you can't have cauliflower without the cheese - or its gross, hot hot red chilis and an umbrella with a Union Jack.
These are just a few tricks which may help. I wish you all the very very best of luck with your next trip. Roadies can be a heap of fun but there is light at the end of the tunnel (or road) and you will eventually reach your destination hopefully not scarred!