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Car Trips with Kids

by Elizabeth Pantley

Are we there yet? How often do parents want to ask this question when traveling with a car full of unhappy, restless kids? By following a few guidelines, your next family trek can be a pleasant one.

Set the scene
Kids who are squished between bags and packages can get irritable, so don’t overpack the car. Put the kids in casual, layered clothing and bring along blankets and pillows for added comfort. Allow them to take off their jackets and shoes and to settle in for the ride.

Avoid boredom
Youthful energy that’s bursting at the seams prevents kids from enjoying a long immobile stint in the back seat. Head off boredom, and the ensuing misbehavior, by bringing along a backpack filled with activities for each child. Look for long-play items like travel games, playing cards, crayons and simple crafts.

Eat on the road
“Eating in the car can keep the kids happy,” suggests Elizabeth Pantley, parenting expert and author of Perfect Parenting: The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips. “Food serves multiple purposes. It keeps the kids’ blood sugar levels even, thus preventing fussiness. And snacking keeps the kids busy.” She suggests bringing along an assortment of snacks, including items that take a long time to eat, like lollipops and dried fruit.

Pantley also recommends grabbing meals to go from family-friendly restaurants. “Look for restaurants that offer wholesome food choices as well as entertainment value, such as the KFC Kids Laptop Pack ? which offers kid-friendly favorites like chicken legs with healthful side items like green beans. It’s served in a flip-top box that’s easy for kids to balance on their little laps with entertaining, educational games and activities to keep them happy and busy throughout the ride.”

Publish car rules
Before you embark on your journey, write down a set of car rules. Keep hands to yourself…Use a quiet voice…Clean up your trash…are just a few simple rules. Pantley warns that a lack of rules invites misbehavior. “When your expectations are clear, simple and exact, children behave better,” she says. A few instructions can keep the peace.

Involve the kids
Pantley suggests that you provide the kids with a map, colored pencils, a compass and a journal so that they can follow and record the journey. “You can even give them a calculator ? so when they ask, ’How long ‘til we get there?’ you can teach them how to figure it out themselves!”

Following a few of these suggestions won’t banish “Are we there yet?” from your traveling child’s vocabulary ? but he or she just might ask the question with a smile.

Copyright Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)

About the author:
Elizabeth Pantley is the author of several books, including
Gentle Baby Care : No-cry, No-fuss, No-worry — Essential Tips for Raising Your Baby, The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night, Kid Cooperation (with an introduction by William Sears, MD), Perfect Parenting, as well as her latest The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers and is also president of Better Beginnings, Inc. She is a popular speaker on family issues, and her newsletter, Parent Tips, is seen in schools nationwide. She appears as a regular radio show guest, and has been quoted in Parents, Parenting, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Working Mother, and Woman’s Day magazines. Visit Elizabeth’s web site

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