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What is advice for long car trips with children?

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Car trips with children Take LOTS of different kids' music. We listened to kids' tapes nearly the whole time [on a recent 2-week car trip], so it was great to have some that were especially enjoyable by all (my husband generally dislikes kids' songs). Our favorite tapes: Raffi, Singable Songs for the Very Young: The song Willoughby Wallaby helped us out tremendously when we were hiking out of Canyon de Chelly and my 4-year-old didn't want to hike any more; we sang Willoughby-Wallaby-everything all the way up! Spider On the Floor entertained my 2-year-old in restaurants; he even sang it himself, looking at the floor as if there WERE a spider :-). Kids' Songs, and Kids' Song Jubilee, sung by Nancy Cassidy: Her style isn't my favorite, but these tapes have some charming songs (like, I Wanna Be a Dog, and Mama's Soup Surprise) that even adults find hilarious. Disney Children's Favorites, Vol 1-4: We've had these for a while. I like the singer's voice and the song selection is great. We've heard them about a hundred times, but fortunately we still enjoy them. We had several others, but these were our favorites. I specifically DON'T care for the Wee Sing tapes we have. We also had a few tapes of adult-type music, which was barely tolerated by the kids (don't ask me how they can tell the difference, especially with Joan Baez or Linda Ronstadt, but the kids knew that these were not songs they wanted to hear). Ben did enjoy hearing Jean-Michel Jarre's "Rendezvous" while he napped, though. :-) Here are more suggestions from WikiAnswers contributors:
  • Travel late at night or very early in the morning while they are still SLEEPING. Pray that your child will sleep.
  • Bring lots of SNACKS to keep them eating - this usually keeps them quiet. Be careful that your child does not choke as it is pretty difficult to stop the car and get them out of the car seat quickly. Try and bring along non-messy snacks (e.g. juice boxes, Gold Fish, rice cakes, cheerios, cheese, cut up fruit, Teddy Grahams, pretzel sticks, sliced grapes, raisins). Be sure to cut any food into small pieces to avoid choking hazards, particularly grapes.
  • Spread a large towel over the entire back seat to catch thrown cookies/crackers/bottles.
  • Bring TOYS that your child has not seen before - something that will catch their eye. One person had great success with a mini photo album of various family shots. Another person suggested wrapping them up in pretty paper and letting the child tear the paper off. Avoid toys that make noise that would irritate the poor driver, e.g. nothing with batteries or flashing lights.
  • Another toy suggestion is a role of clear tape. Apparently they love to tape themselves the seat, you, etc. Also, a ball made of sticky tape.
  • A Magna Doodle.
  • A paper cup from McDonalds with a plastic lid and straw - apparently hours of entertainment 8-)
  • Stop for a BREAK every 1.5 to 2 hours and let your child burn some steam running around. Stop at rest areas where there will be room for your child to run around - restaurants may not allow for this (unless it's a McDonald's with a play area). One parent suggested avoiding stops because of the difficulty of getting the child back in the car seat! Blow some bubbles at the rest stop.
  • If the trip is very long, (i.e. more than 6 hours) stop and stay the night somewhere - maybe in a hotel with a swimming pool and playground that your child would enjoy.
  • If possible, sit beside your child in the vehicle.
  • Change diapers often because sitting on a wet diaper for long periods increases the chance of a diaper rash. Use a good barrier cream.
  • Point out passing vehicles (e.g. big trucks) or bridges to keep them focused on something.
  • Sing songs. Finger play songs are a big hit with some (e.g. Itsy Bitsy Spider).
  • Books! Small, easy to handle. New ones that they haven't seen before.
  • Stuffed animals and puppets. One parent has success playing with hand puppets from the front seat.
  • Use car shades to keep the sun out of their eyes. Sun glasses work too if your child will wear them. Take sun screen and a hat.
  • Pack Tylenol for yourself :)
  • If your car has a cassette or CD player, bring along familiar music.
  • Bring your good humour and lots of energy. Try to smile.
  • Don't go - stay home instead. :)
  • Avoid traveling during rush hour so you don't get stuck in traffic.
  • Give them a little Benedryl to help them relax!
  • For an older child, take a potty just in case.
  • Buy a van.
I would add Books on Tape or CD found at your local library. These can appeal to children and adults.
We took a few trips from Central California to Vancouver B.C. in a pick-up truck where we all sat in the front seat. Our boys were 4 years old and 6 the first time - but our favorite way to pass the time was a game called "Grandpa's Cat". It was alphabetical. Each person took a turn naming this cat and giving a word about said cat's disposition. Example, Grandpa's cat was named Alex and he was and angry cat; or Grandpa's cat was named Ben and he was a boring cat ... and so on. It may sound boring, but when each person tries to top the previous answer, and the and the names and dispositions of the cats became more outrageous - we laughed for most of the trip. I think it was the boys' favorite pastime because they were able to use their imagination and competitive spirit.
Thanks for the feedback!

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