You're heading out to visit family, and taking your young children on the plane/train/long car ride for the first time. Before you panic, here are some ways to prepare and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone!
Pack a small backpack/bag for child with snack, tissues, wipes, water, book, and one to two activity items (bring more in your bag for longer trips). Introduce a new activity as you see your child needs it, but wait as long as possible! Spacing out items will allow for longer concentration on each and more peaceful activity time!
I suggest choosing 3 of these for an hour trip:
Post it notes or flags
Small flashlight for shadow puppets, etc
Plastic link toys for connecting and breaking apart (no more than 10)
Three crayons and a pad of paper
Cheerios and clean shoelace— string on, then eat!
Sticker books (One sheet = one activity)
Old digital camera
Music player with headphones (ipod shuffle works well)
Magnadoodle or Aquadoodle—no mess or extra paper!
Magnetic tiles or blocks
Story cubes—dice with pictures for starting a story. Great for sparking your imagination!
Sing songs and fingerplays. Make cards with the song title and picture on each to help you remember and for a pre-reader to choose the next song. You could also make a list and bring it with you so you’re not blanking on the songs you know and end up singing the same three for the whole trip (been there).
Play I spy! You can spy things that are a color, shape, size, alive/not alive, or start with a letter sound. Or, make up your own categories and clues!
I spy something that is a blue square shape
I spy something that looks delicious
I spy a person who is sleepy.
A set of vocabulary cards on a ring. I like these from How we Montessori and So Awesome.
Be sure you have allowed plenty of time for your travels and recovery. Children are very sensitive to change, and need WAY more time than adults to transition and adjust.
A note about: apps/movies/other screen things for back-up entertainment. I don’t advocate screen and electronic entertainment for young children—but sometimes you may just need to go there on long trips. Use your best judgement and of course, practice moderation.
Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained.