Family Travel, parenting

Are We There Yet? 3 tricks to help kids travel (more) patiently

By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

How do you keep your sanity when traveling kids whine, “Are we there yet?” Here are 3 ways to keep them occupied, so they travel more patiently and pleasantly.

How do you keep kids from whining, “How much farther?”           Image:

Today I had to lay still for half an hour for a simple medical test, but couldn’t see a clock. To pass the time (and distract myself from moving) I played an old mind game, Count the Music, which I played with my kids on long road trips.

Try this, plus two more ways to keep your own kids occupied as you drive:

Way#1: Count the Music

Consider that most songs on the radio are 3-4 minutes long. In your own head, take the number of minutes you expect it to take to reach your destination and divide by three. Tell the kids “We’ll be there in 7 songs,” (or whatever). They can keep track of the number of songs on their fingers.

While listening to music during my medical test, I’d calculated that would hear eight or nine songs. I only heard three, so must have dozed off while counting and focusing on the music. It tends to work the same way with kids–they either get into the music or fall asleep. It also gives them a sense for how much time is passing if they can’t grasp what “half an hour” is nor tell time.

(CLICK TO READ Way #2 and Way #3)


Way #2: The Old Dot-Box Game  (Ingredients: one pen,pencil or crayon and a scrap of paper.)

This game is fun for people of all ages to pass the time. Grab a piece of scrap paper and put rows of dots, like this:

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

It doesn’t matter how dots there are, as long as they are lined up evenly, but the more dots the longer the game lasts.

The first person to go draws one horizontal or vertical line (not diagonal) connecting two dots. Take turns until one person is able to complete a box with a fourth line. That person puts their initial in the box, then gets to make an additional line (or as many additional lines as possible, as long as they keep creating boxes). The trick is to make it look like lines are being drawn randomly, and at the end, a chain of boxes is often created without the other person realizing that will happen.

When the dots are all turned into boxes, the game is over. Count the initials in the boxes to see who won.

Way #3: Teach Your Kids to Navigate

As soon as a child can read, he can learn to navigate with a map, especially if you will be traveling on one highway for a long time.  Give him his own copy of the map and he can follow it the highway on it with his finger, learning to look for cities he sees on signs outside.  A child can also learn to look for mile markers on the side of the road, and find the same numbers on the map right next to the highway line right on the map. If old enough to do the math, a child can also ask how many miles it is to the next town, then add that number to the next mile marker he or she sees and if really impatient can do a count-down with the mile markers. I did this myself when I was desperate for a pit stop and my husband was eager to keep driving!  I knew exactly how many mile markers I’d see before we’d hit that rest area!

Find more fun activities to do with kids at home or on the road, in the book The Power of Parent-Child Play.

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