It's hot in the car and you still have 400 km to go to get to your destination. Meanwhile fidgety children in the backseat want to know, “Are we there yet?” If you're hitting the road with the kids in tow, you should plan well before setting out.
The right food is the key to an easy journey. It’s important to avoid sugar-rich foods, especially for younger children, Durban dietician Lorisha Singh says. Here are her tips:
- Pack food that won’t make children’s hands and mouths sticky.
- Sandwiches are always a good idea as they’re filling and easy to pack. But avoid messy sauces and syrups.
- Nuts and seeds are healthy snacks and ideal for between meals.
- If you’re going to pack something sweet, consider a sweet string. Go to the SuperMom website to see how to make one. This will keep your child entertained for longer than an ordinary chocolate or sweet will.
The journey seems shorter when you have control over what goes on in the car.
- Have a garbage bag at hand for rubbish.
- Ensure you have moist cloths for wiping sticky hands and faces.
- “Older children tend to become bored in a car but the needs of babies and preschoolers are more physical,” says Lomé Koekemoer, a psychologist of Randburg, Gauteng. If their basic needs aren’t satisfied they become restless and weepy. “Make sure you feed your baby regularly, dress them warmly if necessary, change their nappies regularly and try to adapt your trip to suit their sleep patterns so they’ll sleep in the car.”
GamesYoung children can easily be kept entertained with games. Try I spy or towns, animals, names and surnames (see below). “Teens long to feel independent so don’t force them to take part in something they’re not interested in,” Koekemoer says. She suggests you leave teens in peace if they want to listen to music with their earphones.
Involve them in the journey“Young children are naturally inquisitive,” Koekemoer says. “Keep them busy and make the journey exciting.” Let children help to work out your route beforehand. Give them a map and let them figure out where you should be at what time. This will give them something to do before the journey and provide excitement during the trip. Let the children make a list of places you can visit. This could work for primary school age and older children. Show them how to find tourist sights on the internet.
Keep them busyToys are ideal for keeping young children busy. Anything magnetic works well because it doesn’t fall all over the place. Teddy bears, dolls or toy cars also work well. Children of primary school age and older should enjoy taking pictures with a digital camera and documenting the trip. Portable electronic games such as Game Boys and PlayStations are also good.
Music and DVDs“Music is the best solution for teens,” Koekemoer says. They can load their favourite music on their cellphones or portable players. If you can afford it, a portable DVD player is a good investment. Your kids can watch TV series and movies and they’ll be kept entertained for hours. This also works for younger kids. Just remember to take along a charger for the car. Tried-and-tested games
There’s a reason these pastimes are so well known – they work.
- I spy. Each member of the family has a turn to choose something they see beside the road. They provide a clue (such as the first letter of the word) and the others must guess what it is.
- Towns, animals, names and surnames. Choose a letter. The first one to come up with a town, animal, name or surname beginning with that letter is the winner. Remember to reward good behaviour. Praising kids for being good will encourage them to keep it up for the rest of the journey.