We’re about to head off on a couple of holidays as a family, each one involving drives of four to six hours.
It’s not the first time that we’ve taken the boys on long journeys, and we’ve been honing our technique over the years.
I’ve posted before on the incredible usefulness of hats.
So, I thought I’d share the selection of activities we will be taking:
1) Electronic games (we are fine with using electronics to occupy the boys for half an hour or so).
2) CDs, we will be taking a mixture of music we all like and story CDs (we love this series of CDs about Great Inventors, Great Scientists, Great Explorers etc. It’s informative and lighthearted enough to keep everyone engaged.
3) Sticker books and comics, we will be purchasing new ones for all the boys because there is nothing more interesting than a new toy! And, shamelessly, we will be using movie tie-ins to get that little rush of joy (we rarely buy movie tie-in stuff because my husband and I are culture snobs, but that does mean the boys are thrilled whenever we do).
4) Fiddle toys, these will also be new because a new fiddle toy is distracting and soothing at the same time. We like tangles – though you have to be careful as some can be taken apart into small pieces for throwing or swallowing – if your kids are into that sort of thing 😉 – and stretchy caterpillar toys – though these don’t last very long.
5) Sweets. Every twenty minutes we give the boys a little gift / bribe. These are a selection of sweets, coins – to add to their holiday money – and vouchers.
6) Vouchers. We make up our own vouchers, which the children can ‘win’ by keeping their hands and feet to themselves and restricting themselves. Vouchers have things written on them like: choose a song for us all to sing, we will pull over at the next opportunity and buy ice cream, everyone in the car will say one great thing about you, you can choose to sit on any seat in the car for the next half hour, and anything else we can think of that the boys would really like.
7) Cuddly toys. We’ll let the boys pick which ones to bring. They’ll play with them a bit, and having toys in the car might encourage them to snuggle down for a nap, if we’re lucky.
8) Reading books. Since we are – actually – very lucky indeed, both of the big boys like to read and can read in the car without feeling ill. They prefer familiar books to new ones so we don’t have to buy anything here!
9) A list of car games. It’s easier if we think of games in advance, it saves trying to think whilst the children scream. So, here’s our list. You’ll note that some games are named after family members, this was a ploy we invented when we drove to the South of France, we asked everyone to suggest a game for the journey because games that other people have suggested are much more interesting to the boys than games suggested by mum and dad!
The List of Car Games.
• I spy.
• I don’t spy (you say “I don’t spy a toy (or any other category of thing, animal, say, or fruit) that begins with a T (or and other letter, obviously)” everyone else guesses toys beginning with T.)
• Twenty Questions.
• Uncle’s number plate game (you look for a type of car or a numberplate with A on it, then one with B on it, until you’re all the way through the alphabet, from Audi to Zaffira).
• Grandad’s guess what we’ll be passing in one minute game (everyone guesses what we will be driving past in one minute e.g. a bridge, a red lorry, some cows; we wait a minute – with a loud countdown – and see who guessed right).
• Close your eyes and put up your hand when you think exactly one minute, or thirty-seven seconds, or any other unit of time, has passed (the driver is the judge and must keep their eyes open, obviously!)
• Singing. We let everyone choose a song. Songs which allow us to fill in the gaps, like If You’re Happy and You Know it, and Old MacDonald, go down well.
• Auntie’s Story Game (tell a story together, taking in in turns to add a line).
• Good News, Bad News (someone starts by giving good news, the next person gives bad news, it carries on alternating until the story gets too absurd to go on; e.g ‘the good news is we’re going on holiday; the bad news is the car won’t start; the good news is we can take the train; the bad news is the trains are all full; the good news is Mr Tumble came by in his bus and offered us a lift; the bad news is only four of us can fit in his bus etc.).
• Print off maps so the children can see where you’re going; and give them each a chance at giving directions.
• If I were a giant, I would squash . . . (a memory game, we’ve done many types: I went to the park and saw; I went to the shops and bought; I made a sandwich and in it I put; but the giant one is most popular in our house and car).
• Consequences (everyone gets a piece of paper we all write a girl’s name, then fold over the paper to hide what we’ve written and pass it over to someone else, on the new paper everyone writes a boy’s name, we fold and pass again, then we write where they met, what he said, what she said, what they did, what the consequence was and what the world said) and Picture Consequences (the same, but instead of writing, we draw a head, a body with arms, legs, feet, then write a name).
10) We stop! I look at our route and work out four or five possible stops. Then we stop when it works best. If the boys are asleep we drive past a possible stop. If the boys are restless, we pull over at the nearest possible stop. The National Trust, Forestry Commission and RSPB are very handy for plotting places to run about.
I keep everything needed for these activities in a big bag at my feet along with tissues, wet wipes, plasters, bottles of water and snacks. We always have more ideas than we expect to use. There’s always at least one flop, and it’s hard to predict which one it will be, so we like to have a few extras, just in case!
We also make sure we also have a new toy or comic each for the journey home. Most of the games can be repeated, but a new toy always lifts the mood a bit.
It takes us an hour or so to prepare for a car journey, but, the upside is that our holiday starts as soon as we get in the car!