When Reid and I went to the Great Wolf Lodge earlier this month, we took what seems to be our hundredth extended car trip. I was thinking that I’ve developed some ideas on how to pack a car when travelling with a preschooler.
It really is best to clean out everything that has accumulated in the car. Admit it, there are many toys, articles of clothing and the odd shoe floating around your vehicle. There will be more “stuff” floating about before you get back home. You’ll be glad you spent the time at the outset.
In a bag that the child(ren) can dig through on their own:
1. Pack some books that you can recite or at least tell the overall story without looking at the words.
2. Pack a few of the little toys that you got from fast food restaurants but hid for just such a rainy day. You do hoard them, don’t you? Unwrap them and assemble them, if required before you pack them.
3. Pack some paper, markers and stickers. Seriously consider whether crayons are required. I’ve spent too much time trying to get crayons out of clothing and the car seat cover to whole-heartedly endorse them. Reid likes to play with stickers with pictures and also the letters that are sold in dollar stores for scrapbooking. She isn’t a sticker snob at all – I save the stickers I pick up at conferences that promote products and she plays with them happily.
4. Pack some Playdoh. It might be messy but the tactile experience will be welcome.
Part of the fun for Reid is reaching into her backpack and finding something else to do.
I also try to keep some toys and art supplies aside for the trip back. Even different stickers or a toy that has been in hiding for a while will do the trick.
Keep these things in your control:
* some kid-friendly music. Note that this doesn’t mean that you have to bring only kids’ music but do think of the lyrics of the music you’re bringing. If you have an MP3 player and a way of connecting it to your car stereo, put together a travelling playlist so that you don’t need to be changing CDs on the go. Finally, learn how to move the sound from the front seat to the back seat. Some songs are just better when they are in the kids’ ears rather than yours;
* a few different kinds of not-too-messy snacks. Since you’re packing for a child, accept that there will be some mess. When the time comes, dole them out slowly and don’t tell them everything you’ve got right off the bat;
* a couple of different beverages in spill proof cups. Even if your child has stopped using sippy cups at home, they should use them in the car. Don’t forget that what goes in must come out. Limiting intake is a good idea; and
* paper towels and a wet cloth.
I am pro-electronics person, when they’re used in moderation. We have some nice noise-cancelling headphones and I plug them into the iPod and let Reid watch videos sometimes while we’re travelling. She has an easier time managing the iPod than the laptop.
We’re still packing a portable potty. Reid can “hold it” for quite a long time but it just seems a risky thing to leave behind when it takes up so little room.
Agreeing on and achieving a good temperature is a challenge. I always bring a blanket so that Reid can cover when she is cool or just needs something familiar and comforting. Of course, when Ken is with us, I am often snuggled under a blanket of my own.
We don’t have one of those window blinds and our car windows aren’t particularly tinted. Either of these things would work for me, I guess. Since we don’t use the window blinds, I try to remember to bring sunglasses for Reid.
Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget your child’s lovey. If your child doesn’t have a favoured stuffed animal or toy, you might want to bring one anyway. They may need a best friend in the back seat before the trip is over.
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