here and there

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Teaching your child to be a confidant traveller

Recently, a question was asked of me, when did we first start travelling with children?  This question was prompted by our son’s experience travelling with their one year old.  A five-hour trip to Maine took nine hours due to frequent stops as the child was fussing. Similarly in August, a 6 hour trip from the Okanagan Valley to Calgary turned into a 12 hour trip.  Certainly safety was an issue after travelling  that length of time.  Furthermore, nothing makes my blood boil more than hearing that things are so different now and we just don’t understand!  

On reflection, I realised that my husband and I had been across Canada by car 5 times in one year with two children under 3 and on the first trip the youngest was still breast feeding.    The following year, when my husband was in Iran and I lived in Northern Manitoba with my Mom, I would frequently pack up the car and drive to Winnipeg four hours away with the two small boys to visit the Zoo and their little cousins.  So just how did we survive these long trips with very young children?

As parents, we too were very concerned with safety!  We did not let the children out of their car seats and seat belts once the car was in motion. We too planned stops around feeding, changing diapers and potty training. As the children grew older, these stops were also planned around fun activities, such as play in playgrounds, dip on a beach, attending a fish fry or PowWow!

Involvement of children even very young children, in planning for the trip was most beneficial.  New sunglasses, rubber boots, beach toys, umbrella, flashlight, sun suit added to the excitement of the trip!  Sewing that extra large net using a metal clothes hanger for catching minnows or making a fishing rod out of a special found branch added to the anticipation of the trip!

Sewing a colourful organiser for each child to hang on the back of the front seats and filled with age appropriate toys, books and crayons.

Having handy a stock of surprise items of age appropriate toys, books, crayons, action figures that were pulled out as the trip advanced especially at any lags in the trip, i.e. road construction.

A great idea was a foldable tray that fit onto the car seat.  These trays much like those in a plane were great for meal times and play.

Timing was a big factor as we would drive early in the morning, be on the road by 7 am and then stop for breakfast at 9 am. The kids would play as we ate our breakfast.  Most of our stops would be picnic areas even in the winter as sitting in a restaurant was just not relaxing for any of us.  The children would then usually eat breakfast on the road in the car.  Again lunchtime break was play time for the children as we ate.

Although, our trips covered long distances, we planned each driving day to end at mid afternoon allowing for setting up at the campsite, plenty of beach time, then supper with bonfire time. Chocolate milk with marshmallows for cold weather or s’mores or popcorn along with the routine bed rituals to end the evening !  A rest day was always planned after two or three driving days, although a rainy day did become a driving day! 

Books and music played a big part while driving. Many times and hours, I would spend sitting between the children to read old favourites or a new book.
Old favourite cassette tapes such as those by Raffi, Penner along with those from the public library were played and singsongs were great fun for all of us. 

Car games were also played like I spy, counting semi trailers or cars. Most of these were developed based the each child’s interest.

 A hamper was filled with quick snacks, yoghurt and fruit and within quick reach. Breakfast cereals that came in individual serving boxes could be opened to become a bowl were handy for breakfast but also as a snack.

Most importantly we enjoyed travelling and travel days were just as much fun as the rest day.  Even when on one of our holidays, the camper tires blew five times on our holiday to the Maritimes, we still made this a fun experience and made good use of the time it took to repair the camper alignment.  We spent a great afternoon on an old CPR locomotive run by retired railway employees in Hillsborough, N B rather than sit at the garage.

Yes, we would always laugh that on a long trip, it would take a day to develop the rhythm of travelling as it would to reorganise the packing in the car and camper.
 As parents, travel was as much fun as rest days for us and the children would pick up on this!