If you’re headed on an “are-we-there-yet?” road trip with the kids, you can make the hours go faster by playing the miles away.
Bringing along some fun for the ride will give your kids the message that the journey is as much a part of the vacation as being on the beach or visiting Grandma or hopping on the rides at Great America. In fact, if you’re willing to turn off your cell phones, it may be one of the few times all year you can count on the family being together without competition from television, computers, and phone calls.
Family play is great for kids
Don’t underestimate the importance of these family times together. One of the most comprehensive studies of American youth ever conducted, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, established the importance of children’s connectedness with their family as the most important predictor of whether their adolescence will be relatively healthy…or marked by negative choices such as violence behaviors, emotional distress, drug abuse, and early sexual activity. Playing together while you travel can help create family-focused time and connectedness.
First stop: the Internet.
While you’re getting your trip organized, visit the Internet. You’ll find dozens of downloadable travel games and activities—most for the cost of printing them out at home.
Where to start? Visit the mother of all travel game sites—appropriately titled Mom’s Minivan. Here you’ll find loads of car travel games and ideas, organized by the age of the child (older kids, toddlers, and babies). There is a whole section of printable game boards (bingo cards for up to four players to keep track of types of automobiles you see on the road, ditto on off-road sightings of signs, animals, buildings, etc.). Don’t miss the scavenger hunt lists, lyrics for sing-along songs, and yes…remedies for car sickness.
Another worthwhile stop is this site on About.com. You’ll find simple word games described along with several games you can print out, like Tic Tac Toe, Connect the Dots, and license plate games. You’re not done getting your in-car play organized if you haven’t visited http://travel.kaboose.com/destination-guide/index.html http://www.kidsdomain.com/. There is lots of fun stuff here that will work on the road. The downloadable games you’ll find when you click on “Travel Games” are helpful because they rate the difficulty of actually making the game and list the materials you need to get it done so it’s playable. And here are a couple other worthwhile sites for travel games:
Looking for more? Try travel versions of old classics.
Beyond all the great stuff you can download for free are good old classic games—and fresh new offerings—that you can buy to throw in your play bag for hours of fun in the car. Many games come in travel versions that are easy to use en route thanks to magnets and redesign of game board pieces to stabilize them. Find them at your neighborhood toy store.
Whatever you decide to take along, remember that a family vacation is a chance to relax, play your hearts out together, laugh, and simple be a family. And that is not only fun. You are creating memories and you are creating connectedness. It’s a worthy investment in your children’s future.
 While you’re packing, consider throwing in a copy—for your own reading pleasure—of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. It is published by Ballantine Books and available at most large bookstores or online.
Provided By Susan J. Oliver, Tropomedia
This information is provided on behalf of the toy experts at your neighborhood toy store.