Are we there yet? I’m bored. Stop touching me?
If this sounds familiar then you have probably taken a family vacation or traveled to visit family during the holidays with your kids. Vacations and holidays are fun and can create lasting memories for you and your children but getting there is another story.
With the holidays right around the corner, I know many of you (including myself) will be hitting the highway or the friendly skies to visit family. And it is a good idea to have a strategy and be prepared for when boredom hits.
While having DVDs and video games is helpful there is no reason to throw out your rules on limiting electronics just because you are on a trip. Doctors often say that too much electronics stimulus can cause attention problems, sleep issues, and can actually over stimulate children, thus making the car or airplane ride even worse.
Even the kids will get tired to watching DVDs or playing on their Nintendo, PS3, iPod Touch or cell phone. Here are a few oldies but goodies that my kids have played while they are stuck in the car.
- Travel Bingo – Of all the games I’m presenting here, this takes the most preparation. You can buy travel bingo games, but where’s the fun in that? Before the trip, spend some time and collect images that you may see on your journey such as road signs, airports, and police cars.Print the images into grids, one for each potential player. Depending on the attention span of your children, give each grid 10-20 images. Some images can be used on more than one grid, but every grid musthave two or three images that are unique to that grid, to prevent dead heats and arguments.Give each child a grid and a pencil – when they see something on their grid, they can cross it off, and the winner is the first to cross them all off.If the game proves popular with your children, you can print the grids on card, laminate them, and mark them off with a dry erase marker.If you don’t have time to make our own grids, they are available as well, but be careful to select cards that suit your journey. The example here is from About.com’s homeschooling section.
- I Spy – This classic game is where one of the passengers starts out and says I Spy With My Little Eye something blue… then the others in the car try to guess it. If somebody guesses correctly, it is their turn. If everybody gives up, the person giving the clue takes another turn. Points may be awarded the one who guessed correctly. The one problem with this game is that when the car is flying down the road at 75 miles per hour, if all eyes are focusing out in front of the car, they may miss the intended object.
- License Tag Hunt – This is a game my children and I play every time we are stuck in the car during long trips. I print out a list of all of the states. Then while we are riding in the car, we try and see who can find a car license plate for each of states. Then we check off the states that we find license plates for. This game can be played as a team or individually.
- Banana – I’m not sure what the real name for this game is but I’m calling it Banana. My kids and I play this game ALL the time. There are two types of car you look for. (1) You look for a yellow vehicle. Whoever sees it first yells out “Banana” and when the other players confirm it, that person gets a point. (2) You look for a Volkswagen bug. That’s is called a “Punch Buggy”. If someone were you to see a yellow Volkswagen bug, then they yell out, “Punch Buggy Banana“. This can be a lot of fun to see who can find the cars first. Sometimes we even add other colored cars to the mix too like orange for an orange car and marshmallow for a white car and so on.
- Pass the Monster – This is a game where you fold a piece of paper in half if there are only 2 players and the first person draws the head and upper half of a monster. Then they turn the paper over and pass to the other player. That person then has to draw the bottom half of the monster. Then you unfold the paper to see the monster that has been created. The drawings can get pretty wacky.
These are some great example of travel games to keep your kids occupied. They work in the car, on airplanes and even in a lobby or airport. Make sure to remember the basics – bring items with as few parts as possible and items that are completely self contained. The best items also have an element of cooperative play so that with a little planning you can start creating those family memories as soon as you get on your way. Enjoy your holiday travel and be safe.