My best childhood memories involved family vacations. We were a family of campers, and I can still recall breathing in the fresh mountain air, relaxing by the light of a campfire, roasting marshmallows over open flame, hiking on beautiful trails, dipping our toes into ice cold streams, skipping rocks across glass-smooth lakes, consuming freshly made breakfast under our dining tarp, curling up in a sleeping bag, and most of all, spending quality time as a family. Our day excursions would include visiting sights, shopping, dining in local restaurants, and visiting places we had never been before. I remember my parents planning for days, gathering camping gear, packing food, checking the tires, packing clothes for both hot & cool weather, preparing a first aid kit, and making sure we had everything we needed. On the day of our departure, I remember helping load up the car and a small trailer before heading to our mountain destination.
A few years after I married my husband, I mentioned one of our family camping trips while visiting his parents. My mother-in-law was astounded that I enjoyed camping, because she had never seen that side of me. Some of you might also be surprised, but those camping trips instilled in me the importance of family time and working as a team to achieve a common goal and lifetime memories.
On that note, I would like to offer some tips to parents of small children (and not-so-small, too!) to help long road trips go a little smoother.
1) Keep them occupied. When our kids were younger, I prepared a “kit” for each child. This proved to be a vacation-saver! The kit included:
colored pencils & sharpener (crayons tend to melt if left in a hot car!); sticker books; coloring books; dot-to-dot pages; word searches; crossword puzzles;
easy-to-make crafts (see below for suggestions); paper folding projects; and clues about our vacation destinations for them to guess.
2) Avoid giving all the items to your kids at the beginning of the trip. Every two hours or so, pull out another activity or craft. This will keep them occupied for literally hours. Be sure to save some activities for the trip home!
3) Easy, portable craft suggestions include pre-cut felt flower petals & green pipe cleaners to connect the petals and form a stem; large bag of pipe cleaners to form shapes; greeting cards with holes punched around the edges to use as sewing cards – use large plastic needles and yarn to sew two cards back-to-back to form a pouch (children can keep their vacation ticket stubs, smashed novelty pennies, and other mementoes in them).
4) Keep snacks and bottled water available. Suggestions include nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter crackers, fresh fruit that won’t mash (such as apples or oranges), granola bars, and lower-sodium beef jerky. Try to stay away from sugary snacks and beverages. If you are taking an ice chest or cooler, you could pack fresh veggie sticks, tuna, or yogurt – just don’t forget spoons!
5) Pack a picnic in a cardboard box. Long road trips can be tiring for young children. Pull over at a rest stop and have a picnic! Pack paper plates, a roll of paper towels, peanut butter, bread, chips, cereal, plus any food items you need to use up from home. In an ice chest, you can pack leftover grapes, berries, lettuce, tomatoes, or other foods that needed to be eaten. Be sure to pack proper utensils. When you’re finished with your picnic, you’ll have more space in your vehicle! Keep bottled water chilled to make it more refreshing. You can always replenish the water and ice along the way.
6) Play road games, such as “I Spy”, or see how many red (or black, blue, etc.) vehicles you can count, alphabet search game (look for words on signs that begin with each letter of the alphabet), alphabet item game (on my vacation, I’m bringing an ‘apple’; on my vacation, I’m bringing a ‘balloon’, etc.).
7) Be prepared for car-sickness. I remember traveling on a very remote winding, mountain road with my family, and it hit! That sick-to-the-gut feeling, watery mouth, and…well, you get the picture! Be sure to have plastic grocery store bags available for each child in case this happens. That will help you avoid an unpleasant experience!
8) Let each family member select an activity to do. I am so glad that two of my three children will be able to accompany us on a trip to Branson this summer. (Our youngest and his wife just moved, so due to work obligations, they won’t be able to join us.) I requested a Branson travel guide from the Visitor Center and have looked things up on-line, so my to-do wish list is complete. Each person going on the trip will select an activity, show, or shop they want to visit, and we will all do it together. This makes the trip so much more enjoyable!
9) Take lots of pictures, both on the road and at your destination! The trip will eventually end, but memories can be kept through photos!
These are tried and true tips that we have used. For more ideas, here’s a great link: http://activitiesforkids.com/travel-tips/
Regional Childcare Conference
I am proud to announce the 2015 Regional Childcare Conference, brought to you by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Paris Junior College, and Texas Department of Family & Protective Services. The workshop is scheduled for Saturday, August 1, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at the Hopkins County Civic Center, 1200 W. Houston Street, Sulphur Springs. The cost is $20, which includes lunch, materials, and a gift. Eight CEU’s will be given for participants who attend the entire workshop. A variety of topics will be included with breakout sessions available for the last two hours.
For registration information, contact me at 903-885-3443 or Rita Pringle, 903-782-0447. Deadline to register is Friday, July 24. No refunds will be given after Monday, July 27th, but alternates may attend if necessary.
For success, attitude is equally as important as ability – Walter Scott