When you’re a military family, long trips are inevitable. Chances are very good that you’ll have to take the whole gang on the road (or the air) more than a few times over the course of a military career.
For parents of young children, this can be daunting. Once the excitement of being on the road wears off, boredom sets in. And as we all know, in the minds of little ones, what starts off as boredom often ends up turning into trouble (or at least discontent), which, naturally, leads to... frustration for mom and dad.
And then, despite your best intentions, your well-planned family adventure has turned into a family disaster. The good news is that with a little preparation (okay, sometimes it’s more than just a little), it is possible to beat the boredom blues!
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One great way to keep the whole family entertained is to find audio books. Whether the kids have their own individual players to use, or you all listen to the same book through your car’s stereo, this is a great way to keep the kids and (yourselves) engaged for hours. With services such as audible.com, there are tens of thousands of choices, so there's definitely something for everyone in your family, regardless of age or interests.
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A growing number of parents these days would like to reduce the amount of time their kids spend with tablets and smartphones. That said, technology can serve a purpose, particular on a road trip, when you’re scrambling for ways to stave of boredom, distract the kids from squabbling, or to keep yourself calm. Many kids’ tablets come pre-loaded with fun, educational apps. And you can download plenty of others for free or not very much. You can do some research on your own (check with ComonSenseMed...ia.org for recommendations). But a better way might be to ask your kids what their friends are playing.
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Portable DVD Players
If the audio books don’t sound appealing, invest in a small, portable DVD player and bring along your kids’ favorite movies or TV shows. This should give you anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours of peace on the road or in flight.
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Before you head out on your next adventure, stop by your local bookstore for activity books that fit your child’s interest and skill level. These may include crosswords, word finds, sticker pages, mazes, MadLibs, coloring activities, and more.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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Instant Film Cameras
Turn the trip into a project. Instant film cameras from Polaroid, Kodak, Fujifilm, and others are making a major comeback. And although digital cameras have their advantages, there’s something special about holding an actual photo in your hand. So assign each of your children a particular part of the trip to with document, and at the end, everyone can come together and make a family scrapbooks with the images and other mementos of the trip.
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Busy boxes are a great way to combine your child’s favorite activities into a portable container. Try filling a shoebox with toy cars, Legos, dolls, or other items. You can even get the kids to decorate their own boxes before or during the trip with stickers and markers.
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Aluminum Foil Sculptures
Nobody wants Play-Doh residue all over their car. Fortunately, a roll of tin foil can replace the modeling clay. Kids can make sculptures of things they see on the journey out of the pliable medium, without the mess.
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Who doesn’t love a good round of “I Spy” or ‘The License Plate Game”? These and others that you can make up on your own are great ways to pass the time and add a few laughs to your trip.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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Pack Toys in Phases
When you’re packing, it’s tempting to go room by room, packing everything. But when it comes to toys, games, and books, do your packing in stages. Certain things can be packed immediately. Others you’ll need to keep out for the trip or for the days, weeks, or months leading up to it.
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It can be challenging to stop every now and then when you’re focused on the goal of packing up the house and moving. However, neglecting to take regular breaks can leave children—especially younger ones—feeling irritable and frustrated. Plan to stop every couple of hours for playtime with the kids. If you’re driving, map out a few stops where they can get out of the car and burn off some energy by running around.
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Make A Goal List
Moving to a new area can be hard on kids. It can be helpful to find ways to help them get excited about their new home. Try having the family work together on a goal list for the new duty station while en route. Do a little research and get to know about your new town. Using that info, have each family member come up with a few items they want to accomplish during the stay.
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This can be a great way to combine creativity with fun on long trips. Have one family start the story with a few sentences. Then, each other family member adds a few sentences of their own. You’ll be amazed at how creative your family can be, and at what an amazing story you’ll come up with.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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Do What Works Best For Your Unique Child
While these are all tried-and-true ideas, the best strategy is to get to know your child or children’s learning style. By understanding this, you can plan for activities that will keep their brain stimulated and their body out of trouble.
By making the trip fun, you can help relieve the pressure and stress of leaving an established home. Make each move an adventure.