Long car rides and road trips can be a step on a greater journey that is fun-filled, exciting, and makes many lasting memories. However, road trips can often come with long, arduous planning processes as well.
These planning processes can range from trying to find the perfect 14-day car insurance for someone who may help you drive to making sure you have enough snacks so your child doesn’t end up throwing a tantrum because they are hungry and don’t know how to express it.
Teaching children patience is a skill that will not only relieve you but will benefit your child in the long run, too. So what are some useful techniques for helping your child to remain calm, happy, and patient on long car rides or road trips?
Prepare Your Children Early & Let Them Get Involved
Instead of coordinating travel plans with just the adults and leaving the kids in the dark until the last minute, try getting them amped up and excited about the trip a few weeks in advance. Children don’t want to feel lost or out of the loop.
You can have them look up information about where you’re going and see pictures and videos. Or you can even check out a book about where you’re going.
This could tremendously raise the excitement levels and anticipation for the trip. Using some great books on patience will teach them that good things come to those who are patient. It can prepare them mentally for the long journey ahead, and they won’t be as surprised when you tell them about how many hours it takes to reach your destination.
Show your kids exciting stops you may encounter along the way. You can even explain to them why travel is important and why they are lucky to get to see more of the world. Your children will feel proud of themselves because they’ll realize this is a fun experience that also is highly valuable.
Explain to them that the way they get to these fun destinations is through a long car ride, and there will be special rules and behavior expected for this experience. Show them why they will need to sit still and be patient for a long time, keeping the eye on the prize — or destination — from the get-go.
Have Multiple Travel Toys That You Give Out Slowly as Surprises
Toys are important to keep your child stimulated. And children love surprises. Try having multiple categories of toys, including things like action figures and dolls, puzzles, comfort items like teddy bears, and interactive toys that involve multiple siblings working together. Whether you want to give out gifts or treats as surprising may depend on your parenting style.
Then group these categories together, and give out a bunch of, say, puzzles in one batch. Then after 45 minutes or so, surprise them with another goodie bag. Once they start to catch on, you can use your surprise batches of toys to reward them for good behavior.
This technique is great for multiple reasons. It changes up the type of toys, so they have a variety to choose from. It allows a fun surprise. And then you can use it to reward their patience once they find out there are more toys.
Allow Movement Breaks Every Hour or Two
Movement breaks are going to be much more important for your child than for you (and you may even desperately crave them). So try to plan out good locations to have regular stops so you and your child can physically move.
You can try visiting a playground, stretching your legs at a rest stop, visiting a local highway museum if there’s interesting history in the area, or even strolling in parks.
And if your child is being really good, maybe you can buy them a souvenir at one of these locations, knocking out two birds with one stone: releasing excess energy and also rewarding patience.
A movement break will be helpful for you, too, as driving for long periods of time can cause exhaustion and even road hypnosis. You want to remain sharp and clearheaded when driving to avoid getting involved in an accident or tire blowout insurance claim.
Make Tracking the Journey Fun and Keep the Kids Involved Visually
Find a big paper map, or maybe try finding a fun interactive map app that has lots of geographic information. Break up the destinations beforehand so that you have the map prepared.
Then when your child asks how much longer the trip will be, you can use the fun map to give them a very specific visual of how far away the next stop is. If you use an interactive map app, see if you can make a game out of teaching them some of the geography or history. Then on the way back, see how much they remembered.
If you use a big paper map, try having your children design stick-figure cutout versions of the family and attach a pin to it. This can be a fun project that then makes them feel more involved in and connected to the trip.
Keep Your Kids Present to Encourage Enjoying the Wait
Instant gratification is synonymous with our society nowadays, especially through screens or other sometimes mindless distractions. Try to find a way to take a break from these screens and distractions to keep your child present.
But don’t just grind through it like a chore or your child won’t enjoy it either. Try to make being present during the wait a positive experience. Get them to pay attention to the scenery around them and engage in conversation. You can try playing “I Spy” to get them to talk about what they see around them.
If your child likes to talk about robots, talk about robots with them. If they love talking about their latest coloring book masterpiece, talk about their masterpiece with them. A positive conversation on their level, rather than just extensive screen time, is a very important way to keep them engaged, present, and patient.
This will allow them to feel the passing of time, but associate it with something enjoyable instead of something negative.
Prepare With Your Own Patience With Yourself
Sometimes you feel stressed and feel like you have to be the perfect parent, but it’s OK to be a good enough parent. In fact, it is important to remember that every parent has a different parenting style. So it’s OK not to be hard on yourself. Instead, be proactive in looking for solutions.
These techniques help you prepare for real-life situations that can get sticky and messy (not unlike when children love eating the gooiest of chocolate).
It’s OK to be realistic and not to be hard on yourself, and remember that all children will struggle with patience at times. But the more you are patient with yourself, and them, the more you will find positive results.
Dorothea Hudson writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, BuyAutoInsurance.com. She has traveled extensively including by car with younger children in her family.