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Take a Road Trip with Your Preschoolers

Take a Road Trip with Your Preschoolers

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“It is possible to be prepared for a spur-of-the-moment field trip, even though that sounds like a contradiction.”
“It is possible to be prepared for a spur-of-the-moment field trip, even though that sounds like a contradiction.”

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Published by: The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine on Jun 10, 2013
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06/10/2013

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Take a Road Trip With Your Preschoolers!
 
By Kendra Fletcher
 
Road trip! Sounds so fun, doesn’t it? I’m always up for a road trip until I remember how
much work it can be with preschoolers. Still, travel and field trips, getting out andexperiencing
something new, and broadening my horizons even if I can’t stop and read
every placard in the museum make it worth it.Have you given up the thought of putting your brood in the car and going somewhere
without your spouse? It’s hard, isn’t it? I’ve learne
d a few tricks over the years and hopethese might bless you too.
 
Be Prepared!
 
It is possible to be prepared for a spur-of-the-moment field trip, even though that sounds
like a contradiction. If you take the time to make a “road trip” checklist now, you won’t
have to think through what to gather every time, and jumping in the car will be that muchmore doable.
Here’s a starter list:• Diaper bag• Snacks
 
• Water bottles
 
• Car boxes (more about these below)
 
• Extra clothes for baby and toddler
 
• Music
and DVDs (educational DVDs are like school on the road)
 
• Blankets or toys your children sleep with (in case you want them to nap in the car)
 
• Camera
 
• Medicine or other necessary medical items
 
Add or subtract to the list above as it relates to your family. Keep it saved on your computer
so you don’t have to think about what to pack every time. It’s the mental work that
exhausts me.
Keep Your Expectations Low
 
You’ve probably come to realize as a parent that it’s often our unmet expectations that
make or
break our experiences with our kids. I remember hearing years ago, “Life wouldn’tbe so hard if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.” My frustration level with my kids grows out
of control quickly when I have unrealistic expectations of them in any given situation. Sowhat does it look like to have realistic expectations in regard to our little ones during travel
or field trips? For me, it’s expecting them to act like the little people they are. That means I
expect them to have to go to the bathroom eight mi
nutes after we’ve left a place. I expect
my daughter who is prone to motion sickness to throw up. I expect to have to role play withthem about how to behave in the place where we are going. I expect them to spill at leastone drink on their shirts/laps/siblings/me. I expect to need to change a really foul diaperthe minute we reach a stretch of road where I cannot stop.If none of those things occur, I consider it a minor miracle. If they do occur, however, I
don’t consider the trip a failure. It is what
it is.
 
 
Having realistic expectations also affects where I plan to take them and how much I expectto accomplish while there. If we go to a hands-on museum geared to kids, I can expect theplace to be noisy; the kids are going to want to see and touch eve
rything. We’ll probably beable to stay there for an hour or two before they’ve exhausted the exhibits and grown tired,hungry, or bored. If, however, I take them to a “real” museum, my expectations drop
appropriately.
 
We recently visited a local museum with a storybook illustrations exhibit. It was lovely andcaught the attention of both my little guys, as well as the young teens who were with us.We all enjoyed seeing rich illustrations of familiar stories, and we spent about twentyminutes in that gallery.
In the next room was an exhibit of the museum’s permanent collection, much of it
landscapes and pastoral scenes with a Rodin bust thrown in for good measure. Myexpectation going in to
that 
gallery was nil. I scooped up the 4-year-old and quickly looked
at each painting with him, pointing to things I knew he’d appreciate. We finished the exhibit
in about five minutes, but the older kids lingered. Because they were captivated, I walkedthe 4-year-old back out into the hallway and played a rhyming game with him.
 
I wasn’t disappointed. Someday I’ll be able to linger with the big kids, but because my
expectations were extremely low, I enjoyed myself 
and 
the 4-year-old.
Car Boxes
 
Because we have a large family, we have never traveled by airplane all together. We prefer
to “divide and conquer” when it comes to big trips by air, but when it’s all ten of us we
travel by car. Some families we know travel hours upon hours, but because my husband
can’t leave his business for more than a week, we rarely drive d
istances more than eighthours away. Still, any travel from three to eight hours with preschoolers can be very taxing.Years ago we gave each child a plastic box (the larger size, not the shoebox size) and filledtheir boxes with little things we had collected to keep them busy. You can put anything you
want in those boxes, but here are some things that have made their way into our kids’ 
boxes over the years:
 
• Pencils (No pens! I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate.)
 
• Notepads
 
• Coloring books• Individu
al servings of snacks
 
• Little metal cars
 
• A sandwich bag with a small number of army men (Trust me when I say six or eight is
enough.)
 
• Stickers (if you don’t mind them being stuck to the windows)
 
• A disposable camera for slightly older kids
 
Wikki Stix
 (
)
 
The car boxes slide nicely under seats, which is great for kids who are not strapped into a
car seat. For the littlest ones, it’s helpful to give them one toy at a time from someone
within their reach or to allow them a few items in a smaller plastic shoebox.
Full Tummies Make Happy Toddlers
 
You’re a mom. You know how cranky and awful little people can be when they are hungry,
thirsty, or tired. It probably goes without saying that you need to plan for these things while

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