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I sure enjoy all the ideas here. I need some ideas to keep a 5 year old boy occupied on a long vacation trip. He doesn't really like to color, etc. and has a pretty short attention span. I've been checking the clearance aisles in stores, but I'm not coming up with much. Any ideas? I'd sure appreciate it. Thanks!
In response to a reader's question about the five year old who doesn't like to color and in need of road trip activities--I have a couple of ideas.
Take a covered 9x13 cake pan and fill it with flash cards, small cars (a road map could be taped to the top), small books, etc. Also, you could also use the same pan or a hinged box ( like the kind sold with art sets inside) and glue a piece of felt to the inside. Then fill the inside of it with felt cut-outs that can be re-used over and over again. - James
Prepare little packages to be opened at intervals. Some can be nutritious treats. Others can be your purchased and homemade toys, games, etc. The thing is that if it is wrapped or packaged up with some fun and mystery, the process of opening it is part of the entertainment.
The harder it is to keep a child's attention, the more important it is not to fill him up with sugar, refined flours, artificial colors, and so on. Instead, plan for meals that will be very healthy and prepare treats that are healthy. I suggest things like banana muffins, oranges, a few pretzels, crackers with peanut butter, and so on. Pack your own beverages in an ice chest -- and the best one to take along is just ice water.
We all need plenty of rest stops on long trips. I know parents are apt to feel that it is best to just drive straight through and get there sooner, but for safety, stops should be no further apart than every other hour. Everyone should get out, use the rest room, wash hands, get a little exercise. This is important for the driver, too; it promotes alertness. So, plan on taking all the necessary rest stops, and plan some fun activity for the child. Perhaps you can toss a Frisbee ten times, or race to the restroom, or walk in a special gait (like an elephant, "trunk" dangling; like a dinosaur, with big heavy steps; taking baby steps; taking giant steps, etc.) If you have a few such options, you can ask the boy to help choose the one for each stop, while the driver is looking for the next rest area. This too will help to occupy the time.
Many toys that are fun at home can be fun in the car. Lego's, writing materials, sticker books, and so on are quite portable. There is always the favorite stuffed animal, as well. To avoid tears from lost parts, and mess, require that each toy be put away before another is gotten out. If that produces a fight, then at least gather up and put away at each rest stop, and start fresh each time you get back on the road.
Car songs help to occupy the time. You can now buy cassettes of suitable sing-along songs. There are also audio plays and stories. I recommend the stories by Focus on the Family; although designed mainly for middle school children, there is something for all ages in these well-crafted stories. In other words, parents can bear them, and even teens might listen.
If you can remember any, good old story telling is a fun way to fill up the time. The best stories would be ones that can be interactive, such as a recounting of the Three Billy Goats Gruff or Goldilocks, where the child either supplies the different voices or chants the repeated parts along with the parent.
Many car games are intended for long attention spans, but that is no reason not to try them for as long as they last. If you only get to G in looking for letters on license plates, you have used that much time enjoyably. If you can only get a dozen or so items in a list/memory game (like "the preacher's cat is a ______ cat", or "I went on a trip and I packed _______"), it is still fun to play it together. The first few items in the list will be a chance for your child to be creative or outrageous as the mood suits him, and trying to top those with even more inventive or silly answers might hold his attention long enough to check you list of ideas.
The common thread here is to enter into the child's world and make the trip an interactive game. Just the novelty of having so much parental attention, when the distractions of work, housework, television, internet and so on are far away, will keep a child interested. There WILL be bad moments, no matter how well you plan, but if *you* keep *your* cool and model the art of coping with frustrations, it can be a time of family bonding you will later remember fondly.
Rose B, mother of three, in NC
Well, I am a military wife/mom. To say the least we travel often and for long distances.
On one trip I had my kids count all the McDonald's and Burger Kings along the highway to see which there were more of.
Educational wise - Most electronic stores have inexpensive walkman radio/cassettes.
We also talk about the sites we see along the way and make a game of it. - Sharon
We have a 5 year old boy also. We take a sticker book and books. We have a dvd player and some of his favorite movies along with a new one or a borrowed one along. He has a mp3 player w/ kids songs on it. We play "I spy with my little eye." At meal times we take a soccer ball and have a picnic instead of making them sit at a restaurant and sit in the car all day. We always have plenty of snacks and drinks available in a cooler.