Dreading long trips with your toddler? This is a concern for most parents all around the world. Nobody wants the embarrassment of apologizing to the entire plane for the endless shrieks, or the headache of being trapped in a car with a screaming child – and of course, no parent wants to see their child in tears.
Fortunately, there are a number of different techniques you can use to keep your toddlers distracted, without simply using bribery or negative reinforcement. Who knows: you might even find the journey becomes an enjoyable part of the trip.
1. Fill Them In
This might sound obvious, but giving your children a heads up on the length of the journey will help to minimize the “are we there yet?” style comments. Try to fill them in on all the details that you know will distract them. For example, if you’re catching a long flight, get them excited for the movie that will be shown. Or if there’s an amazing pizza place en route, plan to make a stop so that they have something to look forward to. Most importantly, explain exactly the behavior you expect to see from them during this time so that everything is laid out in advance.
2. Prepare a Giveaway Kit for Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement trumps bribery! Similar to a reward system you may implement at home, preparing a giveaway list ranking in prizes can help keep your children on top form. Having this in mind will both distract and entertain them, and help avoid the restless behavior that so many toddlers demonstrate on long journeys.
3. Organize the Trip around Your Toddler’s Sleep Schedule
Let’s face it: those extra dollars spent on a flight that matches your child’s sleep routine will feel like nothing when you have little angels on the long journey. Avoiding toddlers driving you crazy starts with making sure they have had enough rest. It’s hard enough for adults to wake up at 4am for a holiday, let alone a small child. Bear this in mind and try to catch a late evening flight or have an overnight drive to increase the chances of your children sleeping right through.
4. Hunt for Landmarks Along the Way
Make the journey itself part of the fun. If you’re planning a road or train trip, try and create a game for your little ones to make them more present and engaged in where you are and where you are going. Ahead of time, make a picture map with any big landmarks they may see out of the window, and you’ve got yourself a game with a concept similar to ‘I Spy’. This way, your children will enjoy the journey itself without waiting tirelessly to get to your destination.
5. Get Out the Top Tier Toys
For long journeys, you really need to pull out all the stops. Bring the headphones, the dolls, and the best books – believe us, you won’t regret it. The more of your toddler’s favorite toys you bring, the less you will be desperately trying to distract them or apologizing to the person sat next to you on the plane.
Experiencing a long distance journey with your children can either be a nightmare, or a great bonding opportunity for the family. The most important thing to take from this article is that planning is key. Preparing your children and all of the necessary snacks, toys, and makeshift games will ease any worry you have over troublesome screams along the way.
The 2 Minute Action Plan for Parents
All it takes is a few minutes of planning to ensure a smoother journey. Ask yourself the following questions ahead of trips to make sure you’re ready:
- Can I travel to coincide with my child’s sleep routine?
- What games can I play to keep them occupied?
- Are there any fun sights/stops we can make along the way?
- What are their favorite toys to best distract and soothe them?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Parents
In time, you’ll learn the best way to tend to your toddlers whilst travelling. However, there are a few motions you can put in place to help take the stress out of trips and make the whole experience fun for the family.
- Try and have regular day trips out with the kids. This will get them used to it so when it comes to longer journeys they – and you! – will be more prepared.
- Teach your children to behave during shorter journeys, too. It’s easy to allow them to misbehave a bit when you know you only have ten minutes in the car, but encouraging your toddlers to behave on short, daily journeys will translate into better behavior during long trips.