Thursday, February 04, 2016

3 Kids, 3100 Miles and 0 Screens: What Worked and What Didn't

I left this in my drafts for awhile to make sure I hadn't forgotten to add anything. The only thing I forgot was to hit 'publish.'

The suitcases are empty, the laundry is (nearly) done and we've breathed a huge sigh of relief. We survived our Christmas road trip--and dare I say, it went much, much better than we ever expected. (Or maybe our expectations were too low to begin with?) We drove nearly 1200 miles (each way) plus another 600ish miles during our 10 day stay for a total of 3100 miles in 13 days. We also decided when our kids were younger that we weren't going to be using electronic devices on road trips, so that added a (good) challenge. (No judgement if your family does use them in the car--this is just what works for us.)

Before hitting the road, I did a bunch of Pinteresting (that's a verb, right?) and planned activities, most of which I'm happy to say were very well received. I wanted to document what worked for us and our kiddos (nearly 5 year old boy, 3 1/2 year old boy and 19 month old girl).

What Worked
Binders: I channeled my inner Leslie Knope and made the kids road trip binders. They loved them and used them many times. They were mostly coloring pages and printables (found on Pinterest). I put the printables in plastic sleeves and gave the kids dry erase markers so they would be reusable. The pages included handwriting sheets with their name, numbers, alphabet, etc, as well as road sign bingo, draw your own road sign, etc. Lydia's binder contained some pictures of her favorite animals and coloring pages, some in page protectors and some not. I used yarn to attach a piece of felt to each of their binders so they could erase the reusable pages.

The boys each had a binder pouch (from Amazon) for markers and crayons. I just handed Lydia a marker (which she basically used on the entire binder) or crayon as necessary. In the binder pockets I put stickers, which they enjoyed more than I expected. Since we have plenty of stickers at home they weren't anything new or super special, but hey, whatever works, right?


Glow Sticks: We were on the road by 5:30 a.m. most of the four days we drove, hoping the kids would go back to sleep in the van. It didn't quite work (something about Christmas AND heading to Grandpa and Grandma's made for lots of excitement), but they were actually pretty happy considering they got woken up so early. And when they weren't happy, glow sticks did the trick. I bought some at the dollar store for the trip up and got a "fancy" pack at Target for the trip home (it even contain pieces to make the glow sticks into glasses).



Sticker Pads: I bought these reusable sticker pads from Amazon and the kids really enjoyed them. They come with a TON of stickers--in retrospect, one or two pads probably would have been enough. I also wish I'd taken the time to remove the stickers from the pages and put them in Ziplocs before leaving. It would have made it easier in the van, especially since Isaac needed help getting them off the page. That being said, they provided lots of entertainment and as a bonus, the stickers work on the window which was fun, too.

Books: I tried to be strategic in the books that I packed, choosing ones like I Spy or Richard Scarry with lots of detail to look at. I also brought a few chapter books to read aloud to them, but they didn't really go for that (not gonna lie, that bummed me out a little..I had visions of LOTS of read aloud time), though we did read plenty of picture books. We also brought along some audio books, but they wanted to listen to music more than stories. Some old Clubhouse Jr magazines were also great to have on hand, especially because I didn't worry if Lydia ripped them.

Music: Slugs and Bugs and Songs for Saplings provided much enjoyment. Chris and I actually like the music, too, and we all had fun listening to it. Lydia was greatly entertained by the Isty Bitsy Spider as well as the up-and-coming finger play titled Two Little Puppies, starring Lydia and her best friend, Maddie. ;)

Pipe Cleaners: I don't know why, but they love pipe cleaners. We made them into shapes, airplanes, rainbows and strung Cheerios on them for snacks. I had planned to make snack necklaces with Fruit Loops (a road trip treat), pretzels and gummy Lifesavers (another treat), but we tried them at home and the boys weren't fans, though like I said, they did like Cheerios on the pipe cleaners.

Finger Puppets: Lydia got a couple animal ones for Christmas, and I made four Veggie Tale puppets they enjoyed. The puppets weren't the most durable (I glued them instead of sewing because it was late and I was tired), but I'd definitely make nicer ones for another road trip.

What Didn't Work
I Spy Bags: I made I Spy bags with paper cutouts and rice (glued shut and double bagged) buuuut...the elevation change sucked all the air out so you couldn't shake the rice to see anything inside. Mom fail.

Silly Putty: I don't know if I'd call this a fail, but they didn't play with it a ton. Timmy liked his more than Isaac, but I think the boys would have done better with it if they'd played with it before.

Mittens just off the needles and a cat...why not?

Other random stuff that helped: I sat in the middle next to Lydia, with Isaac and Timmy in the back. I know some people would say I should have sat in the front because I'm a wife before I'm a mom (which is true), but I knew that if I sat in the middle, the trip would go smoother. And a smoother trip meant that Chris and I would be less stressed. It was definitely a good decision. I could hand things to the boys (Timmy always sits in the back and giving him snacks, books, etc. isn't easy from the front) and help keep the peace.

We also had plenty of snacks, some very rare treats (Fruit Loops) and some more standard fare (Cheerios, lunchmeat). We kept our Costco cold bag in between the front seats so we could easily access the cheese, ham, etc. Also, at every stop we insisted the boys go to the bathroom. Definitely resorted to bribery with M&Ms a few times, but I didn't care. It worked, because I think we only had to stop once so one of the boys could go to the bathroom.

We packed an overnight bag that we could easily access to bring into the hotel instead of having to lug in our huge suitcase. We also didn't change the kids into their clothes until our first stop each day. That definitely made leaving early easier.

Traveling that far with three little kids wasn't easy, but with lots of prayer, planning and (let's be honest) chocolate, it was doable and, at times, even enjoyable.

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