If you have to make a long journey in your car with young children, just the thought of it can often fill you with dread.
Children can sometimes be irritable and get bored if they are stuck in the back seat of a car for long periods of time. This can not only be unpleasant for them, but it be very stressful for you if you are driving.
Entertainment without technology
In this age of in-car DVD's and portable game consoles is there still room for good old fashioned I-Spy? Yes of course there is.
Even if your children do bring portable electronic entertainment of some sort, on a very long journey, their batteries will eventually give out and so more basic methods of entertainment will have to be employed.
There are many books of puzzles you can buy with join-the-dots, word games or games that involve looking out of the windows can often keep younger children happy for a while.
It might actually be worth trying these types of games first, and when the novelty of these has worn off (hopefully after an hour or two) or they start to squabble, it might be time to play your trump card, and bring out the electronic gadgets.
Music or Audio Books
Music CD’s or MP3's may be useful for small children, but they would probably have to be fairly chilled-out so that they don't just make things worse. For older children small MP3 players are very cheap to buy and can keep them happy for hours.
Children's audio stories or books are readily available in both CD and MP3 formats. They can have a great calming effect on children and if you are lucky they may even fall asleep for a while.
In recent years the costs of portable DVD or in-car DVD players has significantly reduced. Many of them can be powered from the cigarette lighter if the batteries fail, and some even come with built-in games. In a world where many children now believe that if it does not run on batteries it must be ‘boring’, these devices can be an absolute godsend.
Stop for a break
Stopping for a break can not only give your children a break, it's good for you too. If you decide to eat, try to avoid the greasier unhealthy foods as it may make them more likely to suffer from car sickness. Stick to jacket potatoes, sandwiches or filled rolls etc.
Also if buying drinks, steer clear of anything containing too much sugar as this may make them hyperactive. Choose milk or fresh juice drinks to be safe.
Sleeping in the car
When buying car seats for children try to find ones that are adjustable and look comfortable as well as being safe. Seats with headrests that have protruding left and right side pads that allow their heads to rest to one side comfortably are helpful. Blankets, teddy's and favourite toys will also make them feel more at home.
If your children are happy to sleep in the car, you could plan your journey so that it coincides with their bedtime. That way they get some rest and you get a stress free journey.
Don't stress the driver!
If you are driving with your partner and your children are in the back, then it is quite fair for the non-driving person to look after the children's needs while the other person drives. By the same token if you are driving with a friend, then they can also help you focus on the driving by dealing with any traumas in the back.
Driving alone with several children is probably the worst scenario. All you can do is provide what you can before you travel so that they can amuse themselves with minimal input.
If you have any major 'back seat battles' on your hands then it is better and safer to pull over somewhere to calm things down rather than doing it whilst you are driving. Taking a break at this point is probably good idea for everybody concerned.
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