Toddlers Without Tiaras

… tales of my threenager

Riding in cars with Toddlers

There is nothing I love more than packing up the car for a 10 hour car ride with a toddler and an infant.  I love having bags at my feet, restricting my leg room.  I love finding fishy crackers for the next 3 months in various nooks and crannies of the vehicle.  And, I love the constant questioning, asking “Are we there yet?” (can someone please explain where Big Sis even learned this phrase?)

Riding in cars with toddlers is not a new experience for me.  As the eldest in a family of five, we regularly made the trek from

How much longer until we all have flying cars?

How much longer until we all have flying cars?

Southern Ontario to Northern Ontario.  Back then, entertainment options were limited.  Each child brought a small assortment of books, dolls, action figures and dinky cars to entertain oneself for the trip.  An etch-a-sketch was considered high tech, predating the Nintendo Game Boy and Sony Walkman.  As the eldest, I had the luxury of securing one of the minivan’s captain chairs, while my brothers sat on top of each other in the back seat.

I remember how we tried to avoid even the smallest stop on the trip, especially bathroom breaks.  Now, as a parent myself, I do not envy my parents trying to juggle 5 kids under ten years of age; especially in the winter when snow suits, boots and all other winter accessories were required for rest stop visits.  At least I was a girl, and my bathroom requests resulted in a stop at the rest station.  My poor brothers were subjected to road side stops.  My dad would pull over on the shoulder of the road.  The brother in need would jump out to take care of business.  The rest of his loving siblings would shout “Free Show! Free Show!” from inside the car, while the brother in question glared back at us.

The other reality my parents often faced on our road trips was fighting. You can only travel for so long smushed into a car before the arm that was touching you suddenly becomes an elbow in the ribcage.  The pinching, pushing, and kicking soon follows.  After the required “Knock it off, or I am going to pull the car over.” and “Don’t make me turn this car around!” verbal threats, my father would sometimes reach for the Christian Hitting Stick (CHS).  He would use this to swing blindly behind him while driving.  (The downside of being the eldest, sitting in the captain’s seat is that I would often be in the line of fire. This sucked, as the trouble makers were usually in the third row, out of reach of the CHS.) For those of you unfamiliar with the CHS, it is the term my brothers and I endearingly named the ice scraper that lived in the minivan; named so for its frequent appearances on our way to Church on Sunday mornings (when my brothers liked to misbehave the most).  Don’t worry, we were not actually hurt in the process.  However, we did know to smarten up when it made its appearances.

I hope the wealth of experience acquired as a child travelling with toddlers will help me survive my own children.  For those embarking on a road trip, here are my tips to make your trip a little less chaotic.

#1.  The further you can get before the sun rises the better.  Pack the car the day before and hit the road as early as possible.  If you are really committed, drive over night.  Once the sun rises you will face by bathroom breaks, food stops, and countless children’s songs.

PB&J on demand.

PB&J on demand.

#2.  Mobile Kitchen. Eliminate unnecessary stops with a mobile kitchen.  Pack a lap pillow to use as a counter.  My favourite is PB&J on fresh bread.  It is relatively mess free.  If you forgot your knife, a stir stick will do.  Pack other mess free snacks such as raisins, minibel cheeses, and soft granola bars (avoid hard bars that will crumble, and chocolate coated bars that will melt in tiny little hands).

#3. Compact toys with few pieces.  Magnetic drawing boards, small books, new movie, sunglasses, and magnetic paper dolls are on the top of my list.

My new favourite way to contain garbage in the car.

My new favourite way to contain garbage in the car.

#4. Garbage collection!  Tried this for the first time on our recent road trip.  Use a cereal container with flap on lid to collect garbage throughout the trip.  Empty it every time you stop.   It is easier to find and easier to keep the garbage contained (versus a plastic bag which may spill).  Keep it within reach. (Thank you Marilyn Denis Show!)

#5. Accident kit. Keep an accident kit easily accessible and within reach.  Fill with zip lock bags (for car sickness), paper towels, a first aid kit, and baby wipes.

#6. Seasonal items.  In the summer, keep a bag of everyone’s swim gear and towels accessible for trips to the pool or beach, instead of packing these items in each individual’s suitcase. (Thank you Marilyn Denis Show again!)  In the winter, fill it with extra hats, mitts, and socks.  If you know you will be arriving late at night, keep a bag of pajamas, and toothbrushes.  Essentially, keep whatever you will need to access when you first arrive in one bag.  It eliminates the need to sort through all your bags, when all you want to do is relax.

For nursing or sleeping.  Also clips to your bag for easy transportation.

For nursing or sleeping. Also clips to your bag for easy transportation.

Bonus: If travelling with an infant, pack an adult size travel pillow with snap.  It is great for using as a compact breast-feeding pillow on the go, and doubles as a way to keep the baby still when napping if you worry about rolling over.  (Insert common warning that such use is not a substitute for parenting, common sense and other necessary use of good judgment.)



Fri, August 15 2014 » Uncategorized

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