Charlie and I average 700km a week, sometimes with company, sometimes by ourselves. Yes over 700km and that’s with no extra trips anywhere. So I’d like to think we have the driving thing down pat and that there are a few things I’ve picked up in the hours and hours in a car with a toddler that might help someone else, so here are a few handy suggestions for you. When Charlie was a baby I wrote about 7 ways to make driving with a baby (a little more) stress free hopefully that helps if you have a little one.
From 10 minutes to 10 hours down the road, whether your toddler has just devoured a man-sized meal or not, almost every time we get in the car Charlie suddenly wants to “eat Mummy”. I keep a few snacks in my bag and a few in the console of my car. It’s pretty simple, but it keeps him happy!
Get to know your nursery rhymes
We sing a one-handed version (is it even a nursery rhyme without the hand actions?) of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, ‘Open, Shut Them’ and ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ on almost every car trip. I also have a few kids playlists which are handy to keep Charlie (and my other kids) happy if I don’t want to sing for an hour straight.
Take a comfort item
Charlie has a teddy called Buddy that I take everywhere. When he is getting fractious, this is what I use to keep him happy. He only gets this toy when he is going to bed, or needs comforting, so it’s something that almost always calms him down (we won’t mention the time Buddy hit the windscreen when Charlie chucked him mid-tantrum)
Set a routine
We do a few things when we get into the car. We wave/ yell goodbye to whoever or wherever we are leaving “bye house” and I tell Charlie where we are going. I know he doesn’t really understand what I’m saying all the time, but I’m hoping the routine makes him feel that little bit more settled when we are going on a long(ish) drive.
Pack a book or some toys
We have a collection of toys and books that live in our car. They don’t get played with very often and so when I pull them out they are new and interesting all over again. The play phone and camera are always favourites, as are the mini slinks that Charlie loves to destroy.
Learn to zone out
I’m hoping you already know this one but as a parent, you have to sometimes ‘turn off’ your hearing when one of the kids is whinging. If Charlie is throwing a tantrum or being difficult (and I know there is no good reason), I will tell him he’s ok and then I’ll ignore him. It’s obviously not safe for our attention to be divided between our kids and the road when we are driving, so if I’ve done everything I can, sometimes I have to grit my teeth and let Charlie have a whinge. Generally, it lasts less than 5 minutes and he either falls asleep or gets distracted (it helps to point at something and exclaim “oh wow” as you drive past).
So do you have any proven tricks to keep a toddler happy while you are driving? Do you know how far you drive each week with your kids?