On Monday the kids and I are going to be taking a mini road trip. ("Mini" is anything under 300 miles) Last September all four of us took a 1900 mile round-trip road trip, and we survived! The benefit of being that long in the car is my children now feel that anything under 3 hours is a "short drive". I also learned a few things about packing busy kits. As next week's drive is a mere 260 miles, I made mini kits.Our kits ALWAYS include games, things to color, snacks, drinks, music, and small toys.
I don't know how much searching you've done on making things for road trip busyness, but everything I saw was aimed at KIDS WHO CAN READ. I only have one of those, so I had to make kits that LOOK the same, but address different skill levels and different interests.
These are pretty easy and once you have the supplies on hand you can re-use them. Also, you can ditch the plastic bucket and stick the whole thing in a back pack for air travel. I learned from the epic road trip that reuseable grocery bags and individual zip-top bags aren't going to work with my seven year old--he would dump everything into the bag at once and get grumpy when he couldn't find things. So I came up with plan B.
The green side is for my reader, the pink side is for my pre-reader. The middle is things they both have.
For each kit you will need:
A plastic bin with handles--I picked oval ones so they will both fit in between the seats simultaneously.
A 3 ring binder
Dry erase markers
Plastic sheet protectors
A pencil pouch
Coloring pages ( I used Coloring Pages for Kids--it's free and they have a wide variety to chose from)
Assorted crayons (Not pictured. I dug through our crayon bin and pulled out a rainbow for each kid)
A small piece of cloth or an old sock (to wipe away the marker Also not pictured.)
Let's take a minute to talk about GAMES.
For my reader, I printed up word searches and mazes from Printables 4 Kids. Again, free and a large variety. I also made a photocopy of our travel route map, so he can see where we are and how far we have to go.
For my pre-reader and reader alike:
BINGO--you can search online for bingo games or you can make your own. I used Microsoft Word (and the create table function) and clip art to make a Bingo game of things that we would see on our drive. (Pictured in the middle of the bottom row)
The ALPHABET game (Again with Microsoft word) Make a bingo grid and fill each square with a letter of the alphabet. The instructions are: find all the letters of the alphabet using signs and license plates.
The COLOR game (Again with Microsoft word) Make a bingo grid and print it out blank. Hand the kids some crayons and have them color each square a different color--there will be repeats, it's OK. Then have them check off each color as they see something with the color outside of the window.
GUESS WHO--a total cheat. We got this at the drive-thru window at a McDonald's one time and I have been saving them.
POST IT NOTES--have them draw houses or boats or planes or cars or goats. Stick them on the window and watch the scenery roll by behind it. This is particularly funny when you draw Godzilla and drive through an urban area.You can also use post its to make fake moustaches, third eyeballs, and really big ears.
Slide all of your printables and games into plastic sheet protectors, then check the items off with DRY ERASE MARKERS. That makes your games re-useable, which is super handy because most road trips are two ways.
Clip your papers in their protectors into your 3 ring binder, along with the pencil pouches.
In the pencil pouch put the dry erase markers, crayons, and post its.
(So far, I have spent $4.50 per kit. Thanks, Dollar Store!)
What about SNACKS?!
It's not really a road trip without snacks.
I don't know how many of you are on Pinterest, but have you seen the snack bin with the eleventy-billion compartments? It's made from a jewelry storage container from Hobby Lobby (or similar) and has a ton of divided up spaces filled with goodies. At first glance, my thought was YES. Then I sat down and really thought about it and came up with 2 problems to that storage solution:
1. If that gets dumped out in the car that's a whole lotta mess to clean up.
2. I am way to lazy to scrub out eleventy-billion compartments full of food crumbs.
So, the lazy mom answer is:
Two storage bins WITHOUT interior dividers (these were on clearance at Hobby Lobby for $4.19, you could just as easily use a pencil case). Mini-loaf liners ($2.99). Treat bags ($1.99).
The benefit here is that you can put ACTUAL fruit in the bins, and not just dried fruit. Sliced apples in a treat bag or dried apples? I know which my kids prefer. It also allows you to throw in granola bars and other pre-wrapped treats.
A banana, cracker-cheese-dip thing, granola bar, penguin crackers, mini pretzels. (Yeah, it's kind of carb-heavy, but I was photographing this at 10:30 last night and didn't really have the energy to slice an apple, or decoratively arrange carrot sticks and mini tomatoes.)
You could even pack it like a picnic lunch with sandwiches and raisins. The point is: if it's individually wrapped and it spills it's NO BIG DEAL. And if you can divide up the space as you see fit, your possibilities are endless--and you don't wind up with kids who have eaten all of their chocolate chips, m&m's, peanut butter chips and are now bouncing around the backseat like Chihuahuas on speed.
So they have had their snacks, and they've played their games and they're BOOOOORED.
Enter tiny toys!
Every time I clean their rooms, I swipe the neglected toys at the bottom of the toy bins and bag them up--about six toys per quart-sized ziploc. This way they have tiny toys on the go! Perfect for waiting at restaurants or in the doctor's office or on road trips.
Lastly, I include reusable water bottles and their MP3 players & headphones. We're a music-loving family with wide-ranging tastes. Having their own makes the arguing over music minimal.
So wish me luck. This is the first 5 hour trip with just the kids and myself. I am hoping the above kits will forestall some of the whining.