Travelling with young children.
|Zac entertaining himself in the car by playing with his helmet|
When we began planning this trip, we knew we would be seeing Australia from an entirely different “angle” to most travellers our age. We knew that by having a 2 year old son (at the time of the finalising of our plans) we would have to work hard to find a way to make this travel lifestyle work for US as a family and our son as a child requiring stability, routine and structure.
With this in mind we decided on a few foundational “rules” we wanted to implement:
We felt that because we were filling his life with so much “unknown” at such a young age, developing a new, more suitable routine was necessary. We developed routines for average days, routines for car trips and routines for when we are stopped in a town working. Being able to ease into these routines has given our son back some of the structure his life was lacking. Our travel routine is as simple as our son being able to depend on the fact that we WILL stop for morning tea/lunch etc. and that we will rarely (if ever) travel past 2pm. Structuring our days on the road like this has led to a massive decrease in monotonous conversations of “are we there yet?” because our son feels secure and comfortable and genuinely knows when we WILL be “there” (even though “there” isn’t always where we had planned for it to be”.
Have a day off here and there:
|Zac and I on a "Rest day" painting some shells we had collected.|
Let’s face it, living a life of leisure can be extremely exhausting. If it’s occasionally exhausting for us imagine how it might be for the little ones? Our son (as with most children) is very independent by nature. He loves to bush walk and demands to be left to his own devices rather than carried or assisted. When exploring Australia, many of the natural wonders you will want to see will involve physical activity to get to. We have found that even though our son is capable and does actually make his own way at the time – this does lead to increased tiredness later in the day (or even the next day). We have found that occasionally its nice to take a whole day off exploring, to have some time to stay at camp and all relax. During this time our son plays with toys, or in the dirt, we read books and simply rest. Sometimes these days are at free camps (which is even better because they are generally between towns and there is nothing to tempt you away from relaxing) and sometimes they are at caravan parks.
Children can get bored very fast in the car if they are not being stimulated.
We have found that because of this we HAVE to (this is just us) leave at around 5am so that we can get all of our driving for the day done by lunchtime or just after. After lunchtime our son just cannot handle being in the car anymore and becomes impossible to entertain. This generally means he gets to enjoy the afternoon of daylight hours to play, when we stop, which breaks up the days of travel for him!
A few of the activities we use in the car:
We purchased a mini portable TV (I know many people are against these but I think they are worth making an exception for once you switch to fulltime travel)
Flash cards (our son – like most children – just loves when we are involved with him) with the flash cards we are not only teaching him but having quality time together. We use them to teach him to spell out words, recognise letters, or just identify whatever the picture is on the card.
Play-dough (did that just make you shudder? Play-dough… in the car…. Is this lady crazy?) Our son is obsessed with play-dough, it’s his favourite “play thing”. We bought a small lap table for in the car and we give him one container of play-dough and a few little utensils and it keeps him entertained for hours. For some reason our cheap crappy seat covers don’t allow the playdough to stick to them so it simply dries and is brushed into our hands and put in the bin (not nearly as messy as you would think)
Whiteboards are fantastic for kids in the car. You can also get coloured whiteboard markers. Team those with a face-washer and they can draw for ours. This save on paper and is that little bit more exciting for the kids.
I also use the whiteboard to create stories with Zac. I will draw the story as I go along and allow him to contribute. This is so much fun and is a great way for him to explore his imagination.
Reading books – another great educational and entertaining activity.
We are yet to use them but I know a lot of people use audio books so I plan on trying those soon!
Just a few small toys (like some cars or Lego blocks) generally will entertain Zac for a little while.
talking about your surroundings, what you can see, where you are going and what there is to do there. We will somtimes give zac some brouchures and allow him to look through them and choose osmthing that looks fun to do or see when we arrive in the next town. This makes the trip more interesting and integrates his ideas and interests into what we do at the next town.
Breaking up the trip a little:
Stop for a cooked lunch, this gives you more time to sit around and sometimes you can get the children’s bikes out and allow them to have a ride around with dad while mum is making lunch.
Where do we like to stay?