Contributer Amida writes for Journey into Unschooling.
Sometimes I think mothers are born packers.
Starting with that homecoming bag from the hospital delivery room, we have been prepping for our kids’ every away-from-home need.
When my own kids were younger, I had filled the car with all sorts of emergency supplies: emergency diapers, emergency wipes, emergency change of clothes and blankets (to this day, a friend of mine keeps her teenage kids’ baby blankets in the car for emergencies).
We always had snacks on hand or books and toys to keep a little one occupied. These days, I have children ranging from 3-15 and many days which we seem to spend on the road or waiting out a class. Along the way, I’ve learned a few strategies to help get us out the door, fed and occupied. Hopefully, some of these ideas can help you as well!
Photo by Alan Levine
1. Always have water.
We have acquired numerous water bottles and try our best to have several ready for the road. Once old enough, each person is responsible for washing and filling up their own bottles, although I admit, we are still working on getting them out of the car once the day trip is over.
No, not for the obvious game play. I try to limit those activities, especially when not at home, and I’m a big believer in teaching children to occupy themselves without button mashing on electronic devices.
What I have discovered though, is that e-audiobooks are a great way to sneak in some storytime during long car rides.
I’m no expert, but in my experience, reading and listening require a totally different set of skills in how you obtain the material, yet both are great exercises in retention and comprehension.
Audiobooks allow you to fit in more books than mom has time to read aloud. So far, I have only picked fiction, usually adventures in the 8-12 year range (our lastest one was The Pendericks series, by Jeanne Birdsall), and almost always my choice.
I pore through book reviews and pick stories that I’d read to them if I had an extra hour in the day. The best part is, with the e-method, you don’t have to struggle with changing CDs (always hard when a disc ends on the freeway) or losing your spot when you want to continue the story indoors!
3. Sanitizer and wipes.
Whether or not you have a baby, wipes are super handy for cleaning up sticky hands or chocolate-covered faces. (On that note, it is a very bad idea to feed chocolate in the car on a warm day.)
I am a total germaphobe and don’t know how I ever functioned before Purell. As soon as we re-enter the car after an activity, everyone gets a wipedown with the “hanitizer.”
And of course, kids always get hungry. Once a week, we have an extra long trip, which requires lunch on the road. I usually pack sandwiches, and if I’m feeling especially motherly, a thermos of soup and chocolate (see #3). Other items I like to have on hand (because after classes, they are hungry again), are granola bars, cheese sticks, crackers or pretzels, dried fruit and nut mix, and of course, fresh fruit.
Photo by Various Brennemans
5. Doodle Kit.
Finally, we have the items for the kids waiting for a sibling to be done with class.
In addition to the usual fun reading books and small toy, I love packing sketchbooks. Doodling is one of those activities I encourage throughout the day — we even have family doodle sessions. It develops creativity and visual thinking skills, which is a welcomed relief from mastering just plain numbers and letters all day.
It’s not about drawing, although that is fun as well. It’s more about expression and letting your mind wander and the process of creating. One way to encourage this on-the-road-doodling is to put together a kit of special markers, sharp pencils, and multi-colored pens. Keep it simple or add in some stickers for the younger kids to add to their doodles. Stash it in the car and only use it for outside time.
If starting with a blank page is intimidating, there are numerous doodle books out there with half-completed pictures to get you started. Who knows? After seeing all the fun your kids are having, maybe you’ll want to put your phone away and do some doodling yourself.
What is on your list of must haves for a day out?