We’re staring a day-long car ride square in the face right now…and that’s just one way.  We’ll repeat the process again after a couple of days of Grandparentdom.  My panic-personality decided to rear her ugly head during dinner tonight…what will we DO with two boys, in the SEDAN, for hours at a time, to keep them from a) maiming or killing each other or b) driving the adults to an insane asylum?  Do not fear – Creative Mom is here!

Think back to your younger years.  Were you a victim of the hours-long car rides to the grandparents, Dad at the helm, Mom navigating from the passenger seat, you (and perhaps a sibling or two), crammed in the back seat between the cooler, a suitcase, and a pillow, realizing that, about 30 minutes into the trip, this is going to be ONE LONG DRIVE?  What did we do to occupy our time?

In our family, we played games.  All kinds of games.  First, there was the animal game.  All players would count the animals they saw out their window (it was just my brother and me, so we didn’t have the “sitting in the middle” issue).  The player who counted the most animals over a set period of time would be the winner.  However, if a cemetery (or a sign pointing down a road to a cemetery) appeared outside your window, you would have to “bury your animals”, lose your total and start all over again.

Another fun game we used to play was the Alphabet game.  I was the Champ of the 1977 Impala for this game.  As you drive down the road, you have it identify each letter of the alphabet, starting with A.  We would keep score as to who would find the most letters.  This can also be done using only license plates or even setting a time limit.

Some travellers enjoy the state game: identifying as many state license plates as possible.  This isn’t such a great idea where I live as most plates are from our state.  It is not common to see an out-of-state plate.  However, on a road trip to Colorado one summer (Yes, I know!  18 hours in the CAR!!!), we did have a great time playing this one.

While these three games are wonderful games to play in the car to keep children engaged, active and happy, none of them are really ideal for my kids today.  My boys have an age gap of 5 years, with the older son being 8.  My three year-old, while knowing all of his letters, cannot keep up with the speed of his big brother.  So, I’ve come up with some quiet activities for both of them in the car this time that are appropriate for each of them.

For my younger son, I am packing a small bag of goodies for him – some old, some new.  He is an avid crayon-man, so I have a baggie with 8 triangular crayons (to keep them from sliding).  I also packed a new coloring book for him, and he has a clipboard to use as a “desk” in the car.  I am also including a small sticker sheet and a small Aquadoodle set.  I am a huge fan of Aquadoodle, especially in the car.  He also has an I Spy book to look at in the car and he will take his Lovey as well.  We have three scheduled stops during our drive, and at each stop, I have a “reserve bag” of activities to trade out with him so he doesn’t get bored: a pop up book, a small bottle of bubble solution to occupy us while we stretch our legs, his Magna Doodle, and a felt set I made for him.  Snacks are a given, but the food stays up front with me (or even better – in the trunk) so eating times can be regulated.

For my older son, I have also created a travel bag.  I found out, on our last road trip, that he is a HUGE fan of the Rush Hour Jr. toy.  So, for this road trip, I have purchased the Rush Hour set with an extra set of cards.  This alone would occupy his time.  However, variety is the spice of life, so he is also getting a set of markers, paper and a clipboard (to make cards and write letters that we will mail along our journey), a couple of new books by his favorite authors, and a baggie with his Zoob pieces in it (safe for both boys and not as apt to be lost in the Abyss of the Backseat as Legos might).

Do you notice what is flagrantly missing from my list?  Electronics.  Don’t get me wrong: we have the Nintendo DS system, the TVs for the car, every Leap Pad learning system device and software available and everything in between.  We’ll probably bring the TVs and the DS along, too.  However, getting kids to do something besides stare at a screen for ten hours is my goal, and with these great tools under my belt, I think we’ll succeed.

And if not, I’ll make sure to stock up on extra batteries – just in case.

Wonderbrains carries an extensive line of great travel toys for all ages – magnetic activities for older kids and perfect for toddlers on up!