By Jennafer Young, OTR/L
For any trip longer than 2 hours, plan a rest stop to stretch, use the bathroom, and let the kids run off some energy. For extended road trips, plan to stop approximately every 2 hours. Factor the extra time into your travel estimate to avoid stress for yourself and meltdowns from the backseat.
Pack an activity bag with simple, preferred toys and some cheap new toys. You may want to customize a bag for each child. Examples: Silly putty, finger puppets, Etch-A-Sketch, Mad Libs, new crayons, and matchbox cars.
Bring along any portable calming objects or strategies you or your therapist have found for your child. Whether it’s a favorite blanket, weighted vest, or preferred music, these familiar comforts can help your child prevent or recover from a meltdown in the car (or the destination).
Hungry kids are usually grumpy kids. Beyond keeping their bellies satisfied, chewy and crunchy snacks can providing calming oral input. Just like a baby is calmed by sucking a pacifier, so many kids - from a toddler to a teenager - can be calmed by chewing or sucking. Examples: Dried fruit, gum, GoGurt, hard mints, lollipops, nuts, carrot sticks, licorice, gummy bears.
Use classic car games to keep your child interested in driving - not just stopping. Games like “I Spy,” the Alphabet Game, or Car Bingo can be adapted for different ages.
Time of day or night can significantly impact the ease of your car ride. Do your kids sleep well with the rhythmical movement of the car? Traveling at naptime or bedtime may make the trip go more smoothly. If your child does not sleep well in the car, try to avoid natural sleeping times so you do not have a sleep-deprived child while you navigate the road trip.