Author Vivian Kirkfield is back this month with some wonderful tips on safe and fun travel with toddlers. PLUS…there’s a chance to win a free copy of her fabulous book SHOW ME HOW: Build Your Child’s Self Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.
Thank you, Darlene…I’m thrilled to be here. With summer upon us, I’d like to share a couple of thoughts about traveling with toddlers. As a mom, I know how difficult it is to pack up and take off…even for a day-trip, it used to feel like I was carting enough stuff for a month. I hope my tips, tools and tactics will be helpful.
The kids are jumping up and down. The whole family is about to leave on vacation. Maybe you are flying to a famous amusement park. Perhaps you are driving several hours or days to visit with Grandma and Grandpa.
Traveling with young children is HARD…nearly impossible some might say. Two-year old Jake gets hungry when there is no food around, but when you get to the restaurant…he’s fussy and throws his food around. Three-year old Sarah won’t sleep on the plane, but when you arrive at your destination, she demands to be carried and your arms feel numb as you lug the weight of a sleeping child and try to juggle baggage claim and car rental.
Here are seven simple tips to make any trip go more smoothly:
1. If your kids are old enough to understand, tell them about the trip…kids appreciate being told ahead of time so they know what to expect.
2. Organize all of your travel documents and have them easily accessible…picture ID, rental car papers, hotel reservations, shuttle info, important phone numbers, etc. If you can find what you need in a hurry, there will be tons less stress.
3. Encourage kids to get rid of that excess energy before boarding…many airport terminals have special kid-friendly areas where little ones can run and play…check out your airport before you go. If you are driving, make frequent stops to stretch, snack and play.
4. In a handy carry-on (or in a small cooler if you are driving), have appropriate food, bottles, drinks and non-sugary snacks (cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit, oranges that can be peeled and sectioned, zip-lock bags with dry cereals).
5. KEEP THE KIDS BUSY, as needed. Some children will be happy looking out of the window or just talking.
a. Bring their favorite toys, ‘lovies’, books and electronics to keep them engaged, calm and happy.
b. A box of crayons and a pad of blank paper can provide an hour of quiet bliss as you and your child tell stories and draw pictures for them. I actually began my picture book writing career this way.
c. A surprise bag with small gaily-wrapped packages can provide a welcome distraction. And remember not to give the kids everything at once…bring out different items to amuse them as the trip progresses.
6. When you leave the plane or take a break from driving at a restaurant or hotel, make sure to check for all of your possessions…kids may have dropped a beloved toy or favorite book that wouldn’t be missed until it was too late.
7. Last, but not least, be positive, upbeat and calm, even when the situation may be difficult…kids take their cues from the adults around them…with your words and your body language, you communicate how you are feeling…and if you stay calm, they may also.
Kids are learning every minute – they are like sponges, soaking up what they see and hear. Why not take advantage of the close quarters in the plane or car or bus or train…and play some fun games that will build a young child’s phonemic awareness.
What is phonemic awareness, you ask?
• The understanding that words are made up of sounds
• The ability to pick out and manipulate sounds in spoken words
And why are these skills so important? Along with alphabet recognition, it is a key to early reading success. A child can build phonemic awareness by listening to rhymes, poetry, songs and wordplay.
Here are seven simple games you can play in the car or on the plane:
• Read poetry and enjoy lots of rhyming stories. When you reread the stories, pause when you come to the matching rhymes and see if your child can fill in the blanks…my grandson LOVES doing this.
• Play Hink Pink – A Hink Pink is a pair of rhyming words that answer a riddle. For example, a large hog is a Big Pig. For older kids you can play Hinky Pinky (using two syllable words as the answer) a fight over a baby’s toy is a Rattle Battle or Hinkity Pinkity (using three syllable words) such as something frozen in the shape of a riding toy is a bicycle icicle.
• Twist Your Tongue – Have fun with tongue twisters like Silly Sally Skates and Slides and Somersaults or Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers! Help your child to make up silly alliterative sentences.
• Make up an unusual list – ‘I’m going camping and I’m going to pack a bat, a cat, a rat.’ OR ‘I’m going camping and I’m going to pack a sock, a sleeping bag, a soccer ball, and a sandwich. Do you think I will want a sweater or a jacket?’ Ask your child to suggest some more things for your list. Can your child hear how your words work together?
• Play I spy with my little eye, something that begins with /s/ (use the letter sound rather than the letter name)
• Clap to the beat of songs and poems
• Make up word riddles – what starts with /b/ and rhymes with red?
And guess what? These simple word games are dynamite for older kids as well. You don’t have to use them only for traveling…they will help keep your little ones entertained while you wait in the doctor’s office or shop at the supermarket.
Now, if you sign up for Vivian’s newsletter http://eepurl.com/8pglH and leave a comment on this post that says you did, your name gets entered into the proverbial hat. 🙂 to win a copy of her wonderful book.