How to Have Fun on Short Car Rides

This past year has certainly changed the way we parent.  Many of us have gone from shufflers/chauffeurs of fully-scheduled kiddos to at-home  jugglers of work and tiny humans.  However this pandemic has changed you and your routine, there’s no getting around car travel with your tinies.  Short car travel can be just a means to get from point a to b, but it is also an opportunity for those special connect moments.  In this post, I’ll show you how to take short car trips (under 1 hour) from “STOP FIGHTING!” to “HOW EXCITING!”.

7 Ways. Here they are!

1. Give Yourself Time.

There’s nothing more stressful than rushing to get out of the house and into the car.  Supplies, keys, phone, toys, snacks, shoes, coats, hats, buckling…. But now, do it at WARP SPEED.  I don’t THINK SO, babe!  Way too stressful.  I know this makes me feel totally out of control and ANGRY at everyone.  Try not to do it to yourself!  Here is how you can give yourself time:

a.    Pack bags ahead of time and put by the door.  I know that if something is not in FRONT OF MY FACE, I’ll miss it.  I put a big tote bag by the door as early as I can (even the night before, if possible) and start filling it.  Pack everything you know you’ll need, plus some extras. 

b.     If it’s too early to pack something, write it on a post-it note and stick it on the door so you don’t forget.  Make sure to pack snacks for yourself, too 🙂

c. Load up the car alone.  I live on a busy street with cars zooming by at all kinds of crazy speeds.  I can’t handle lugging all of our items out PLUS worrying that my kiddos will get too close to the street.  If I know they are safe and occupied in the house, I’ll load up the car  BEFORE I take them to the car.  Knowing all of our stuff is packed and ready makes me WAY more calm and happy when I’m helping them get shoes and hats on. 

d.    Set an alarm.  If I know  I’m leaving the house at 9:00 to meet friends at a playground at 9:15, I set an alarm for 8.  One hour works for me, because it gives me that sense of ideal prep time without having to hustle in a sweat. Pick an amount of time that motivates you, and set that  alarm!  Use a ringtone that is happy and channels serene, island-living vibes!

2. Nourish Yourself.

Here’s  a little self-reveal… I feel like I’m always trying to diet.  Ever since I was like 12, I’ve always tried to eat less of this or that.  To fill up with coffee and gum instead of real food.  Well, that doesn’t WORK when you’re a mom!  It just doesn’t.  You need fuel.  In order to be a happy mama, even for a short car ride, you need nourishment.  Our happiness and fun can’t be generated from a hungry source.  So, eat something filling before you venture out.  I LOVE bars and my absolute favorite is the Perfect Bar. They are beyond delicious and filling and get me so ready for an adventure. I find that if I don’t do this, I could literally eat my own hand after 12 minutes in the car and reach for things like leftover fries stuck between the car seats.  Nourished mama = happy mama = happy kiddos!

3. Car Survival Box

This box (or bag, whatever sizzles your bacon) will be a LIFESAVER for you in your mom-mobile.  Keep it right next to you in the front seat, or at your feet if you’re the passenger.  Here’s what I have in mine:

  • Tiny water bottles or juice boxes
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Coloring books
  • Notebooks
  • Twistable Crayons or Colored Pencils (I love this set because it comes with paper and case)
  • Books they never touch at  home (I like Busiest People Ever and I Spy books, especially)
  • Small toys they never touch  at home (“Whoa, where’d you find this, mom?!”)
  • Highlights Magazines with a pen attached (taped on a string, if possible!) 

other really fun ideas for your car survival box:

  • Binoculars
  • Clipboard with check-list for things they might spot while riding
  • Math, ABC, or spelling flash cards on a ring
  • One cozy stuffed animal  for cuddling
  • Candy for those emergency moments (code RED screaming match?)
  • CDs that will make everyone smile and jam out

4. A Quick Cleanup

I know for me, if the car is a total wreck, I have a tough time creating new, happy memories in it.  I don’t know why, it just makes me crazy.  So, when I have time, I love to vacuum the car.  Having a clean back seat just feels SO GOOD.  It leaves room for new, happy times to be had.  If you don’t have time before you go, stash a few quarters in your pocket and take the kids with you while you’re out.  Let them get out of their seats one at a time and help you vacuum, if you are able.  This will make them part  of the cleaning process, which is always a win!  

5. Play “DJ Kids”

This is a game our boys love.  When they’re getting rowdy and starting to argue, I yell out, “who wants to be the DJ!?”, and the madness pauses.  They take turns being the “DJ” by picking out what song we listen to.  I put the music up just a bit louder and try out each station.  They give me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the song, and then finally they pick a winner.  We all jam out to the song of choice and then move on to the next DJ.  It’s a fun way to enjoy music as a family and have fun with the car ride.

6. Story Shares

Here’s where  those connect moments come in!  You’re the best gauge of your tiny crew, so pick a time when they are mostly chill and/or happy with a snack in hand.  Let each one have 2-3 minutes maximum to tell a story of their choosing.  They can talk about whatever they want.  Maybe it is a dream they had, or something funny that happened at school, or something they imagine in a fantasy world.  Make sure you really listen to their story – it is precious time where you’re only listening to one child.  If you remember their story, you can even bring it up later and let them elaborate on it more.  The key is they can’t go on and on forever and the other siblings have to be attentive listeners.  Not always easy, but worth a shot!  You could even turn it into a guessing game where,  once the story is over, everyone else has to guess whether the story is fiction or non-fiction.  They are learning AND connecting, what could be better!?

7. Stay Chill.

It’s a no-brainer  – if I’m happy and pumped for the car ride, they are about 85% more likely to have the same mindset.  If I’m grumpy, road-ragey, and annoyed with them, the car ride will most likely be torture for everyone.  Put your favorite sunglasses or hat on, the lipstick that makes you feel famous, and your coffee, tea, lemon water, or smoothie in a to-go mug that makes you smile.  I find, most of the time, MOM SETS THE MOOD.  So, do what you can to give yourself some love, and the fun will follow.

Thanks so much for reading about HOW TO MAKE SHORT CAR RIDES FUN.  I hope I’ve empowered you to take on your car ride with a smile and to catch the fun with your kiddos!

Coming soon: HOW TO MAKE LONG CAR RIDES (l1+ hours) FUN!

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