I love road trips! I don’t like driving in traffic, but I love driving on the open road. Listening to tunes, seeing the sights, enjoying road trips snacks, and playing games like Roadside Bingo or I Spy. We’ve taken several road trips as a family. We’ve gone camping countless times, including a couple favorite trips to Arkansas. We’ve gone to Galveston to visit family and enjoy the beach. We’ve even gone as far as Daytona Beach , Florida where we were able to watch a NASA shuttle take flight. We also recently took another trip across country as we moved for the first time as a military family.
My husband and I could drive for hours and hours together! We love to talk about all sorts of topics, enjoy reading to each other, and are content to just sit in silence and enjoy each other’s company and the view. But, how do we make this enjoyable for our sensory seeking daughter without us all going crazy?
Here are my tips for a successful road trip with your sensory seeker and maybe they’ll inspire you to take a road trip over Spring Break!
Stop often! We do stop about every hour, even if only to use the bathroom. Whether she needs to go or not, she has to get out of the car and walk with me to the bathroom. Then we do bunny hops around a bit and back to the car to help stretch out her legs. Stopping at a rest stop with a big grassy area for running, or a McDonalds with a play area is good too! Even 10 minutes at one of these places can provide her body with input that will allow her to ride peacefully for a long time.
* Start with comfy clothes! No one cares if your child goes to the gas station in their PJs, so let them choose whatever they are most comfortable in and wear them for the whole trip.
* Books! She’s a reader, so we bring along an entire library of books for her to enjoy. Before she read much, we would give her our MP3 player filled with her favorite music and a set of children’s headphones. She loved to listen to music and it gave her something to focus on while providing auditory input. Children’s books on CD, along with the book for following along, are a bit hit as well.
* Noise-reduction headphones! These are a MUST! We bought these when we attended an air show over a year ago and have used them a TON since. They come in handy when we have a crying baby in the car that is just too much for my daughter to bear. They also come in handy when the road noise is just grating on her nerves and she wants to tune it out.
* Snacks snacks snacks! I bring all sorts of flavors and textures for her oral sensory needs. Crunchy things like pretzels, carrot sticks, celery, & crackers. Chewy things like gummy bears & chewing gum. High protein snacks to keep the energy high and the sugar levels in control – almonds, cheese sticks, peanut butter individual pouches, & slices of lunch meat. Salty & Sweet. Applesauce through a straw or squeezable fruit pouches for sucking. As much as we all like a little junk food on road trips, make sure that they get enough protein and healthy snacks so that their blood sugar doesn’t drop causing unnecessary meltdowns. Encourage everyone to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated, too! This helps avoid muscle cramps while keeping your energy up as well.
* Exercise stretch bands! She uses this to pull & stretch for some good muscle work. This keeps her muscles from getting too tired or too restless. She wraps it around her feet and kicks her feet. She hands one end to me and we play a little tug. A great way to move those muscles without leaving your seat.
* Bring things to keep her hands & fingers busy. Coloring books & stickers are great for entertainment. I prefer colored pencils over crayons because they don’t melt in the summer, and because you can provide the child with their own portable sharpener and that provides another form of entertainment. You might not have any pencils left when you arrive at your destination, but their fingers will be happy. My all-time favorite is Post-It Notes! She can color on them and stick them all over the car, decorating it to her heart’s content while still super easy to clean up! Pipe cleaners are another favorite because you can twist them into many shapes, then undo them and start all over! Magnets on a cookie sheet or magnetic board can keep them busy for a long time too!
* Mental exercises are fun too! We sing along to our favorite CDs. We play “Rainbow Bingo” – who can spot something in every color of the rainbow first? Or look for all the letters in your name on the signs you pass. I also made an “I Spy” jar for my daughter filled with rice and tiny things from around the house. Then I laminated a list of the items in the jar, gave her a wipe-off crayon, and let her check off all the items she could find. I’ve also made laminated bingo sheets with shapes or colors or things we’d see along the way. Combine those with wipe-off crayons (or dry erase markers if you are braver than I am!) and you have yourself a reusable game!
Road trips can be great bonding times for parents and children! Make the best of these times and create memories that will last a lifetime!
Do you have any good tips? Please add them in the comments!