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All children must come with genetic encoding for spouting the phrase, "Are we there yet?"  My going on three-year-old sung out this question like he was caroling "99 bottles of pop on the wall" as his soundtrack for our last road trip.  Sitting still in a car seems to be as trying for a child as it is for a parent to hear how tough it is for the kids in the back of the wagon.  Yet, traveling does require some time strapped in our seats, so what can we all do to improve our time in close quarters?  My family offers our top ten list for passing travel time:  1.)  Pull out Your Naked Sock Puppet;  2. ) Dump out Mommy's Purse;  3.)  Play I Spy and other Window Watching Games; 4. ) Songs and Stories; 5.)  Turn Paper Scraps into Games; 6.)  Munch on Road Trip Food; 7.)  Switch Things Up; 8.)  Stop!!  9.)  Lap Games and Hand Work; and 10.)  Sleeping Short Cuts

1.  Pull Out Your Naked Sock Puppet
When Bryles decides he can't take another minute in his car seat, up pops my naked sock puppet.  Yes, you'll say that desperation has rendered me rather nutty, but how is your brain when your kids are decrying their misery in a mind numbing chant?   I pretend that a puppet is on my bare hand, ducking behind my front passenger seat and using the headrest as my stage.  My silly sock puppet doesn't realize his clothes are gone, and he likes to sing although he often hits sour notes and must apologize.  Bryles cracks up over this one, and often pulls out his own naked sock puppet to join in the performance.

If that gets old, I quickly search the car for other props to divert his attention.  Recently we tied a piece of yarn from my handwork basket around his bear's stocking and began an impromptu game of "fish."  He giggled as he worked to cast his line of yarn, and expectantly waited for me to find something in the front seat for him to catch.  Suddenly that center console I never get to cleaning out came in very handy, as I pulled out random tidbits to surprise him with. 

Once, I could only find the roll of tissue and a hair tie as my diversion tools.  I quickly made a simple tissue angle who I named the "Snot Nose Fairy."  After introducing her to Bryles, I told him that she likes to hide so no one will try to blow their nose on her dress.  I made him close his eyes while I found different places to hide her (behind the sun visor, between the seats, in the seat belt dispenser), and then ask him to search for her.  These games usually get him smiling and distracted for at least twenty blissful minutes.

2. Dump out Mommy's Purse

If your car is too clean to have "props" in the front seat (NEVER the case in this mommy's car!!!), you can always resort to using the contents of your purse.  Bryles has a bottomless reservoir of curiosity for all things usually regaled as "mommy's."  Chapstick, keys, coins, old discount cards - it's a treasure trove for him.  While he gingerly fingers these items, I can also use the opportunity to clean out a few things - maybe the kitchen sink never made it into my purse, but just about everything else ends up stowed away in there!  Let your child have a moment feeling grown up, and see how quiet your car gets!

3. Play I Spy and other Window Watching Games

I grew up traveling in the back of a blue station wagon with my three brothers and my sister. While seat belt laws and even belts themselves were non-existent, we still found we felt cooped up and in need of pass times.  With at least two siblings always willing to play, we went through the whole list of window watching games.  Slug bug left us with bruises, but we learned our 50 states well as we searched for license plates from cars traveling across the nation.  "I Spy" or "Road Sign ABC" are fun too- even the littlest tykes can learn a few letters and search for them.  At just two, Bryles started shouting out "B for Bryles" pointing to billboards. 

For more ideas, check out this list of top ten games that require just your family's imagination (no little pieces, tools, or props!).

4. Songs and Stories

Inside the car, we found we could also generate our own fun.  As a kid I knew all kinds of clapping chants  such as "Miss Suzy had a Tugboat...."  My sister and I always liked that song as it came so close to saying so many bad words, but we also liked to sing "Say, Say Oh Playmate..." and others.   We'd also learned many a folk song crawling under my mother's feet while she played the piano, so all five kids could break into "She'll be Coming Around the Mountain" or "Michael Row your Boat Ashore" to tick the miles off the odometer.  

My mother comes from Southern story-telling roots, so she'd weave tales of her childhood while we drove.  I loved her stories of her brother's famous attempts to sell her his birthday.  Then their was her father's attempt to break her addiction to Coke-a-Cola by purchasing her an ice chest full of soda.  He wanted her to drink herself sick, but she counted it as the best day of her life.  Sometimes, the kids would take over the story telling, which gets really silly when you let one person start and others take over at different climatic points.  My sister would start off about a chocolate river, and my brothers might end with a goat eating troll.  The stories never quite made sense, but they always made us hysterical!

When the noise level in the car got tiresome, my parents always tried to get us to play the quiet game.  They'd time us to see how long we could go without speaking.  Of course, this usually inspired more goofing off (think boys blowing fart noises on their hands) and giggling.

Check out Mom's MiniVan page "This Trip Ain't Over Til Somebody Sings!"  for a great list of songs, campfire song books, and more!

5. Turn Paper Scraps into Games

My own creative mother orchestrated many interesting games through dumping out the paper scraps in her purse.  She knew how to make a cootie catcher, and she loved to get us started playing the dot game.  Hangman was another favorite, and I bet my parents loved that it helped us with our spelling!  One day, I even got the bright idea to turn paper scraps into dolls and their furniture.  For years, I'd ask my mom for a pen and paper scraps so I could make little couches and other odds and ends.  I often did this by tearing the paper as we didn't regularly totes scissors in the car.  Scarcity does spark creativity!

Check out, which  has great games for kids including the directions for how to make a cootie catcher!
6. Munch on Road Trip Food

I am normally something of a healthy food Nazi.  My husband and son have to give me puppy eyes for me to throw pretzels or other processed snacks into the shopping cart.  I also try to give them granola rather than granola bars and fruit rather than fruit rolls.   However, when traveling, I do throw these rules out the window.  The novelty of good road trip food goes really far for helping to keep everyone content - stomachs really are the pathway to most people's hearts!  We load up on nuts, fruit, Pirate's Booty, fruit rolls, yummy drinks, and even chips before we pile in the car.  When doldrums hit, we just open the next bag of treats.  Make sure you have a few extra special food items ready to distract your little one, and you can be sure to buy yourself a bit more peace!

7. Switch Things Up

The older I get, the less I find I can stand sitting in one place.  Unlike my child who just hates confinement, it is my backside that hates to get overused!  Still, we can both agree that switching positions, stretching, or making any kind of physical change can help.  We usually ride with parents up front and kid in back, but when nothing else seems to help Bryles survive the miles, I climb in back with him.  I give him a pillow - tucking one under my own behind - or blanket, and try to create some bodily comfort for him.  He likes to have me closer to him, and often asks me to wrap my arms around him so he can nod off to sleep. 
He also really likes to drive.  I am not a Brittany Spears, but he does get a thrill out of sitting on the driver's lap and driving a short distance down his grand parents' private, dusty road.  He also loves to pretend to drive while his daddy pumps gas.  These little role changes always seem to help him endure his position as backseat captee for a bit longer.

8. Stop!!

Sometimes, most all else fails. You and your kids simply need to stop the car and GET OUT!  Every parent tries to look for a park, grassy rest stop, gas station with bathroom or other place to get the family out to stretch, but sometimes we want to push through so much that we overlook frequent stops as a necessary measure for a happy car ride.  If stopping seems too frivolous and time consuming, try to make a double reason for stopping such as checkin the air in the tires or getting gas.  If its raining, and outdoor options aren't looking better than being trapped in the car, some of my friends make a rare stop at the conviently sheltered Burger King Playland. 

9. Lap Games and Hand Work

My personal favorite remedy for mommy car boredom is to bring myself a basket of projects.  When we made a five hour trip to go camping last week, I brought along the latest felt book I am crafting.  I managed to get two pages done, while putting on naked sock puppet shows and toting my toddler to gas station bathrooms every hour.

Bryles likes to do whatever I do, so I made sure to pack him a backpack of things to do as well.  We packed his cute little sack with his art roll (thanks again to Soule's Creative Family for that pattern and idea!) as well as a few other small toys.  Quite games played in his lap kept Bryles busy for short durations.
Some parents also pack magnet games, and other interactive things that can be played on a small lap.  Try this idea for sewing a tic tac toe game for your kids.

10. Sleeping Short Cuts

My husband's favorite car pass time revolves around convincing Bryles that if Bryles falls asleep his daddy will jump through a worm hole, thus creating an amazing short cut to our destination.  Does every dad try this trick?  Well, you can help support this by packing pillows, blankets, a favorite bear, and singing a lullaby to your little one.  I've rested my own head against the passenger seat's window a few times, and found we did seem to arrive more quickly.  I am half convinced that these worm holes do exist!

Try a few of these traditions for traveling, and share your family's secrets for getting there quickly!  Happy trails! 


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