How to entertain a 4 year old in the car for 150 hours from the driver’s seat? – Without a tablet (Or with limited tablet use; I mean I’m not completely crazy)!
I don’t even know where to begin really….
I started with a lap tray. I have seen lots of DIY options on Pinterest, but I couldn’t find anything I felt would really work. And, I was going to be asking for a lot from this tray so it had to work! Amazon here I come! After checking out and reviewing several options on Amazon, I landed on the a Kids Travel Play Tray that we are going to try. We haven’t used it yet so I can’t give you any feedback on its performance; but at first glance it looks perfect. So now I can start preparing things for her to play with in her tray!
I have put together a combination of things we already had and some new surprise to hopefully keep her busy. The things we already had I took out of rotation about a month before the trip so they would have a bit of a new-ish factor to them. The new things I got (all except 1), cost no more than a dollar and came from either the: Dollar Tree, Target, or Michaels. I did get 1 new set of Toy Story figures (small and portable) as a surprise for her that I had wanted to get her for a while now but was waiting on an occasion to do so- that was $10. All together I probably spent $50 in toys/car entertainment (remember the goal is to be spending less money not more – or at least I keep telling myself that).
I have spilt her toys up into 2 categories; the ones she will have available to her all the time and the ones that I will make appear like magic when they are needed. What she has available to her all the time are 6 Busy Bags, music player, binoculars and camera.
The 6 busy bags include:
Dry Erase Workbook*
*Some of the busy bags I have different versions of along the same theme and will swap them out from day to day so that she never have more than 6 at a time.
**For the coloring busy bag, I have a blank pad with crayons available all the time. Each day (or at least most days), I have a stack of Printable coloring sheets. I used this website and printed them on 5” x 8” blank index cards which were the right size to be easily maneuvered in the car and on her tray.
The magic toys will stay with me and come out as need be. I have prepared 15 sets, each in its own numbered bag, (I used reusable muslin bags I already had, but a gallon zip lock would have worked just fine). Each sets has anywhere from 2 – 7 toys/activities in them. I have done them in sets by theme because it made them easier for me to organize and keep track of, but that certainly is not a requirement. They are also almost all Disney themes, but this could be done with anything. If I wasn’t driving and I was a passenger I would have had more letter, number, pattern, and general education things; but I needed her to be able to figure everything out on her own.
My plan is that on most drive days I will grab whatever number bag I have planned for that day and have it next to me so that I can hand her 1 item at a time as needed. Unused items at the end of the day will be kept for emergency use.
Of the new items that have been distributed to her throughout the day some of them are disposable in nature (like a worksheet) and some of them can be added into the rotation of all-the-time items. For example, some of the sets include a puzzle once she gets a puzzle she can keep it with her all the time toys, but as she gets more than 1, I’ll start rotating them like the busy bags so that she never has more than one puzzle at a time.
Okay, as I write that all out is sounds like a lot, but I think since everything is prepared and ready to go in advance it should be pretty seamless and require very little effort once we are on the road.
The other activity that I’m going to try out before resorting to videos is audio books. I have never done audiobooks with her. Personally I’m a huge fan of them for road trips, but I’m not sure how they will go over with a 4 year old; but we are going to try!
The last piece to the puzzle is our daily schedule (don’t laugh). When we have done road trips in the past we often drive straight through, she can watch as many videos as she wants and she can snack whenever she wants. And that’s fine for 2 days, but not for 2 months. So I’m going to try and keep our schedule as “normal” as possible:
After breakfast we depart
Starting with play time, and hopefully no new items
Mid-morning we’ll have an in car snack and start moving into magic toys as need be
For lunch we’ll stop and have a picnic out of the car somewhere
After lunch when she would normally take a rest and read books at home we’ll listen to an audio book for 1 – 2 hours
After the audiobook/rest time we will go back to toys if we haven’t reached our destination yet
Notice there’s no tablet/video time in our schedule, we’ll save that to fill in hopefully on a limited bases
Clearly this is all just a plan – Execution is a whole different ball game! I’ll report back on what worked, what didn’t work, and when I just decided to give up….