Road trip! Your family's hitting the highway together. As a parent, a trip with the kids is a far cry from the days when you and a pal could drive a six-hour stretch with just one pit stop (and that was just for coffee, right?). How do you handle regular bathroom and snack breaks for kids with the least amount of stress? And what's the best way to keep the kids busy while filling the tank and stretching your legs?
With kids along for the ride, it's important to listen for their cues, says Chicago-based pediatrician Erica Attanasio. "You have to be realistic about your expectations. They aren't going to sit in a hot car seat, restricted from moving for hours at a time, without complaining at least a little bit," she says. As a mom herself, her best advice is to stop before the meltdowns start.
And there are plenty of ways to keep these rest-stop breaks from turning into tantrums. Here are some fun ideas for those on the go:
1. Have some fun while dining. Many restaurant rest stops have indoor and outdoor playgrounds. Let the kids jump, climb and run around while Mom and Dad enjoy a (relatively) peaceful meal.
The extra mile: Order the kids' food to go and let them eat in the car after you've refueled. If you're lucky, maybe the exercise and a good meal will bring on a nap!
2. Enjoy a picnic. On a sunny day, eating outside can be a great way to break up the car time. Pack a blanket and find yourselves a patch of grass. When lunch is over, let the kids help clean up and burn off some steam by racing to the garbage and recycling bins.
The extra mile: Save your dough for your vacation by packing a picnic basket at home instead of buying pricey rest-stop treats.
3. Line up for Simon Says. There's no better way to get your kids moving at a rest stop than a quick game of Simon Says. Get their blood flowing by copying leg and neck stretches or arm circles.
The extra mile: Don't forget to end with a Simon Says potty break before getting back in the car.
4. Divide and conquer. While one of you fuels up the car, the other can lead a quick game of soccer. Grab a ball from the trunk and use a jacket or backpack as the goal. You don't need to have a team of kids with you to engage almost any child in a game that involves a bouncing ball.
The extra mile: Reward your kid's final score with a healthy snack of his or her choice.
5. Play spy games. Every rest stop can be a new adventure with a game of I Spy. Starting with the age-old "I spy with my little eye ...," describe something the kids don't get to see during the drive, like a resting puppy or the T-shirt of a fellow traveler.
The extra mile: Let the kids turn the game around on you and lengthen it by making silly guesses like a cloud that looks like a giraffe with a bowtie or a bird that sounds like it's singing the alphabet.
Although it might take you a little longer to get to your destination, your journey will be easier on everyone if you make time to eat, play and get some fresh air along the way. Happy trails!report abuse