Family travel tips, from Cindy Utzinger, pediatric Occupational Therapist.
One of my family’s favorite things is traveling to see our family and friends. Well, I should say we love seeing family and friends, but sometimes the travel part can be a little overwhelming.
I want to share some family travel tips with you to help make the travel part of seeing friends and family, a little easier:
- Plan ahead- Make sure you have a bag of goodies with you so you can pull new things out every so often to help keep your kids entertained and their minds engaged. We know our kids can have short attention spans, so having lots to choose from is a plus. Some of our family favorites are:
- Balance screen time with play time- Screen time may keep our children quiet for hours on end, but the truth is it can be over stimulating for them and affect their behavior once the screen is turned off. The blue lights associated with screens can also make it hard for them to sleep. My rule is for every minute of screen time, there has to be a minute of non-screen time. That means if they watch a movie or show, how ever long that movie or show was, that is how long they have to go before they get more screen time.
- Prepare them ahead of time- By this, I mean prepare their little neurological systems. Children can’t be expected to sit still unless they have had time to move. This means that before you hop in the car or on the plane, make sure they have opportunities for not only movement, but also quality movement. The kind of movement that provides great sensory input that will organize them neurologically. This movement includes exercises that provide proprioceptive input and lets them use their big muscles, such as climbing, running, hanging, jumping, carrying, and squeezing. It also includes vestibular input, which is the type of movement that lets them move through space, such as swinging, spinning, and being upside down.
- Let them help pack- Most kids love independence and most of us parents love a little less work to do. I find that it works great when I make my kids a check list of what to pack and then they get the experience the joy of some independence in packing for themselves (and I love one less thing to do when stressing before we leave on a trip). Kids thrive on this!
- Let them help carry stuff- Carrying heavy items (within reason, of course) provides the type of proprioceptive input I mentioned earlier, and helps to prepare your child’s neurological system so that they are able to sit still. Let them help carry things to the car to help pack the car. Let them help roll suitcases through the airport or from point A to point B.
- Don’t feel like you need to entertain your children- With screens, our children often miss out on the opportunity to simply stare out of the window and day dream. If you are traveling by car, there is so much beauty to be seen right out of our windows, and daydreaming and being bored can encourage great cognitive development in our children.
I hope these family travel tips help make your vacation times go a little bit smoother for you.