Easier Commuting with Kids

Keep children busy -- and keep your sanity -- with these tips.
by Rich Ellis
Driving with kids

Kids are little fountains of joy, right? Sure, right up until the time you have to travel with them, on a really long trip or a daily commute, and they’re tired, hungry, bored or cranky (which is more often than not). That’s when the fun stops, and the yelling or crying – on everyone’s part – often begins.
It doesn’t have to be this way, at least not on every car journey. With a little planning and creativity, you can smooth out your drive time’s rough edges when commuting with younger passengers and make the journey a more enjoyable experience. Here’s how. 

Use Apps to Your Advantage

Whether it’s a DVD player, tablet, pad, smartphone or other electronic device, you already know what a good friend technology is when it comes to entertaining kids in the backseat. Make that technology work even harder for you, the driver, with these innovations.
Waze – It’s a community-based traffic and navigation app, but it’s one that does so much more. Waze relies on drivers in the same area sharing real-time, hyper-local information about everything that could impact your commute – from accidents to road closures. Armed with this knowledge, you can choose an alternate, better route as needed, saving time, money, and reducing frustration during a commute that’s already challenging enough. 
Smartpark – Installing this app means you never suffer the frustration that accompanies aimless wanderings among rows of vehicles in the school parking lot or parking garage as you try to remember where you parked. Smartpark’s compass points the way back to your parking spot and even shows how many feet away you are. Even when you can’t remember if you parked on the parking garage’s fourth or 14th level, Smartpark has you covered because it’s altitude sensitive and can point you in the right direction. 
Pocket – Kids will never again be without something interesting to watch or read while in the car. Pocket enables users to save content – articles, videos or anything from a browser or app, such as Twitter – so that it can be viewed later. Once the content is saved to your Pocket, you don’t even need an internet connection to view it. 

Audio Books

Turn your daily commute into an adventure as the chapters of an exciting book unfold each week. Countless titles are available for all age groups at your local library, Audible, or other favorite print and electronic media source. For younger children who may not be able or willing to follow a story line yet, keep a collection of kids’ songs close at hand.

A Camera

Help kids see the scenery on their daily commute in a different light by providing them with a digital camera that takes both still photos and video. Encourage them to look closer at what they may have been missing by instead viewing their environment through the camera lens. Have them assemble these sights into a short movie or show off their work at a home art show at the end of the week. 

Washable window markers or crayons

Turn drive time into art time by providing kids with washable window markers or window crayons and wipes. Games and artwork will appear and disappear as quickly as they can clean off the window. Include some stencils to prolong the fun and creativity, and your peace of mind.

Keep it clean

Remember how good it feels to slide into the driver’s seat of a vehicle that’s been recently cleaned or detailed, inside and out? It looks better – giving it a calming feel – and it smells a whole lot better too. If you shuttle kids around, then eventually (or instantly) you’re going to have a dirty car. The  key is to try and prolong that cleanliness as long as possible. Your best ally in this daily struggle is a trash bag placed strategically within reach of all passengers. It sounds like a simple solution, and it is, but the goal is that they’ll use it instead of stuffing trash in the door or seat pockets or throwing it on the floor, helping your vehicle stay cleaner, longer. 
And when it does get dirty, you can bring back that “clean car smell" any time by making your own carpet deodorizer. Place one cup of baking soda in a Ziploc bag, add five drops of an essential oil, shake, and then sprinkle on carpets and floor mats. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before vacuuming. 
Because families spend so much time on the road today traveling back and forth to school, activities, and work, these trips can often represent an ideal opportunity to turn that time together into quality time everyone enjoys, or at least tolerates, instead of time that frays nerves. Try these tips, but don’t forget to also ask other parents for strategies they use. Then sit back and enjoy the ride.  

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