Summertime is in full swing as is the summer travel season. According to AAA, tens of thousands of families take to the streets every weekend during the summer for vacations to visit family, friends, amusement parks, beaches, lakes, and more. If you are a parent, you know that one of the most difficult parts of traveling with a toddler is the time spent in the car. “Boredom” takes on a whole new meaning when you are strapped in to a car seat, and chances are your little one does not fully understand WHY he or she has to be in the car quite so long! Here are some tips for keeping your little one entertained in the car – for both their happiness and your own!
1. Fun and soothing music. While you may be wanting to rock out to the latest Drake track, your toddler probably needs something a little less stimulating. You can download great kids tunes to your smartphone or iPod, or check out child-friendly stations on satellite radio. If you can stand it, there are also some great music-making apps that would let your little one “play” piano, guitar, banjo, and more. We have a children’s toy radio that our little one can squeeze and push to play music that she loves to listen to on road trips.
2. Interactive games. Long road trips are tough for adults, too, so take games that you and your toddler can play together. Depending on your child’s age, you could take games like Go Fish, Old Maid, or War. Other fun activities you can do together are the Letter Game, where you go through the alphabet using road signs; designing farm animals using pipe cleaners; or searching for objects in Eye Spy-type books.
3. Super comfy clothes. Making sure your kiddo is as comfortable as possible will go a long way toward keeping them happy. Stiff, itchy clothing will irritate even the most content child (and adult!) Also, make sure he or she is not too hot or too cold. Be sure to have plenty of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and all of their favorite toys. While it may irritate you to pack all of these things, it is better to have a little extra “stuff” to avoid a meltdown over a missing toy.
4. Solo play games. Coloring books, sticker books, and other games and activities that your toddler can play quietly by herself are also a good idea to tote along. If you are ok with your child getting some screen time, download their favorite movies to your tablet or smartphone to watch in the back seat.
5. An arsenal of snacks. I say arsenal because in this scenario, it is the more the merrier. You can pack baggies full of all of their finger-food favorites – from salty to sweet to savory. We pack snacks that our little one can hold on her own, foods to keep her happy if we have to wait at a restaurant on the road, and favorite foods that we might not be able to find while traveling in unfamiliar areas. It’s always better to overpack when it comes to toddlers and traveling, especially if your toddler can be picky.
To make sure you’re not dipping into the snacks as soon as you leave the driveway, make sure your toddler has had a good meal before you head out. Here’s an easy recipe that can help keep toddlers’ bellies full for the journey ahead:
Easy Toddler Mac-N-Cheese
1 (8-ounce) box elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of Monterrey jack cheese
1 packet Go & Grow by Similac® Mix-Ins™ for food
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add elbow macaroni to the water and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes. Pasta should be cooked through but firm to the bite. Drain.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, salt, and pepper and stir until completely smooth, about 5 minutes.
3. Add milk while continuously stirring for about 5 minutes, until mixture is smooth and bubbling.
4. Add cheeses and stir for about 2-4 minutes, until cheese is melted.
5. Fold macaroni into cheese sauce until coated.
Sprinkle Go & Grow by Similac® Mix-Ins™ packet over mac-n-cheese and stir
6. Add 1 packet of Go & Grow by Similac® Mix-Ins™ into ½ cup of mac-n-cheese to add 3 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 13 vitamins and minerals.
Go & Grow by Similac® Mix-Ins™ are a great way to make this easy mac-n-cheese recipe more nutritious. Kid’s don’t taste a difference!
With proper planning and patience, a Road Trip with your toddler can be a fun part of your family vacation. Remember to enjoy the process and stop as often as you need to in order for your little one to explore and burn off cooped-up energy from the car. If you feel yourself or your toddler getting stressed, use one of these five tips to try to relax and have fun, or stop and walk around for a little while. You might be surprised just how much fun you can have!
Go & Grow by Similac® Mix-Ins™ for food and Toddler Drinks are secret weapons for adding nutrition to toddler meals!