Ah, the holidays are upon us. For many families, there is more than just joyful family reunions and a plentiful pie selection to look forward to. Holidays can also mean long car rides, tired kiddos, loss of routine, and so many kid’s tables. The thought of adjusting schedules, packing the car and diaper bags, and the lack of uninterrupted adult conversations can be daunting! Especially when you want to provide your kids the most magical holiday experience. So, we have curated some helpful travel tips for the holiday season for you and your family that will allow you to prepare ahead of time to provide a more seamless “most magical time of the year.”
Packing The Car
If you have a car ride that is going to last more than 30 minutes, it may seem impossible to keep the kids clean and in good spirits for your arrival. Because reality is not like the movies. The expectation of kids jumping out of the minivan fresh-faced and eager to greet Aunt Susan, whom they don’t remember, is quite the stretch. But there are some ways to make the journey a little bit easier for everyone!
1. Sweet But Comfortable Clothing
There are so many adorable outfits to choose from to dress your tots for the holidays. Sweaters and dresses adorned with turkeys and Santa’s are just the cutest! But, take care to pick clothes that will travel well. Many kiddos will feel uncomfortable after being strapped into their seats for an extended period. So, before you make your holiday clothing purchases, take a minute to feel the fabric and think about how the garment will feel on your child with car seat straps. Steering clear of clothes that will easily bunch or itch is a great way to help the travel blues.
2. Mess Free Snacks
So much of the holiday gatherings center around food. And as good parents, we want to showcase that our kids will eat more than just the macaroni and cheese and dinner rolls at the family dinner. But you also know that if you show up to the reunion with hungry kids, it won’t be a pleasant entrance. Allowing your kids to have some small snacks in the car is a great way to stave off the hunger that has the power to unleash some unwanted behaviors.
Packing snacks in bento box style is visually entertaining for kids and allows them plenty of options. Think squeezy applesauce or yogurt, string cheese cut into small sections, goldfish or pretzels, and a protein such as a beef stick. Avoid foods that are easily mashed, melty, or super crumbly, and you will thank yourself!
Some screen time is fine, but if the ride is pretty long, you probably want to think beyond the screen for car ride entertainment. Here are some fantastic ideas that will keep your kids engaged and maybe even create a core memory!
- Audiobooks: Choose age-appropriate audiobooks that the whole family can enjoy. This is a great way to experience a story together without screens.
- Music Playlist: Create a family playlist with everyone’s favorite songs. Sing along and take turns selecting songs.
- Car Games: Classic car games like “I Spy,” the license plate game, or the alphabet game can be entertaining and engaging.
- Storytelling: Take turns telling a collaborative story. Each person contributes a sentence or a part of the story, creating a unique and imaginative narrative.
- Question Jar: Before the trip, have each family member write down questions and put them in a jar. During the ride, take turns drawing questions and answering them.
4. Nap Time Essentials
If you are traveling with toddlers and/or preschoolers, providing items to make a car ride nap more feasible could be a lifesaver. Providing neck pillows and a blanket for a cozy environment can help set the stage for a pleasant slumber. Encourage everyone to start using soft voices for some quiet time. Playing relaxing music over the stereo and suggesting they look out the windows is a surefire way to at least help them wind down and have some quiet time. Arriving at the final destination with freshly napped kiddos can be so much more pleasurable than showing up with some little ones in desperate need of sleep!
Preparing Preschoolers For Family Reunions
The holidays are often filled with events of seeing family and friends that your kids may not have spent much time around previously. This can cause some anxiety for little ones, especially if they are naturally shy! Here are some helpful tips to prepare your preschoolers for a holiday event where they may feel a little uncomfortable.
1. Provide Pictures Of Family Leading Up To The Event
If your child is a bit cautious and you are worried about being overwhelmed at holiday events, it’s ok! Try sitting down with your kiddo and going over pictures and names with them in the days leading up to the gathering. Think of some interesting and fun facts about each family member that can be shared with the picture. This isn’t so they identify everyone by name. Still, it gives them a sense of familiarity that can ease some anxiety about so many “new” people.
2. Have Your Child’s Back
Holidays can be stressful for a child who isn’t super fond of physical touch, especially from strangers. And family gatherings are usually full of just that. Talk to your child about this leading up to the event and ask about their feelings about hugging family members. If they don’t feel comfortable with it, perhaps thinking of something else, such as a high five or a handshake, will ease their discomfort. Give them words of encouragement and a phrase they can say with confidence, such as, “I don’t feel comfortable with hugs, but I like high fives,” or “I will hug or touch when I am ready.” If an adult gives your child a hard time for not wanting to hug or kiss, feel encouraged to be your child’s advocate and voice. Your child will thank you and always remember that you have their back and will not force them into an uncomfortable situation for the sake of looks.
3. Discuss Expectations
Holiday gatherings can be hard on both the parents and the kids. Parents want to be able to have conversations with other adults, especially loved ones they haven’t seen in a while. And kids don’t understand why they must share their parents so much and sacrifice attention. Without preparation, this can be a perfect storm for holiday stress and discord.
Leading up to the holiday events you will be attending with your family, discuss what your expectations are with your preschooler. Let them know that you will be having adult conversations, that you expect them to use their manners, and that they may need to wait sometimes to get your attention. Encourage them that you still love them dearly, but it would mean a lot to you if they waited patiently. And when you are done with your conversation, you will give them the special attention they are seeking.
When you see your child making efforts to show patience and use their manners, praise them! They are doing such a good job, and it will mean a lot to them to know how much you appreciate them and that you see their efforts.
Creating The Best Kids Table
Ah, the kids’ table. It’s kind of a right of passage to have been seated at a “kids table” at least once in one’s life. It can be challenging, though, to keep the kids actually seated there for any length of time. Here are some ways to bring the traditional “kid’s table” to a whole new level for everyone’s enjoyment.
Engage the kiddos in their table using plain paper placemats and provide markers or crayons to create their own festive artwork. These can double as personalized placemats for their holiday meal. After everyone is done eating, the adults can take time to admire the artwork for some well-deserved attention!
Letter to Santa Station
Provide supplies for kids to write letters to Santa after they have finished eating. This can be a heartwarming activity that brings a touch of holiday magic. It will provide talking points for adults to engage with the preschoolers to meet them on their cheerful level.
Have The Merriest Of Holidays
We hope these tips greet you with the holiday magic, help you avoid stress, and allow you to truly enjoy your kids this holiday season. Engaging as a family, discussing expectations, and supporting one another can create lasting memories full of smiles and happiness. Happy Holidays!