Edit: I wrote this a few weeks ago. It is funny because the topic for my MOPs group (that I had to miss due to kiddos) was all about self-care, which I mention below. It has been popping up all over my life lately (and probably every mom’s life) and I am feel like I am at a point to figure out what is my version of self-care and how to make time for it!
Right now in this season of my life, I have little to zero time to do things for me. And while many articles talk about the need for “self-care”, with 4 kids in 5 years time for me is on hold just like this neglected/nonexistent blog has been. However, I do enjoy writing my nonsense even if no one reads it these days or it is read and then I am texted my 47+ grammatical errors/typos and so when I find a minute I always attempt to write. I always keep a running notes of things I’d like to “blog” about and have about 15 unfinished blog posts in my drafts. Heck, this one will probably end up there too. This season of life is demanding – demanding of my time, my attention and basically my full focus 24/7. Early on in motherhood I could steal 23 minutes while I plopped my one/two kids in front of the TV, however, I have found that my kids do not respond well to technology. While we still enjoy a movie or show occasionally, the daily watching of TV just does not work for us (or particularly Flynn).
This no (or low) screen-time makes traveling difficult at times. When we make the road trip 6 hours south to my parents, I often struggle to find screen-free things to entertain the kids, especially now that they don’t always nap on the road. Sure we pull out the iPad or a movie every now and then, but we try to go without otherwise the next few days are painful. Over the past few years, I have tried multiple activities to keep the crying at bay and the ride as pleasant as possible, especially now with 4 kids 5 and under. Here are a few things that work for us!
Look and Find Books
These books come in two levels – My First Look and Find Books which are easier for the 2-4 set and the regular Look and Find Books for slightly older kids. Nola and Flynn like both, but the My First require less help or shall I say less request for help from the kids. Quince will even flip the pages of the My First ones because the pictures are big and fun to point at. Added bonus, many of these you can find at a library and the characters are endless so you can switch it up.
This activity is ongoing both in the car and at home for us. The kids pull off numbered stickers and match them to a sheet with numbers to form a picture. This is better for a little older crowd (3+). Flynn and Nola received this as a gift from my awesome sister-in-law and they have been awesome quick activities. We use this in the car, but also for a quiet activity at home. I find this is a little easier than coloring books as I do not have to fetch rolling crayons every 2.4 seconds.
These another great library grab before a long car ride. We have quite a few of these and just leave the CD in the car and listen on long and short drives. My kids also have a little CD player (purchased just for these, and yes they still make them as I have found) in their room. I often use these for quiet time or just for a kid to go chill out. You can also download audiobooks to your phone, but I prefer to keep my phone “kid-free” to avoid asking to see it (ie break it). That being said I have downloaded a few with and without pictures to get my kids through longer drives or on tough days.
As a kid I remember when the JC Penny’s christmas catalog would arrive. We all would hover around and circle the things we wanted. Often we would cut out our great finds and glue them to a “book”. And while JC Penny’s christmas catalog was all the praise hands, any catalog that arrived was pure joy – American Girl, Toys R Us, Eastbay, Pottery Barn, etc. Fast forward these same catalogs, bring me precious minutes of entertainment for my kids. They love to flip through, circle and at night Flynn often asked me to read the descriptions of the products. When I know I have a long drive ahead, I try to stock up on various “kid-friendly” catalogs as my kids will flip through and chill out, buying us a few extra tear-free minutes (or at least one less kid tear free!)
Snacks + Water Bottle
So I know this not original and everyone knows to pack the snacks (well everyone except me the last few trips). And really this could be a list be itself. However, I will say one thing that makes the life easier is to let the kids manage their own snacks. I usually pack a Ziploc bag full of things I don’t mind they eat and they can decide what they want and when. These two gallon bags are a complete game changer – sorry our family is obsessed with organizing toys/diaper bags/life in ziploc bags. I throw in a few pieces of fruit, a gummy snack, pepperoni sticks, pretzels, Larabar, sometimes a sandwich, cheese sticks, etc. My kids usually will go for the sweet stuff first, but since there is just one and it’s their own bag they eventually move on to more nutritious jazz without whining for more of whatever they ran out of.