I am a planner. I like to make lists of daily and weekly tasks. That is until it comes to packing and preparing for a road trip. For some reason, I always wait until the last minute. Most trips, I wake up in the morning and hurriedly throw some clothes in a bag before I’m out of the door. When it came time for baby’s first road trip out of state, I fell into my old habit and found myself franticly scurrying around the house on the morning of the trip stuffing onesies and diapers into a suitcase.
Aside from an old habit dying hard, I’ll blame my poor trip-planning on the fact that we left on December 26. I was so caught up in planning for baby’s “First Christmas” that I didn’t plan for the eight-hour car ride I had to spend entertaining baby girl the next day! I thought (ok, hoped) she would sleep the majority of the trip, and I would be able to nap alongside her. Boy, was I wrong! Before we had even reached the state line, I realized that Baby Girl would much rather take the shortest naps possible so she could spend majority of the trip staring at me waiting for me to entertain her.
Seeing as the babe was content with being wide awake, I decided to take advantage of this quality time. Using the items that I did manage to pack before we left, we spent the time working to increase her attention span and language skills through reading and play. Read on for some ideas on how you and yours can “Say-n-Play” on future road trips.
1. Bring books to build your kiddo’s language skills. Don’t make my mistake of bringing only three books. Bring a lot of books! My Baby girl loves to look at illustrations while Mommy reads to her and didn’t mind hearing the same story over and over again. For your own sanity, however, I suggest bringing a wide variety of books. I love “Barnyard Dance!” by Sandra Boynton, but there is only so many times I can “Bow to the cow” or “Strut with the duck” in an eight-hour car ride before I want the book to promenade right out the window. In all seriousness, I had a wonderful time reading with her and could truly see her attention span grow as we continued to read together during the trip. If you want to read more on how reading builds language skills and suggestions for what types of books to bring for baby, check out this blog post.
This is our new favorite high contrast book: Art for Baby, created by Yana Peel. (Shout out to Nana and Papa for the wonderful Christmas gift!) Read more about to importance of high contrast books for babies by clicking on the blog post link above.
2. Bring toys and books that crinkle and can be manipulated by baby with her hands and mouth. Baby will be strapped in the carseat all day while your on the road, so if your baby is like mine and decides to stay awake the majority of the trip, you will need toys for baby to explore to distract her from being strapped down. In the first months of life, babies are learning how to use their hands to manipulate objects. In addition to their hands, baby will also explore objects with their mouths. Their little mouths have more nerve endings per square millimeter than any other part of their body. So, baby will take a toy straight to the mouth in order to find out what something really feels like! Thus, toys like “Sofie the Giraffe” are great for road trips (and every day use) because it is easy for the baby to hold and soft enough for baby to chew on.
Learn from my mistakes and make sure you take more than a handful of toys! Babies have a short attention span with toys, so a new one will be “requested” quite frequently. To build your baby’s attention span, encourage her to play with the toy for 15-30 seconds longer than when she signals she is done with the toy. This little bit of additional time can be stretched as she gets older to increase attention and focus.
3. If you run out of books and toys (or if you didn’t bring enough to begin with like me) be resourceful with your surroundings. For me, that meant a fast food paper bag and a water bottle from a gas station! The paper bag makes a great crinkle sound and can be squished together with baby’s hands. The water bottle makes another great crinkle toy. The bottle made an awesome sound that mesmerized my daughter when she squeezed it. It also doubled as an entertaining maraca when I shook the water around in the bottle. I turned to these items in desperation to keep baby girl calm and entertained…and, thankfully, they worked! It was amazing how she focused on me shaking a water bottle in different directions for almost 20 minutes!
With these tips, I hope your next road trip with baby will look a lot more like this.
…and a lot less like this. 🙂