How Do You Make Your Kids Sit Still For So Long?

Also, they're strapped in.
Obviously M and I love a good long distance trip - whether by foot, bike or car. We have this map hanging in our dining room with a sharpie line drawn for every route we've taken. We love seeing how the terrain and vegetation changes. When you travel through rural parts of our country, you also get a sense of the sheer volume of land and resources that are taken up by our consumption. Oil refineries line the coast around Houston and into Louisiana. Massive barges are loaded down in the Mississippi. Trains pass by constantly. You see pipelines and towering electrical lines, and a steady stream of 18 wheelers. Soybean and corn fields stretch to the horizon. 

Sometimes great clouds of migrating birds pass by overhead. Mountains loom in the distance. The land and sky change color constantly as the sun moves. In other words, there is a lot to look at. All of these things make us ask questions and then we look at maps and look stuff up online if we have a connection and talk about it. Honestly, the hours passed quickly for us. Six hours of driving per day seemed to be a good limit. Breaks - long ones - every 2 hours also helped. We would look for a playground and a running trail. We had the kids' bikes in the very back, so they were easy to get out. This is not to say they were perfect angels. At the end of every day, the backseat was a sodden mess of sandwich crusts and orange peels. The magazines were wet. Everything was wet. We could never find their socks. We always ended up carrying some of our stuff into the hotel in garbage bags. And we often seemed to be driving just a little too far, a little too late into the night. 

Travel Bingo Cards!
I just read this essay in the Washington Post about a family that banned screen time during their cross-country trip. Our DVD player stopped holding charge, so our trip ended up being sort of screen-free too. At least for the kids. (We were on our phones all the dang time, reading Yelp reviews and looking for road food.) I don't know if this is good or bad for them, but I do think it forced them to look out the window at least, and for better or worse, we were together and present as a family for a loooong time. A long time. Luckily, we all like each other.

I know a lot of people looked at us like we were crazy when we said we drove 3,000 miles with our kids. I don't think that my kids are any better behaved than anyone else's, and they were crappy sometimes on the trip. I think it sounds ten times worse to go on an airplane where other people can bear witness to your family's craziness.

This is what I brought for the kids: 

A small box of Duplos - big enough blocks to not actually get lost in the car
Magna Doodle - a favorite for Marko
Sketch pad and colored pencils - markers and crayons are banned from the car because they melt
Lots of magazines (Baby Bug, Highlights, Ranger Rick - thanks everybody for sending these!)
Lots of books - I went to a couple of Little Libraries before we left to get new-to-us books
Travel bingo cards - a gift from Grandma a few years ago, they love these!
Maps of the US to color 
Magnifying glasses
Four matchbox cars - banned from circulation because Marko chucked one at my head
A small pouch of very tiny animals - inspired by Leah
Tangos - too hard for them, actually. Plus the pieces slid around.
US State flash cards - they destroyed these and that made me super sad

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