Plan a trip to Umhlanga with some girlfriends – tick!
Buy two cases of wine for us girls – tick!
Pack some delicious treats for the car – tick!
Drive unprepared on a 7 hour road trip with a toddler – aint nobody got time for that!!
I have been driving down to Umhlanga every year since as far back as I can remember. My mom has a week of timeshare in July, resulting in this coastal holiday being an intricate part of my childhood memories. This year I invited two friends for a Girl’s Road Trip – a week of sunshine, beach walks, cocktails and relaxation. We were beyond excited! And then a week before we were due to leave, Miss Bella had one of her scary toddler tantrums and it suddenly dawned on me – what am I going to do to keep her from going full-on-toddler-crazy in a car for 7 hours?! Panic central!
Over the next few days I researched (I have said this before but seriously, HOW did our parents raise us before Google and Pinterest?!) and I asked friends and other Mamas for ideas. I stayed up late every night crafting and prepping for the journey, and the result was perfect. So here is what I recommend for a tears-free drive with a two year old:
Prepare them. They may have been on road-trips as a baby, but they may not remember quite what it involves. Warn them that they will be in their car seat for a long time, but that you will be stopping for breakfast and play time, and entice them by telling them you will be bringing some exciting things for them to do during the drive.
Pack their favourite snacks and treats. Now is not the time to worry too much about how many vegetables they are getting that day, now is the time to survive the car trip. So if Flings does the trick, then give them some damn Flings!
Take along a few toys and books that they are already familiar with. I chose some books from Bella’s library that she hadn’t read in a while, so they weren’t new, but she had forgotten about them. I also let her choose her own fluffy toy to take as her sleeping buddy while we were on holiday. She picked Flopsy, a bunny that has already been with us to the Game Reserve and Cape Town. I gave her a small suitcase and let her choose her own toys for our holiday, allowing her to be involved in the packing process.
New toys are a must! You don’t have to spend a lot of money, just grab a few cheap toys that probably won’t last long, but will satisfy your toddler’s need for excitement. I got Bella a small stamp pad, a little princess figurine, a butterfly craft, a draw-and-wipe board, a felt board with felt shapes and some pipe cleaners. Quick and easy fun!
I then made Busy Bags. These were activities that I pulled out each time Bella seemed like she needed a distraction, some stimulation or she just looked bored. I packed each activity into a zip-lock bag for easy use and brought along a tray so that she had something to work on. Bella absolutely loved them! My Busy Bags included:
Macaroni and colourful Scooby-doo wire for threading noodle necklaces.
A colour-wheel game – I stuck various coloured cardboard tabs onto clothes pegs and then used the same colours to make a colour wheel. Bella had to match the peg to the colour-wheel, which was great for her fine-motor-coordination!
A treasure jar – I filled a glass jar with coloured confetti and placed various treasures inside of it. These included a dice, two marbles, a pink birthday candle, red stars, a mini peg and other goodies, and then sealed the jar with superglue. Bella had to ‘find something pink’ or ‘find something round’, turning the jar upside down or rolling it to spot her treasure.
A sorting game – I packed a zip-lock bag with red stars, mini pegs and various coloured shapes and gave Bella 4 tupperware containers. She had to sort by shape, size or colour, another winner for fine-motor skills.
Bingo – obviously a toddler is too young to be able to play I-Spy, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot spot things while road-tripping. I made Bella ‘Bingo’ cards with pictures of things she would be able to see on our drive, including a cow, sheep, farm house, truck, robot etc. Every time she spotted something that was on a card, she would get the picture to colour in. Once the pictures were all coloured in, if she spotted it again, she could put a sticker onto it. This was her favourite Busy Bag!
Stickers – I don’t know if every child is the same, but my kid LOVES stickers. So this Busy Bag was super easy. A new sticker book and sheets of stickers. Boom! Entertained!
Shape Game – I cut out various cardboard shapes, both big and small, and packed a glue into the zip-lock bag, creating a fun craft game allowing Bella to create her own artworks simply by sticking shapes together.
Snap – Bella loves memory games, so I made sure to pack some flashcards so we could play Snap both in the car and on holiday.
Finger Puppets – these are cheap and easy, and provide for some entertaining theatre productions to be done in honour of your young traveller.
Colouring pages – I printed some sea-themed (as we were on a beach holiday) colouring-in pages, cut them out, stuck them onto cardboard and decorated the borders with glitter glue. I then let Bella colour in the pictures and they became instant artworks to hand out to any friends or family that we saw while on holiday as little gifts.
We made it to Umhlanga in one peaceful stretch, stopping for breakfast and dealing with tears only at nap time. It was pretty painless and actually a lot of fun! I kept some of the Busy Bags for our drive back home, and then sat back and enjoyed my Girl’s Beach Holiday!
Hopefully this sparks some ideas for your next road-trip! Happy travelling Mamas!