My daughters and I spend approximately 7 hours per week in the car together. I spend that time driving to school, to church, and to a myriad of other activities; but my daughters in the backseat spend it very differently. Sometimes they banter back and forth happily, sing silly songs together, or even try to out-do each other by making fart noises into their hands, but often they use their backseat time to bicker and fight. I think fighting from the backseat raises my blood pressure and stress level more than slippery roads or blizzard conditions ever could. I turn into the kind of Mommy I never wanted to be – the mean and yelling kind of Mommy. To prevent this, we’ve started to adopt a few different activities to keep harmony in the backseat.
As a kid, I read books in the car all the time. A book accompanied me on a three-minute trip to the market and a cross-country road trip required two backpacks full. I even read Little House on the Prairie aloud to my dad on a trip when the car’s radio broke. My 6-year old daughter is becoming a more independent reader, so telling her to “read quietly to herself” is now a reasonable request. Her 2-year old sister often feels left out of quiet reading time, so she too flips through a book, pointing at pictures and saying her ABCs.
- Coloring Books
I don’t know about your kids, but both of mine are little budding artists. Both girls love to color, paint, and sculpt, so bringing some of their art supplies into the car is a real treat. We have a rule that only colored pencils are allowed in the backseat. Dull colored pencils don’t seem to smear on the upholstery like markers. Crayons can melt and colored wax is very difficult to clean, so pencils make the most sense. Each girl gets their own coloring book, and they’re free to color – or scribble – to their hearts’ content.
- Entertainment from the Speakers
Sometimes we’re out driving a bit too early or too late for there to be enough light for reading or coloring. In those instances, the car stereo is my best friend. As much as kids’ music drives these parents batty, the girls absolutely love it. We have a few well-loved CDs of Veggie Tales (because my kids go nuts for singing vegetables), some holiday tunes that are requested year-round, and occasionally they let me get away with carefully curated Taylor Swift or Katy Perry. Hearing their sweet voices botch the words to “Shake it Off” makes my early morning drive instantly happier.
We limit screen time in our house, and the same is true for the car. The 6-year old is permitted 20 minutes of game time on the tablet either on the way to or the way from school. This tablet time is also a great motivator to get moving in the morning. We also permit movie watching via portable DVD player when we take longer road trips. Our 2-year old doesn’t get tablet time but is a big fan of watching cartoons in the backseat during the long drive to Grandma’s house.
I’m hoping with all these ideas, I get a whole lot more harmony from the backseat, and a whole lot less bickering. What are your tried and true tips for peaceful car rides?