Commuting with Kids: a Working Mom’s Survival Guide

No one likes a long commute. Waking up early and fighting through traffic? No, thanks. Some days, you do everything right, leave on time, and you’re still late. Thanks a lot, freak thunderstorm. Hey, delirious vagrant wandering down the middle of the road – couldn’t have done it without you.

But the really tough part about having a long commute? When your kids have to suffer through it with you. Before you ask why I would subject my kids to a 45 minute – hour-long drive (each way) every day, you should know the answer is simple: my kids are still very young and I want them close by in case of an emergency.

OK, so long car rides are no bueno. We know this. They can be boring. Draining. And a pretty big waste of time. Don’t sweat it; there’s a way to survive the drive.

kids, car, commute, drive

Sing, sing, sing.

Yep, this is no secret. Every parent knows music is a sure-fire way to pass time spent in a car. But when you spend as much time in the minivan as I do, you learn to step it up a notch. Whether it’s a family singalong of Disney tracks or one popular tune on repeat (I’m looking at you, Elsa), the best bet is to find something you all enjoy and belt it out like nobody’s business.

Play car-only games.

What kid doesn’t like a good game? I’m not talking about the usual suspects or even the old classics like Eye Spy – make up your own games that are only played during your drive. My daughter loves puzzles so I incorporate that into different games. A popular one on our drive is Guess What I See. She chooses the location (jungle, beach, etc.), I describe something I might see there (monkey, starfish, etc.), and she has to guess what it is. By pretending we’re someplace else, it gets our minds off of the drive and exercises her cognitive development. Plus, the best part is when I give her a toughie and she guesses it instantly.

Count something.

Both of my kids love school buses. They’re fascinated with them. So, everyday we watch for those telltale yellow-orange trucks. We all get excited when we spot one, shouting and pointing ensue, and a wave of congratulations echoes throughout the backseat. Having something to look forward to, even something as simple as a vehicle, boosts morale. Plus, hearing those tiny voices counting how many they’ve seen is just too cute to ignore.

Come prepared.

Books, movies (if you have a DVD player en route), and tablets are also nice gadgets to have if you’re OK with some screen time. While actively engaging with your kids through conversation, stories, and play time is always great, let’s be real. Some days you’re just drained and a few minutes of quiet goes a long way to restoring your sanity.

Don’t forget the snacks!

Nobody wants to be hungry on a long drive. Since my kids have a ways to go before we get home for dinner, I always pack car-friendly food they can enjoy on our trek. Fruits like blueberries and strawberries are great options since they travel well and (usually) don’t make a big mess. (Raspberries and blackberries? Maybe keep those at home.) I always carry a thermal bag to tote cold items like Gogurt or cheese (my kids love Colby-Jack sticks) and the Mott’s Snack & Go applesauce pouches are a staple in our house (and car). I’ve also found deli meats and sandwiches can be an easy way to ensure my kids don’t starve between point A and point B.

Talk it out

Use the car ride as a time to chat with your kids.  These converstation starters may do the trick!

The point is, commuting with your kids is nobody’s first choice. But it’s a reality for plenty of working parents. These are just a few ways you can make the ride more bearable enjoyable for everyone. And, you never know – you may find yourself looking forward to that special time alone with your kids where no one else can hear you singing.

What are some other tips you’ve picked up? How do you survive the drive?


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