Not So Great Expectations

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I often find myself in conversations with other people about appropriate expectations for young children. These conversations generally revolve around schools and preschools and the sometimes elevated expectations adults have of young children’s behavior. However, last Friday I was at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting where the speaker was talking to us about being nurturing parents. She had a lot of really great points regarding love and discipline, but the point I have found most useful was regarding expectations. The speaker told us to expect that our children are going to do bad things because they are, and if we are expecting it we won’t be quite as shocked. She was not implying that we let our children do whatever they want or get away with inappropriate behavior. She was simply saying that kids are going to do things you don’t want them to do. If you are expecting it, you can deal with the behavior…not your own disappointment regarding their behavior. I have found this bit of advice to be most useful this week because it has spared me a lot of frustration with the girls. For instance, I prepared myself ahead of time yesterday to expect the girls to interrupt me while I was trying to clean the bathroom. I gave myself the same little reminder as I was preparing dinner last night and again while writing this blog this morning. (Not that interrupting me is “bad behavior”…just a little annoying at times.) I have also been working on anticipating situations that I know will be more difficult transitions for the girls. This has allowed me to be able to plan ahead for how to manage their behavior if or when it does occur. Changing my expectations of the girls and their behavior has really helped me be more patient with them, and it has made the time I spend with them so much more enjoyable.


The True Cost of Rearing Daughters

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People occasionally make comments to my husband and me regarding the fact that we have two daughters and no sons. The most common comment to my husband is, “So, are you going to try for a boy?” To which he always replies, “No. I’m good with my two girls.” (FYI, this is because little girls are generally calmer and less inclined toward destruction than little boys.) The second most frequent comment we get is, “Just wait until they get to middle school. You’ll have more drama than you ever thought possible.” To which I respond, “I honestly can’t imagine much more sass and drama than we already have in our house. By the time they reach puberty, I think we’ll be immune to it.” However, there is one other comment we sometimes hear that is troubling. That comment is, “Two girls…that’s going to be expensive later on.” This comment is always in reference to the cost of future weddings…which is why we are already planting the idea of small weddings or eloping in our daughters’ minds. (If you were one of the hundreds in attendance at my wedding, you will know that I’m just kidding about small weddings…I sure do love a big event.) This comment is troubling to me, not because I’m worried about being able to retire at a reasonable age, but because no one warned me how much little girls can cost right now.

I believe the true cost in rearing daughters can be summed up in two words: toilet paper. I could be wrong, but I really don’t think mothers of boys have the same difficulty keeping their homes stocked with toilet paper. My girls are 2- and 4-years-old, and they go through toilet paper like no one’s business. How could two tiny people use so much??? I have analyzed the problem and observed my daughters, and I have decided that there are several contributing factors. They have to wipe every time they go (unlike boys), and they are often liberal in their use of paper. I’m a bit germaphobic, so I don’t get too upset about this one. They also tend to use toilet paper when they can’t reach paper towels. They haven’t quite grasped the idea that toilet paper gets really yucky when drenched with liquid. They also use toilet paper as tissues, which is also fine with me because as much as I’m complaining about toilet paper, it sure is cheaper than tissues. They have both come down with colds this week, so I can forget about conserving toilet paper for the next two weeks. I am sure that we will come to some sort of compromise regarding their over-use of toilet paper, but I still don’t see the issue going away entirely. Maybe I’ll try guilt… “Do you know how many trees died to give you that roll of toilet paper?? Sheryl Crowe only uses ONE square per wipe. Maybe you should try that.” If that fails, I’m going to start buying stock in Charmin.


Joy in the Mundane

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The first task my daughter must complete every morning when I drop her off at preschool is to wash her hands. As a mom, I really appreciate this classroom rule because it helps cut down on the number of germs passed around at school. However, I doubt that many children have paused to consider the reason for this mandate. I have noticed, though, that the children in my daughter’s class and children in general, seem to have two different views of hand-washing. Some children view this task as a chore. It is something that must be accomplished in order to move on to the next thing. For those children who hold this particular view in my daughter’s preschool class, it is an assignment they must complete in order to reach their ultimate goal, that of playing with the other children and all of the fun toys they don’t have at home. They quickly rinse their hands, shake off the water, and run along to play. Other children, however, seem to actually enjoy the process of washing their hands. They relish the feeling of water pouring over their skin or suds slipping through their fingers. They revel in observing the water swirl around as it drains or the soft mounds of bubbles left behind in the sink. They take their time washing, rinsing, and carefully drying their hands before wandering off to play. These children find pleasure in the task itself. They aren’t simply going through the motions.

Contemplating children and their varying outlooks on hand-washing made me stop to think about how I view the mundane chores of life. How often do I take pleasure in the moment, regardless of what I’m doing? Do I ever stop to delight in the act of washing dishes or clothing or children? Do I savor the moments I spend vacuuming or dusting or scrubbing toilets? Believe it or not, I do every once in a while. However, because I am very task-oriented I mostly fly through my days checking items off of my to-do lists. I cross off one item so that I can move on to the next. I get discouraged when I don’t accomplish all I had planned for the day, or I get frustrated when my children clamor for my attention while I’m trying to complete my household responsibilities. Perhaps reflecting on this will help me to slow down and treasure all of the moments of my day, especially those involving my children. I seem to enjoy mopping the floor so much more when my older daughter comes to ask me for something, but ends up sticking around to “help.” Getting the children to clean up their toys at the end of the day becomes fun when I take the time to turn it into a game. Focusing on the small tasks, and feeling a sense of accomplishment when I do get them done is so satisfying. I guess what I’m realizing is that finding joy in the mundane just makes life so much more enjoyable.


Sleep…Or a Lack Thereof

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My first child slept through the night within the first six weeks of life. We could feed her, swaddle her, put her in bed still awake, and the little angel would drift off to sleep for six to seven hours straight. That was just as a newborn. As she has grown older, once she falls asleep for the night, she is down for the count. It is magnificent. My husband and I had it all figured out, or so we thought. Then we had our second baby. I spent at least the first six months of her life sleeping in the armchair in her room, holding her. To put it mildly, she was (and still is) a light sleeper. I would watch her little eyes flutter closed. I would wait a good half hour, and then I would gently place her in her bed. Sometimes she would wake up and voice her displeasure at the indignity of being made to sleep in her crib instantly. Other times she would wait until I was across the house and settled snuggly in my own bed. Either way, I eventually gave up. I would kiss my husband good night and head off to my new armchair bed for the night. (Let me tell you, this was not a Lazy Boy either…this was just a plain old armchair without an ottoman that I laid across sideways.) I did finally figure out that if I positioned bed pillows correctly in her crib, I could trick her into believing she was still being held, at least for a few hours. And before any of you finish gasping about the dangers of putting pillows in a baby’s crib, let me say two things. One, the child came out of my womb holding her head up. I kid you not. She did this within minutes of being born. (That should have been my first clue that she would be “active” and “strong-willed.”) Second, and most importantly, desperate times call for desperate measures.

After two years, she still likes to visit with us in the middle of the night. She gives us two or three nights in a row of solid sleep, just to give us a bit of respite and trick us into believing that maybe, just maybe, she is going to settle into a normal sleep routine. Then, seemingly out of the blue, we hear her, not crying, but calling…“Mama? Maaa-maaa!” To give my youngest a bit of credit, she did go for about a month once of sleeping through the night. However, just when I began to feel like a real person again with coherent thoughts and a desire to look presentable, she started waking in the middle of the night. We have yet to determine why she wakes up. Sometimes she’s hungry, sometimes thirsty, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, lonely, bored, who knows??? She has been potty-trained since she was about 20-months-old, but she still sleeps in a diaper, so sometimes she wakes up if her diaper is wet. If she gets a cold, forget about sleep. If she cannot breathe easily through that tiny, adorable nose, she is not sleeping…no mouth breathing for my girl.

I know I am not alone in this. I constantly see Facebook posts from friends with young children going through the same sleepless struggle. And I do mean struggle. Having disrupted sleep every night is really tough. I look like a hag most days. I’m convinced that the day I show up to pick up my older daughter from preschool actually wearing make-up her teachers are going to ask for my I.D. before they let me take her. Two years of this is really taking a toll on me. I read a disconcerting article recently about sleep deprivation studies using rodents that found that these poor animals actually died when they were prevented from sleeping over a period of a few days. In case you are hoping I’ll cite a source for this study, you’re out of luck. I am just too tired to look for it right now.


Change of Address Cards

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After living in our new home for over two months, I finally mailed our change of address cards. I always print them myself, and generally I begin working on these as soon as I know what our new address will be. Then I mail them before we actually move. Apparently this is not normal because I have been ridiculed about it on a few occasions. Getting change of address cards out really early may not seem like a big deal, but when you move as often as I do, most moving tasks seem a little more urgent. For instance, we are usually completely out of boxes within a few days of arriving in our new home. When you are only going to be in a house for a couple of years, it’s best to get settled as soon as possible. Additionally, I’ve already begun to get requests for our new address, which gets old after about the 50th request. Maybe next time I’ll quit being so cheap and just order the cards rather than making them. Then I might have a chance of getting them out early.



1 Comment » |  Posted by |  Category:Moms

I had an interesting phone conversation with a good friend the other day. She has two small children, and recently quit her job (as a PhD working in the field of training educators) to stay home with her kids. She basically expressed that with all of her friends (and even two sisters) that are stay-at-home-moms, no one EVER mentioned how hard staying at home is. Her frustrations had to do, in particular, with the cleanliness of her house. She exclaimed, “I finally finished cleaning in one month what it took my housekeeper one week to do!” I reassured her that this was normal. She was particularly relieved because she has known me for most of my life, and she knows how much “attention to detail” I pay to cleaning my home. (This is a nice way of saying that I’m anal when it comes to cleaning.) Well, she knows how much attention to detail I USED to pay to the cleanliness of my home. Now that I have to clean in the midst of two small kids, not so much.  We laughed that while cleaning the toilet bowl can be done because it’s a quick task, scrubbing the tub can’t generally be completed without interruption. I have also found that the dusting of lower objects and shelves can be completed regularly if you can convince your preschooler that this is a fun task. This is why if you ever visit my house you will notice that the only objects that are dusted are shorter than about four feet. There are basic tasks that have to be completed for everyday living, such as preparing food, running and emptying the dishwasher, and washing clothes (notice I don’t include folding and putting them away), but by the time these are complete, there is often little time left for other tasks such as mopping the floors and ironing.

This whole conversation gave me a bit of validation. I know other stay-at-home moms feel the same way that my friend and I do. (I can only imagine that being a working mom without a cleaning service is even worse.) I think I just forget sometimes that other people are experiencing this same feeling of failure over what doesn’t get done during the day that I do. I have to work sometimes to remind myself that it is not so much about what I DON’T get done, but rather what I DO get done, both big and not so big. I brushed my teeth; more importantly, I brushed the kids’ teeth. I made my bed. I have fed the children and kept them alive and mostly happy. Also important, I’ve played with my children, enjoying this brief period of time when they are young and tender and actually want my attention. I’ve walked the dog and fed both he and the cat. I have written this blog! I think it is important for my own mental health to keep this perspective, focusing on the positive of what I have accomplished (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant) rather than focusing on the negative or what I have not accomplished for the day (you know, those illusive tasks such as showering).


How do I get my picky eater to eat?

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Every once in awhile I find a parent who does not admit to having trouble getting their preschool-aged children to eat. Usually their children are grown and have their own children, so I am not entirely certain that their memories are completely accurate. For the most part, though, every parent I know has at least one child who is a “picky eater.” I don’t know how much help I can be in getting your child to eat, but hopefully some of the strategies we use will be helpful to you. Because I taught preschool and Kindergarten before I had my own children, my husband and I formulated our plans regarding mealtime well before our first child arrived. I started by talking to the parents of the children I worked with who had healthy eating habits. I have picked up a few other ideas along the way from other moms and, admittedly, from signs in the pediatrician’s office.

 Here are some of the guidelines we use in our house for eating. Glean from the list what you want, ignore the rest.

1. We eat dinner together as a family (and we do not answer the phone during dinner).

Both my husband and I ate dinner every night with our families growing up, so this was important to us. It is one of the best ways to stay in touch with the whole family in this busy day and age. There has been more publicity about family meals in recent years because studies are showing that children who sit down and eat dinner with their families on a regular basis do better in school, are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, and have healthier eating habits. http://www.poweroffamilymeals.com/Mealtime_Matters/

 2. NO “kid food!”

This one is important to me because, well, I like to eat. I grew up in Louisiana, which basically means that our lives centered around good food…really good food. I’m not saying that we never eat macaroni and cheese or hot dogs or chicken nuggets, but we don’t eat them on a regular basis. We only eat them if my husband or I decide that one of those items sounds good. Take, for example, pizza. Pizza is considered by some to be a “kid food.” However, it just so happens that pizza is my favorite food, so we usually eat it for dinner once a week.

 3. Mama makes ONE meal.

This is a rule I learned from the mother of one of my students who ate anything you put on a plate in front of her. I asked her mother how she got her kids to eat everything, and she told me this rule. She also told me that if the kids didn’t like what was for dinner they could get a bowl of cereal. (They didn’t keep any sugary cereal in the house.) She said only twice did her kids ever opt for the cereal. They would even eat sushi.

 4. You must try one bite of everything on your plate.

If you try it and don’t like it, then you don’t have to eat any more of it…for the night. Sometimes my children will tell me they don’t like something, but when they try it, they are surprised to find it tastes good. Also, according to a sign from Gerber foods in the pediatrician’s office, it can take 10 to 15 tries of a new food before a person develops a taste for this food. (http://www.gerber.com/AllStages/Nutrition_And_Feeding/Trying_new_foods.aspx) This is why I keep making certain foods even when my children tell me they don’t like them. Two specific foods that we have had dramatically noticeable success with in our house are salmon and spinach salad. Also, it is very rare that a small child will choose to go hungry. They will generally eat at least one of the things you have made for dinner.

 5. You are not required to finish everything on your plate.

When you force your children to “clean their plates,” you are essentially teaching them to ignore the signals their bodies are sending. This can lead to obesity later in life (and even early in life). Here’s the thing, young children are excellent self-regulators when it comes to eating. You have probably already noticed that they go through fazes of eating a lot and then eating a little. (My kids follow this cycle when they go through growth spurts. They tend to sleep a lot after they go through a period of eating a lot.) HOWEVER, if your children refuse to eat much dinner, but then want a snack 30 minutes to an hour later, you may have to do a little more encouraging. I recommend letting your child know that if they are truly full, then they may be excused from the table. BUT if they are hungry again later, their unfinished meal will be waiting for them.

 6. Offer at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal.

This is a good way to make sure you and your kids are getting at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies every day. Offer them as snacks as well.

7. Your kids will be better about eating a variety of foods (read “vegetables”) if you are willing to try different foods.

This last rule is a tough one, but like most things in life, your children learn by example. You may be surprised by the things you now like. I didn’t grow up eating bell peppers because my father is allergic to them. I always thought I didn’t like them or only liked them cooked. I have since discovered that I really love peppers. My kids can’t get enough of them. They are now one of our favorite snacks. Keep in mind my earlier comment about trying things several times before developing a taste for them…this goes for you too.

 If you are having trouble getting your children to eat a variety of vegetables (or in some cases, any vegetables at all), try this trick I learned from another mom (who learned it from her daughter’s pediatrician). When you are making dinner in the evening and your children begin to circle the kitchen because they are hungry and can smell the dinner aromas, give them raw vegetables to eat. If they are young enough to still be in a high chair, strap them in and place a few raw veggies on their tray. If they are out of the high chair have them sit at the table with some raw veggies and ranch dressing or hummus for dipping. Also, frozen peas (or other smaller frozen veggies) feel great on teething gums. My mom told me she used to give us frozen veggies as a snack and for relief for sore gums when we were toddlers.

 This is just my two-cents on the matter of eating with small children. I hope you found something useful in all of my ramblings. I also have suggestions for dealing with low-blood sugar. I’ll save those comments for another post, though.



1 Comment » |  Posted by |  Category:Education

(I began writing this blog on Thursday, but my day got out of control before I could finish it. I have since finished and revised it. I’m still working on meeting my weekly goals. Maybe someday I’ll accomplish them…when the kitchen remodel is finished, painting the rest of the house is done, and the kids are a few years older. )

Thursday morning I had a rare moment of watching the news. If our television is on, it is generally tuned to whatever station is broadcasting the cartoon of choice. I was pretty tired, and the girls went to the playroom to play. I was zoned out watching Dora when it occurred to me that I could watch the news if I wanted…and no one would complain. I switched over to the Today Show (my favorite of the morning news shows). Just as I turned it on, the hosts were giving plugs for upcoming stories and announced they would be doing a segment on a new study from Notre Dame regarding the over-diagnosis of ADHD. I was hooked. I then started praying that the plumber wouldn’t show up or the kids wouldn’t need me until the segment came on. I am always interested in any new research on young children, particularly when it relates to educational matters.
Well, my prayers were answered. I was able to watch the segment undisturbed. This new study affirms something I have always suspected: people (more specifically doctors, often at the insistence of parents) are diagnosing normal, healthy, active young children with ADHD incorrectly. Here is my diagnosis of the problem. Adults have inappropriately adjusted their expectations of children. Young children are active. Period. How many times have you said, “Imagine what I could do if only I had half of my kids’ energy.” Why do we expect really young children to be able to sit in a classroom and pay attention for long periods of time without taking breaks to move around some? As I said in my blog about finding a preschool, young children learn best through play.
I think most adults have skewed memories of their early childhood experiences. Kindergarten was originally the year before formal schooling began, where young children learned social skills. Formal schooling now begins in Kindergarten, and socialization is not emphasized as much because there is no time for it. Adults now expect young children to instinctively know how to adjust and behave in a school setting, and they have greater academic expectations of these children. How is a five-year-old who has never been in a school environment and has no books in her home supposed to learn to interact appropriately with other children at school AND learn to read in a nine month period of time?
Adding insult to injury, many schools have now taken away recess to make more time for academics. In this day and age, many children do not have the opportunity to run, play, and explore outdoors at home like children did when I was growing up. This phenomenon has many causes, including safety, busy schedules (sports and extra-curricular activities that eat up most of your free time), lack of outdoor space, the lure of television and technology, and, sadly, parental laziness (something I am guilty of at times). Even adults have trouble focusing when they have too much energy pent up inside. Try to imagine what this is like for young children who have infinitely more energy than we do.
This study points out that boys are more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis of ADHD. I taught five girls and TEN boys in my first year teaching Kindergarten. I had a great time, but I had to adjust my tactics to keep their attention. If you are the parent of both boys and girls, you may have noticed that young boys are often engaged in more active play than girls. I am not saying that girls are not active or don’t chose to get involved in more rowdy types of play. (Believe me, I have two older brothers. I loved playing and rough-housing with my brothers, and I could usually hold my own with them.) What I am saying is that after a few years of teaching, watching my friends and their children, and having my own children, I have observed that boys tend to chose more lively activities (such as wrestling or jumping off of the roof of the house.)

Finally, one of the main discoveries of this study was that the younger children in a classroom are a lot more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. This seems sadly obvious to me. If you have people wrongly diagnosing children with this disorder, it is probably because they are failing to recognize normal activity levels and attention spans in young children. Here is something to keep in mind, children develop in different areas (cognitive, social-emotional, large motor, small motor, etc.) at different rates. Developmentally speaking, children tend to level out by age eight (or around third grade). Here’s my advice. If you are truly concerned that something is wrong with your child, talk to your doctor (while keeping in mind that really young children are very active). If your child is doing well academically speaking in school, it may be that they are causing trouble due to boredom. If they are struggling in school, be sure to research all of the possible causes. Treatment generally goes better when you get an early diagnosis of many disorders and learning disabilities. I have a few friends who were diagnosed with ADD (or ADHD in one case) while in high school and college. They have told me that getting treated made a huge difference in their ability to focus while at school. However, ADD and ADHD in young children are really tricky to diagnose, so you may want to give your child time to mature a little before choosing to medicate your child.

Here is the link to the article from the TODAY Show.

NOTE: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. The above statements are expressly my opinion. Please talk to your doctor, or even several doctors, before you make any decisions about treating or not treating your child for ADD, ADHD, or any disease or disorder.



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My goal is to blog five days a week. As you can see from the number of days between posts, I am not currently meeting that goal. I guess that’s why it’s called a goal and not a requirement. I am sincerely apologetic for my deficiency; I hate to disappoint (all four of my followers). I do have a couple of excuses for failing to meet my goal. Whether they are good excuses or just excuses remains to be seen.

On a positive note, excuse#1, the kitchen, will theoretically be done today. By that, I mean the part that the contractors are doing. We still have just a few things to do: finish painting, clean the floors and cabinets, line the cabinet shelves, put doors on the pantry and half bath, install the new sink, toilet, and towel bars in the half bath, oh, and put everything back into the kitchen. I really cannot complain at all. The contractors will have our kitchen gutted and renovated in two weeks time total. Strangely, I have not been able to write more despite the fact that I have been trapped in my house just about every day for the past two weeks.

My second excuse is not much of an excuse. My mother-in-law was visiting for five days. The reason I include it in my lame list of excuses is because sometimes I feel guilty about being on the computer too much when we have out-of-town guests. The reason her visit is not a good excuse is that she is a HUGE help. She did laundry, ironed clothes (a chore I despise doing), washed dishes in our laundry room utility sink, helped clean up the six inches of construction dust that has accumulated on everything in the house, and kept the kids entertained. She was such a blessing to have here that you can see why my second excuse is a little dodgy.

Hopefully, I can get back on track with my goal on blogging. The good thing about having taken a bit of a break is that I now have several more blog topics in mind.


Road Trip!!!

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While this topic would probably have been more helpful earlier in the summer, I only just recently started blogging, so you are getting it now…right before school starts. However, if you are taking a last minute trip before the beginning of the school year OR if you are moving, I guess now is a good time. When we move, I put a good deal of time and effort into planning for our time in the car. On our most recent move  I somehow tricked my husband into travelling to our new home with both of the kids, the dog, AND the cat in the car with him. I, on the other hand, drove blissfully by myself. (Please see earlier post entitled ALONE.) Because I love my husband and would like to stay married to him, I made plenty of preparations for the car. Fortunately, the kids (and animals) were well-behaved the entire trip. Unfortunately, what should have been a seven to eight hour trip turned into a twelve plus hour trip because of New England traffic jams and sneaky exits that don’t have re-entry ramps. At least the children weren’t the cause of his stress…this time.

Before I begin telling you how I plan for sanity while travelling in the car with small children, I must tell you that we are one of those “weird families” who actually chose not to have a DVD player in our new car. Despite one or two rough car trips, our kids are generally great travelers. When purchasing our new car we decided that the kids would see more and experience more without watching movies while we drive. That being said, I won’t judge you for having a DVD player in your car if you won’t judge me for not having one.

On to the entertainment!…for the kids, that is. The first time I prepared for a move with the kids was a doozy. We were driving 24 hours (not including the vast amount of time it takes for pit-stops) with a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. I started by searching the internet to find various ideas. The best site I have found is http://www.momsminivan.com. This is a very comprehensive site. Some of the other sites I found include http://www.activitiesforkids.com/travel/travel_hints.htm  and http://travelwithkids.about.com/cs/carplanetips/a/amusekids.htm. There are more sites and ideas out there, but these are a good place to start. I had to search a few sites because planning for really small children is a lot different from planning for school-aged, who are easier to plan fun car activities for. (Let me tell you, trying to plan fun things for a one-year-old is really tricky. The one saving grace was that I knew I could count on car naps, so I didn’t have to plan as much for the one-year-old as I did for the 3-year-old.) I mostly stuck with easy crafts like crayons and paper, lacing beads, and pipe cleaners. My kids also enjoy sticker books, and, believe it or not, they still make Colorforms! My kids LOVE these. New books and small toys are a big hit as well. Also, my mother-in-law bought Taby Trays for the kids’ car seats, which makes coloring, activities, and snacking easier. (You can find them at http://www.onestepahead.com.) We try not to accumulate too much kid gear, but these have been great to have.

While activities to keep the kids entertained are important, good snacks are essential. Seriously. I spend almost as much time planning snacks as I do activities. Good car snacks are snacks that are not sticky and don’t stink or melt when your kids drop them in the cracks of the seats. Fruit snacks are great; fruit roll-ups are not so great…as is anything made with chocolate. Snack packs of crackers and cookies are also good. If you are hoping to give your kids fruits or veggies while driving, take my advice (based on experience), save these for when you are stopped and can wipe the kids down…or keep them from choking on the chunks of carrots they didn’t chew into small enough pieces.

Once I have bought or gathered all of the activities, toys, books, and crafts I am planning on bringing, I wrap them all up like presents with whatever spare wrapping paper I have lying around. I have some way of distinguishing which “presents” are for which child, such as different paper or writing an initial on the paper. I put them all together in a container in the front seat where I can reach them…right next to the snacks. Then, every so often throughout the trip they get to open up a new present. This keeps them from getting too bored and whining incessantly. Well, usually.

I hope some of these tips help. Let me know if you have any others!