Forever burned in our families’ hearts is our magical moment last summer when, in June, we were able to drive with extended family up Angel Mountain in Nevada. Halfway up, we frolicked in the new spring flowers, then further up the mountain we found a lake that was still partially frozen and surrounded by white fluffy snow, perfect for romping and angel making and snowball flinging. It wasn’t planned per se. We knew one of our “wish list activities” was to play in the snow (since we live in Florida), so we were looking for places that might offer the opportunity, and we had the gear packed and ready for some cold play. Amazingly, we were able to find this perfect place to take care of several of our “wish list” activities, and we were flexible enough to take an extra 2 hours to get to our next destination. Now, we have some amazing pictures and stories to tell about the time our family spent on Angel Mountain !
For me, road trips are magical. Thing is… like all magic, it takes a bit of mental effort, the right attitude, and in many cases, good preparation, especially when children are involved. To start, it is important to recognize, and act on, the opportunity to create good family interactions that create strong bonds and lasting memories. Otherwise, there may not be enough magic to create either. Our family has experienced these disappointing family trips as well… when we return from a trip having done a lot, but not feeling connected. Generally these memories don’t last, or are attached to less than happy emotions. Mistakes are made, but it sometimes moves us to learn new strategies for success. I’ve narrowed my list of strategies to fit into the following categories:
- Creating the magic of Anticipation
- Includes planning, preparation to set things up for success, and getting everyone involved and invested in the plan
- Why? Setting up mental images promotes enthusiasm and anticipation which helps make magic in all aspects of the adventure. Children also benefit from learning to plan.
- Creating the magic of Spontaneity
- Includes the mental focus on what is most important, an attitude of flexibility, and being prepared for the unexpected
- Why? Plans sometimes get changed, new opportunities arise that offer more than could be planned for. Children benefit from learning to adapt to change.
- Creating the magic of Conversation
- Includes the mental focus of enjoying each other’s observations and thoughts, and keeping an eye out for ways to spark this conversation.
- Why? Strong family bonds are created as we get to know each other better, and laugh together, in a way that we don’t typically have time for at home.
- Creating the magic of Fun Family Interactions
- Includes a variety of road trip games that are best enjoyed playing together
- Why? MULTITUDES of social, emotional, and cognitive benefits !!!
- Creating the magic of On the Road Moodling
- Includes a variety of ideas for independent enjoyment
- Why? The brain and the body benefit from non-structured independent time, and can be an effective lead in to nap time.
- Creating the magic of Lasting Memories
- Includes pictures, journaling, artwork, and storytelling
- Why? Lasting family memories help children know they have a safe and stable place in this world, and recognize how important each person is to the whole family.
There were so many ideas, and examples for each strategy, it seemed worthy to present them as separate articles. As I add them to my website, I will link to them here. Stay tuned via a subscription to receive emails when a new article is posted on this website, and help us expand a bit on each of these strategies through your comments. I am only one person, and I know every child and family is different, so the more ideas, the better chance we have at inspiring families to try these interactive activities On the Road !
It may quickly become evident that watching movies or playing electronic games is not part of any of these. For many families, this is already a part of their road trip routine. Watching movies definitely has its place, and when used sparingly, it can create magic when watched together. AND, it can really help a driver going through crazy downtown traffic, or a ferocious Florida rainstorm, to have the backseat passengers plugged in and in their own zone (headphones required). But, if over-used, constant media just distracts from quality interactive family magic. In your heart, you already know this.
All these strategies lead to the same goal, filling a child’s heart and mind with experiences and emotions that help them build a picture of this big wide world, to feel secure that they have a place in this world, and that every person and every place has much to respect and enjoy.
Join me on this journey as we explore these strategies !
Please start by sharing a favorite family story about a road trip you have taken, good… or bad…