We live far from our families – eleven hours to be specific. Each year, we try to make at least one trip “home”. We pack everything in the family van and begin the journey.
What should take eleven hours, easily could take us fifteen or sixteen hours with all the potty breaks and food stops. Ugh.
A friend gave me an idea that I adapted a little. I was surprised how well it worked and how much my children have looked forward to it when we have a long drive planned.
Create a paper chain like those that children use to decorate a Christmas tree. Make one link for each half hour of the trip. Do not account for the stops. For our trip, I use 22 links.
Every half hour, one of the kids gets to tear a link off the chain. We set the order ahead of time to avoid arguments (youngest to oldest, etc.).
When we make a stop, we check the clock to see how much time is remaining until the next link is removed. When we start driving again, we note the time for the next link.
Each half hour of our trip a link is removed until the last link is broken and we arrive at our destination.
The chain provides a real, concrete visual example of time to children and actually prevents the age old question, “How much longer until we get there?”
Yes, occasionally they will ask how much longer it is until they can tear off the next link (this usually happens when you start out), but we didn’t find that to be the case very often.
Actually, it became a great way to practice their time-telling skills. We might say, “Okay, it’s 3:35, so the next link gets torn off at 4:05!” It’s amazing how much they enjoy watching the clock.
Another fun aspect of this happens if they fall asleep or are watching a video. When they are ready to jump back into the link game and notice the time, often several links can come off at the same time!
It becomes very exciting to watch the link chain get smaller and smaller, and the excitement really escalates when the chain gets to three, then two, and finally ONE!!!
It has made our long journeys so much more enjoyable for the entire family.