By Christina VanGinkel
Well, my grandson is off to work with his parents once again. His dad travels for work, and until my grandson is older, he and my daughter often travel along with him. Working about an eight hour drive away (The eight hours includes very frequent stops to stretch and have meals), they headed off early this morning. They want to be to the work site early enough tonight to be checked into their hotel and for my grandson to have his nighttime ritual of a walk, a bath, and a few books. Traveling often as they do, I asked my daughter if it is hard to keep a two year old occupied in the vehicle for such long lengths of time. I know we have purchased him things throughout the months that we felt would be easy for him to use from his car seat, which would actually occupy his time longer than five minutes at a time. Surprisingly, she said that some of the simplest things keep him absorbed, his magnetic drawing board that we bought him, and a few crayons with a color book or even just a blank notebook. If he can scribble, he is happy. He also likes to 'read' his books, paging through picture book after picture book, which are the same ones they read together frequently. He has started 'telling' himself the stories, and she said it is occupying for her to sit and listen to his versions of the books.
He also loves to talk and reenact different things he has recently learned. They took him to a racetrack several weeks ago, and he has since perfected the sound the cars at the racetrack made, complete with all the shifting noises. She only has to ask him what the cars at the race sounded like and he will go into a fifteen-minute soundtrack. She said it is work sometimes to keep him occupied, but not often. They always try to leave early enough on whatever day they are traveling, so that he will sleep a bit in his car seat. With lots of stops to stretch and bathroom breaks galore, (He is only twenty-five months old, but already without a diaper) they would surely not want to do this every day, but she said they do manage.
As a mother who disliked traveling twenty minutes to the local shopping center when my kids were small, I give her a lot of credit for being able to travel so often, and keep him occupied. When I asked her if there was anything else they did to keep him occupied, she replied that she always has a few small items that are new to him. These could be toys that she picked up at the local dollar store, or a toy that came in a kid's meal that he played with all of five minutes, and she then put away for the next time she knew they would be stuck in the car. Mainly though, she said they keep him occupied by interacting with him, taking turns sitting in the back seat with him, carrying on conversations, reading together in the car, and stopping at waysides along the way for him to run around in the grass and just stretch.