Travelling anywhere by any means with young children can be a challenge. These tips are intended to support you when travelling mostly on a bus or by train with young children.
- Boredom. Try to understand how boring the trip may be for your child. How can you make it less boring? You may feel you are also bored and that is just the way it is, but try telling your young child that and see how far you get.
- Distraction. Try to have lots of things in your bag that you can use to distract your child. Maybe have something like a doodle board that they only get when on the bus. You will be surprised how many small toys and gadgets you can take in your bag.
- Feed them. Often children can be hungry and thirsty when travelling. Maybe you were rushing to leave the house and they didn’t get to eat. Have simple snacks with you or a little lunch box with some small bites in it. Try to steer clear of anything that will be messy or that spills easily. You may also not want your child soiled when you are getting off the bus so think clean food – raisins, apples, grapes, plain biscuit, water etc.
- Engage with your child. It can be easy to sit on the bus and try to think and plan what you need to do while out. It is very hard for young children to have a parent with them who is really not present to them. Try to play games and talk with your child. ‘I spy’ can be a lot of fun. Read short stories and talk with them about what they see around them. Children generally enjoy adults engaging with them. If you are keeping them in the buggie try to position it in such a way that they can see other people. They may be amused watching others also.
- Plan ahead. Before going on the trip make sure you have a solid plan of action. Talk with your child about where you are going, acknowledge it is not ideal but that you need them to cooperate with you. Build something into the trip which they will enjoy E.g. Stopping at the park to feed the ducks, playing on the swings, or some other special reward for cooperating. Let them know that you understand it is hard for them and ask them to bring something with them for amusement. If possible, try to plan a trip when your child is due to nap.
- Involvement. Find ways to involve your child in the trip. Maybe they need some new paints or nappies. Talk with them about that being why they are coming. Give them a little responsibility around this task. Make a big deal of getting whatever it is. Children love things to be playful. Make it fun as much as you can. It can be fun if you just talk with them and get excited about the outing.
- Your mood. If you are tired or hungry when the trip is due to happen you can be sure it will not go well. IT is important that you plan for yourself too. Take a snack with you if you can’t eat before leaving. Try not to plan trips when you are tired or children are sick.
- Keep trips as short as you can. Stopping endlessly to talk with people while keeping children confined to their buggie is usually not good. Be conscious of your child’s needs. Try every hour to let them out of the buggie for a run around.
- Praise. Tell your child during the trip how much you appreciate them coming with you and thank them for cooperating. Acknowledge it is hard, but that they are doing well. Remind them of their reward. Sometimes we take children for granted. We expect that they should just cooperate; this should not be the case.
- When you’re done, thank your child again. Even if parts of the trip were hard, tell them about the parts they did well on. Focusing on what went wrong will not achieve anything. This is for you to think about later and to plan again for the next trip. Is there anything you can do differently? Before the next trip talk with your child again. Trust that they want to do well. Give them the reward and encourage them to work hard the next time, but support them in this.
This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
LIVE Facebook Q&A on this topic with Geraldine, 23 March from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook page. Join in and post your questions.
Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to Keep Your Child Safe When Out And About.
Coming up next week: 10 Ways to Support Your Children Through Times Of Change.
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