10 Things You Must Know When Traveling with Children

Children and traveling

Traveling with Kids? Be Prepared!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

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Getting ready to go to Grandma’s for the holidays?  Heading out for a long car ride? Plane ride? Don’t stress. Just be prepared.

It’s amazing that our parents were able to take us on trips without a zillion electronic gadgets.  No Ipods, DVD players, hand held games, or cell phones. Well, it’s a new world.  We need to make sure that everyone is occupied if it’s going to be a pleasant trip.

Whether you’re taking a GrandVacation with the grandparents or simply going on a long car ride to visit Aunt Patti in Mobile, be prepared with:

(1) Location games to play: I-spy, Padiddle (pointing out a car with one headlight), counting games, the alphabet game (saying destinations by going through the alphabet, A my name is Alice…), looking for specific letters on license plates, locating one car from every states.  The number of games is endless.  Brainstorm these games in advance so you’re not trying to remember them while on the road.

(2) Communication games to play: The car is one of the best places to talk to your children and teens.  The side by side nature of travel makes talking less uncomfortable.  You can simply tell stories and ask questions but you can also play games that inspire communication like  Finish the sentence (If I had a million dollars I would…) and Everyone answers (Name one thing that made you laugh today, name one thing you’re worried about).

(3) Sleepy, bored campers must be comfortable: Have someone who gets sick in the car? Tired on planes? Make sure they have a comfy blanket, pillow, and their favorite stuffed toy, if they need it.  Go over exactly what needs to be packed and make sure the children check everything off before they leave. This is a great time for children to learn how to pack their own suitcase (even if you look everything over) for the trip. We want them to have what they need! Fussy, crabby, sleep-deprived teens or children are not fun to be around!  Even if it’s something extra for them to carry (get portable sizes), be sure they have what they need to sleep it off. Other things to pack in your carry on bag here.

(4) Songs to Sing: Many children love to sing in the car. You might think that you can go with the old standbys like 99 bottles but after you get about 4 measures in you’ll see that it wasn’t the best choice.  Be prepared with short songs that your children like to sing like “wheels on the bus,” “It’s a hard knock life,” “The Circle Game,” or “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  You can even print out the words so that one of the adults can lead the singing and actually know the words that are supposed to be sung.

(5) Mechanical back-up: If you’re going to be in the car, trailer, or plane for over8-10 hours, you may want to have a portable DVD player available as a reward for children who’ve been sitting still all day.  Get a movie that all your children can enjoy.  You can give them earphones so that they can listen while you get some moments of peace and quiet.  You can also bring along Ipods, hand held games, and leap frog systems.  Make sure that you don’t bring loud games.  They’ll drive you crazy.

(6) Snacks! Troops get hungry: Make sure you have healthy snacks like carrot sticks, celery sticks, orange segments, and raisins ready to go.  You can also bring along other snacks like crackers, cookies, and fruit roll-ups.  Also ensure that you have juice boxes and water. No trip is fun when people are hungry or thirsty.

(7) Wipes! People get messy: Children who eat in the car or on the plane get messy.  Bring along wipes. tissues, and a sense of humor.

(8) Maps to know where you’re heading: Make sure your children know where you’re going and what you’ll be doing so that they get excited and mentally prepared. You also need maps to ensure that you know where you’re going, the locations of favorite kid friendly restaurants, sites you might want to see, and places where you can meet friends who you haven’t seen in a long time.  Stops give the children and teens time to stretch their legs and break up the day if you’re driving int he car.  If you’re flying, maps are fun ways to learn about the places where you’re going as well as the places you’re flying over!

(9) Labels so things don’t get lost: Make sure that you label your suitcases well.  Everyone has a black suitcase, so if you have the option, get another color.  Label special toys and blankets so that if they get lost there is a chance they’ll come back to you.

(10) Stranger danger and ground rules: We don’t want our children and teens to be frightened when we go away but we do want them to be smart.  Go over what you expect and talk to them about staying safe while in an airport, rest stop, or other place away from home.  Call a family meeting and talk about the different rules we need to follow, buddy systems you need to have, and things to expect.  Getting it all out in the open before you leave with ease the way for everyone.

In the end, it’s just important to have a good time– so leave the stress at home and enjoy! It’s time to make memories!

Happy Holidays everyone!

NOTE: Would you please vote for Dr. Robyn’s Blog for best Parenting Blog?  It only takes a moment! Thank you!!!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


The Complaint Department Called: They Want Their Grumpy Pants Back

Ear Pollution is Toxic!
Ear Pollution is Toxic!

Please stop complaining: You’re Polluting My Ears!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I just got back from Martha’s Vineyard— one of my favorite places in the world. It’s so relaxing– we saw friends, read, and enjoyed the stunning weather characteristic of Massachusetts this time of year. It’s amazing how happy people seem over there. So many smiles! Such generosity of spirit! We ate at some great restaurants, got ice-cream from an amazing place in Oaks Bluff (who can keep their smile from showing up when eating ice-cream!) and drove by where my husband and I got engaged almost 9 years ago.We spent time with friends, had a picnic of great food including chicken cacciatore (with a secret ingredient the host gave me!) and took pictures of some beautiful cliffs at the end of the island.

It was a beautiful day!  Look at these amazing cliffs!

It was a beautiful day! Look at these amazing cliffs!

We even saw the most amazing summer fireworks I’ve ever seen with a few thousand other people. Wow! We sat out on the grass in the “camp-grounds” looking up at the night sky while we “oohed and ahhed” at the spectacular show.

And then, we got on the ferry– a beautiful 45 minute trip back to the mainland of Massachusetts– and BAM! Whining. Complaining. Hundreds of people changed into their Grumpy Pants. I’m not a fan of grumpy pants (not that I’m complaining).

On the Ferry! Can't complain!  Or...can you?

On the Ferry! Can't complain...or can you???

After spending the month thinking about generosity, I was struck by the sheer amount of complaints I heard on the trip home. Were these people in the same place I was? They complained about having to wait, complained about being rushed, complained about having to take a bus, complained about having to take a ferry, complained about being cold, hot, smooshed, or hungry. It was toxic– and I just wanted to get away from it. My goodness! Have you been around people like this? It can’t be good for mental health to be so negative.

My Mom taught me when I was young that nobody wants to hang around the “complaint department.” Moms have a way of saying things just so, right? But it’s true. I remember reading something– or maybe I saw it on the news– about this church that started a no complain rule with “no complaining” bracelets and everything! The aim was to stop “ear pollution.” Yes, I like that too.

Not only do we need to teach our children (and adults) that complaining all the time repels people from wanting to be around you, but that having a generous spirit in which you smile, say thank-you, and notice the good things in life attracts people to you– and inevitably, bring more good things.

A recent study found that teen girls who vented to each other about their problems, from boy problems to social slights, were more likely to develop anxiety and depression— and the same is likely true for adult women. (–Amanda Rose, author of complaint study)

What does constant complaining do?

  1. It annoys other people and can make them do unsavory things
  2. It makes people more negative
  3. It opens the flood gates to more complaining
  4. It repels happy people
  5. It allows negativity to become the focus of what you think about
  6. It makes even good things look bad
  7. It makes people less happy, healthy, and successful (see happiness research, Marty Seligman)
  8. It makes people less grateful
  9. It makes people tune you out
  10. It drowns out all the positive things you say

Think of the 3 closest people to you– think of yourself– do you show a generous spirit? Do you give of yourself with intention? Do you or those who are close to you smile a lot? Complain a lot?

There’s this fabulous woman, Debbie, who is a wonderful friend of mine and also an amazing coach. She’s like a warm blanket. People flock to her. Everyone just wants to hug her. Know anyone like that? She lives on Martha’s Vineyard and I just got to spend some time with her. You won’t catch her griping or “kvetching” as my grandmother (“Ma”) would say. But it’s more than that– she gives with intention– so much so– that it’s become natural, everyday, and well, unintentional. She smiles and embraces you– and you feel it, even over the phone.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Colleen O’Donnell, the author of “Generous Kids” and doing a half hour interview with her. She, too, talks about the importance of giving with intention– easy ways for the family to show generosity– that don’t take much time, talent, or money– but make a big difference. Here’s a quick clip

Being generous makes us feel good– and makes others feel good. So as we leave this month in which we have focused on generosity, I hope we can keep the generous spirit alive. Do we want giving to become a habit– or do we want complaining to become a habit? Both are possible.

I know lots of children are going back to school over in this part of the world and summer’s coming to a close. We might be putting our shorts and tanks away–but can we leave the grumpy pants in the closet? They’re really out of style.


Two Minutes to gripe: Every notice that there’s just too much complaining around you? Tell us about it.

Two minutes to praise: Have any people in your life that are like warm blankets? Sing their praises!



Have a Powerful Day!

Family Vacation: 7 Things You Must Pack in Your Bag O’ Sanity

Traveling with Young Children?

What parents should pack in their carry on bag on the next vacation trip

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. Whether it was our own child or someone else’s, we’ve all been confined in a plane, train, or automobile with a child who just never settled down or with parents who were dangling on their last shred of sanity and the prognosis didn’t look good.

Today, the New York Times was talking about being prepared when you visit someone else’s house with children– which reminded me of an incident that my husband and I will never forget when we were traveling. Not too long ago, after a conference where we presented in front of a large group of educators, my husband and I got onto a plane and realized that we were sat across the aisle from one another —me, next to a set of grandparents and a young baby, and my husband, next to an already wound-up mother and her very energetic 2 year old daughter.

During the flight, the frazzled mother tried to keep her child from launching herself over the plane seats as she jumped up and down, threw off her socks and shoes, and yelled “I want that!” with a voice that carried clearly throughout the plane. The father, who was at best, useless, was sitting with his two sons behind my husband, the mother, and the hyper child. Hearing the ruckus but not wanting to take any responsibility for it, he rustled his newspaper and passed his wife a family-size box of Oreos saying “here, maybe these will keep her quiet.”

I know. Those parents who prepare meticulously for long trips are likely cringing right now. Oreos? Don’t give that girl any more sugar! Perhaps needless to say but for pure entertainment, the toddler ate half the box and then proceeded to lick the remaining Oreos and stick them on her mother’s face. All the while, she was yelling—loudly—to anyone who would listen.

What was wrong with that child? Many of you are probably shouting “too much sugar!” while others are shouting “not enough discipline!” But what was perfectly clear was that the child was bored and the parents were dreadfully unprepared. Long trips necessitate planning. Why? Because the longer the trip, the more likely you will face messy delays, confined spaces, and hungry faces. We remember to pack our scuba gear and our underwear but we may overlook some of the most important items that can make things much easier…for everyone involved.

So, what should you pack in your bag-o-sanity? After some research, I’ve found that the items fall into 7 categories: Digestibles, Toys, Clothes, Necessities, Books, Cleaning agents, and other things that could only fit into a category unto itself “Genius Miscellaneous.”

  1. Digestibles: Leave the sugar at home. Granola bars, clementines, bananas, cheerios, animal crackers, juice and water are great choices. To keep the sugar factor down further, mix the water and the juice together to dilute the potency. These foods are all easy to handle and drinks can be easy too if you remember to bring your child’s sippy cup.
  2. Toys/Entertainment: Think compact. Toys should not take up that much room in your “bag o’ sanity.” Nesting cups, legos that snap together, children’s playing cards, small dolls with layers of clothes can occupy a child’s imagination for a significant portion of your trip. Even paper and crayons can go a very long way. Packing some toys or games that the child has never seen before or hasn’t seen in a while can keep a child’s attention for even longer. Of course, if you have a portable DVD player, you can ask your child which movie s/he would like to pack, and view it when all else has failed.
  3. Clothes: Comfort is dependant upon being warm, clean and dry. Putting your child in his “feety” pajamas (if they don’t mind their feet being covered) before the trip can ensure a comfortable trip and may even encourage sleep along the way. An extra change of clothes is invaluable because it can be used for additional layers as well as your first course of action if a spill occurs. Of course, you want these clothes to be easily accessible so that you don’t need to go into the overhead bin or the trunk of the car to retrieve them. This goes double for extra diapers. Time is of the essence when trying to keep a child from crying, screaming or yelling during a vacation trip!
  4. Necessities: All the comfort of home. Don’t forget to pack small packets of tissues, antiseptic hand gel, hand cream, band-aids, and Tylenol (for you and for your child). In addition, if you are used to using pacifiers with your child, make sure that you bring at least 2 or 3 on your trip in case one gets lost. Beside soothing a child, a pacifier or other toys to suck on can be helpful when ears get clogged during the altitude changes. For older child, gum can work just as well. Bring Zip-lock baggies or small trash bags for dirty clothes, dirty diapers or left over food. Your child’s favorite lightweight blanket may seem like an extravagance but to a tired or sick child who regards his blanket as his buddy, it is a necessity.
  5. Books: If your child is old enough, have him choose which book(s) he wants to bring. Books are a great way to keep a child calm and focused because it is an intimate and often “snuggly” activity. Books on tape can also work if you are juggling more than one child at a time. The great thing about books is that they can be read more than once—and you are almost guaranteed that you will know the text word for word by the end of the trip. It ain’t Shakespeare but it can be a far more productive skill to be able to quote “Elmo goes to the Circus,” at a moment’s notice, don’t you think?
  6. Cleaning agents: Oh, the magic of wet wipes. No parent should be without them—especially on a trip when you are confined with your child for hours at a time. There are bound to be spills, dirty faces, stained clothes, and filthy surfaces to wipe down. Of course, if you have a baby, I am sure you can think of some other uses.
  7. Genius Miscellaneous: This is really the magic of being a prepared parent. Feel like we have already covered the basics? Just wait. For parents who have a baby and need to heat up milk on a plane, just ask for a cup of hot water and place it in the thermos you remembered to bring. The bottle can easily be placed in the thermos and heat to the temperature that you desire. It is also advisable to pack bottles with disposable bags so that you do not need to worry about washing the bottle out during the trip. If your baby or toddler is in a carry car seat, you know that you must keep the handle down during travel. Pack some Velcro and hang a bunch of toys on the seat in front of the child and behind the child. You can even connect the toys from one seat to the next and make a make-shift mobile. Plastic cups can also be useful for small finger foods like cheerios so that you don’t have the urge to vacuum the floor once you have arrived at your destination.

One last thing that can make all the difference; an extra set of hands. Grandparents can be an exceptional distraction for children and a godsend for parents who need a break. If you are a single parent or do not have the kind of parents you would like to include on your vacation, bring a friend. While this may mean “extra baggage” on your trip, when one child needs to go to the bathroom and the other one is in a deep sleep, an extra set of hands can be worth its weight in gold. After all, you deserve a vacation too!

Have a wonderful weekend!

A “Grand” Vacation: Can Children Travel with their Grandparents?


Vacationing with Grandpa and Grandma

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Need a vacation after your vacation with your kids? Perhaps you should take your next vacation at home!

One of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry is called “grandtravel,” meaning, vacations your children take with their grandparents.

As a Child Development Specialist, I am a huge fan of quality time with the grandparents. Research has shown that infants whose grandparents had great family contact earn higher social development scores than those infants who did not have a lot of contact with grandparents. Research also suggests that children feel a unique sense of acceptance in their relationships with grandparents, which benefits them both emotionally and mentally. Grandparents can be a great support during familial disruptions and help to keep routines going. They can also be role models, mentors, historians, supporters, and voices of reason.

Yes, we are talking a lot about self reliance this month—but we don’t have to do it all ourselves all the time! Parents can get so used to relying on themselves, that grandtravel might not be in the forefront of their minds. But the news is showing that the roles of grandparents are changing due to parental age, divorce, and second marriages. So perhaps we can say that capturing intergenerational time is more important than ever.

Grandtravel allows grandparents and grandchildren can gain some quality time together while getting to know each other better outside of time spent with parent. They can also build wonderful memories—memories that are important to build while children and grandparents are young since grandparents may not always be around or able to enjoy special get-a-ways. And of course, parents are able to relax and reconnect while knowing that their children are having fun with people who they know and trust.

Already packing your children’s bags? Here are some tips:

(1) Pick a place where everyone will be happy: Cruises are very popular for grandtravel because they supply everyone with things to do and places to relax. Look for vacations that have activities everyone can do together as well as activities that are just for kids which allow grandparents to take a much needed break and recharge. Here are some other”grand” ideas.

(2) Know the children’s abilities and interests: Can the children swim well? Do they like to explore? Bike? Get on rollercoasters? Factoring in this information will lead to everyone’s happiness.

(3) Let the adults talk it out: Grandparents should talk to their kids first before getting the grandkids all excited about a trip that hasn’t yet been approved. By the same token, parents should talk to their kids about the idea of taking a trip without their parents to gage their readiness.

(4) Have a trial vacation: Don’t make a long vacation be the first time your child spends an overnight with grandma and grandpa. Plan a sleep over or a special weekend with the grandparents and see how the kids do.

(5) Talk out the rules: While grandma and grandpa are typically more lenient that parents, some rules need to stick. Which ones are really important? On the other hand, parents will need to relinquish some control and put their faith in the people who did a pretty good job raising you. Sometimes pancakes for dinner has got to be OK.

In the end, it’s about fun, making memories, and nurturing relationships. We have such a short window to enjoy children when they’re young and grandparents before they’d rather not travel at all. If you have the opportunity, why not give it a try?

Happy Vacationing!