Chances are, if you're a parent, you probably feel like me about traveling with your young children. My kids are school-age now, and for the most part can keep it together when it comes to traveling, but long trips take their toll on everyone, and as a mom I am constantly trying to find ways to mitigate and prevent the traveling meltdowns.
Recently this summer, my kids and I took a trip to Tennessee to visit relatives. This meant a hotel stay, a 4 AM wakeup time, two plane rides and an hour-and-a-half layover before we reached out destination.
I'll also take a moment to say I was doing this by myself, as my husband had to stay home and work.
That's right. I was single-momming it on this adventure.
I am mindful about how much screen time my kids get. Countless studies have been published on the developmental damage excessive screen-time does to kids, but quite frankly, my reasoning is simple - once my kids get plugged in, they get crabby, snippy, rude and overall obnoxious to deal with. Something about the stimulus and trying to reconcile whatever is going on around them with whatever they are plugged into turns them from sweet kiddos into screaming irrational hellbeasts, and there was no way I was going to take hellbeasts on vacation with me.
So instead of stressing about how long a battery on a tablet would last, or trying to wrestle my phone away from a five-year-old who's "JUST NOT DONE YET!!!" I packed some of our favorite Kempfert Family Games, and used the opportunity to test a few new ones.
The Ultimate Monster Maker is the PERFECT travel game. This simple dice and drawing game is great for keeping kids occupied at restaurants or on planes. These pictures were taken the night before we left. We grabbed some dinner at a restaurant and took turns building our monsters.
The rules are easy, and are malleable to change based on age and creativity of the people playing. Roll your dice, use the results to slowly build your monster. Here, someone's roll told us to draw triangle shaped mouths on our monster - and inspired us all to do our best to make our mouths triangle shaped, too!
Because it's such a popular game for our family, I brought the kids' sketchbooks and markers, too, instead of the little paper pad and mini colored pencils I originally included in the set.
We also took the trip as an opportunity to beta-test another kind of game.
Years ago, I came up with my own method of painting cotton fabric, keeping it soft enough to fold, but detailed enough to make some fantastic pictures. I used this method to make a game board that could be rolled up or stuffed in a pocket.
Layovers can be a nightmare for parents traveling with antsy kids, but we busted out a travel game and passed our wait time peacefully. Once tired of playing the game, the kids re-purposed the characters and scenery on the play mat to engage their imaginations and keep themselves occupied until it was once again time to board the plane.
I feel like it's worth saying that my kids traveled like absolute champions. While there could be any number of reasons they didn't collapse into a raging heap of incoherent screaming, I'll take the credit for being a great parent with great travel games if it's up for grabs.