The cooler months are the perfect time to check out all the great spots the UAE has on offer, all just a short drive away – if you can manage the journey, that is. Here are some tips to help your kids while away those hours without going bonkers or driving you mad.
Road trip tips
• Bring plenty of wet wipes and zip lock bags to store everything from snacks to games to dirty nappies. And, just in case, keep an emergency first aid kit that includes cold medicine, pain reliever and band-aids handy.
• If your toddlers haven’t been toilet trained for at least a year, put them in training nappies or bring a travel potty in the car for those little emergencies – you can line the bottom of a little potty with a disposable nappy so that nothing spills out and you won’t have to worry about rinsing.
• Pack a handy change of clothes for yourself and the children that is easily accessible in the car. Make the backseat comfortable with familiar pillows and blankets. Lay towels or old sheets on the seats to collect all those crumbs that seem to get everywhere during a car trip.
• Pack your car the night before and leave early in the morning when traffic is light, the kids are sleepy, and you can usually drive several hours without stopping. Try to make breakfast your first stop.
How much farther is it?
• Use coloured construction paper to cut out ‘tickets’ for your trip. Give your child a pre-counted bag full of tickets. Every half hour or so, collect one ticket. When all the tickets are gone, the trip has ended. This trick really helps young children get an idea of how much time is left on the journey.
• Give each child a sheet of aluminum foil. Have them mould it into anything they want, from animal shapes and balls to jewellery and necklaces. Or bring a bag of multi-coloured pipe cleaners and let their creativity run wild.
• Make your own sewing cards by cutting out shapes from thin cardboard and using a hole puncher to make holes around the perimeter every inch or so. Then take a shoelace or a piece of yarn with some tape wrapped around one end and kids can ‘sew’ all the way around your shapes.
• When you’re all out of other ideas, let your kids watch some of their favourite cartoons. If your car doesn’t come equipped with its own entertainment system, you can get portable DVD players that plug into the cigarette lighter.
• Make your own trail mix: combine dried fruit, nuts, M&Ms, cereal, nibbles and so on. Put servings into small sandwich bags to be passed out at the appropriate times.
• Save time and money by packing a picnic to eat in the car or at a roadside stop. If you freeze a few juice boxes first, they help keep other stuff in the cooler cold on the road. Drink them as they thaw.
• Keep the sugar at a minimum with healthy snacks like string cheese or apple slices dipped in Sprite (it keeps them from turning brown). Avoid sugar and caffeine to keep your kids’ moods mellow.
• Animal Sounds: Make animal sounds and let your children take turns naming the animals. If your children can, let them take turns making the animal sounds and have you guess the animal.
• The Animal Game: Play this game as a variation of ‘20 Questions’. Take turns thinking of an animal; give one clue – ‘I’m thinking of an animal with sharp teeth, a long tail and spots...’ – then each person asks one yes/no question to guess what animal it is. Tailor this game to fit all ages of kids in your car; it also works with cartoon characters etc.
• The Rainbow Game: Call out a colour and your kids have to find something that matches. Make the older kids find five things while the younger ones looks for one. Alternatively, have each person in the car choose a colour, then count vehicles of that match in on-coming traffic; the first person to see 10 cars of their colour wins.
• Spot the Camel: Similar to the popular game Slug Bug (which requires players to look for Volkswagen Beatles), this version is perfect for long drives through the empty UAE deserts – instead of iconic cars, players look for camels. Whoever finds a camel first, or spots the most camels, wins.