Road trips are an essential part of living rural and time in the vehicle can be great for families, or it can also be... a lot. "Practice makes perfect," and we sure are giving it practice!
We go to the farm between 5-7 days a week, year-round, and our commute takes us about 40 minutes each way. At a minimum, we spend a little over 6.5 hours a week in the mom car together. With that time, we've arrived at a consistent paradigm of traveling.
Without a doubt, our most utilized "activity" is speaking with each other. We have time for questions about the world around us, discussions surrounding our feelings, and an opportunity to expand our conversation skills.
The utmost intention is given to this time! Utilizing broad vocabulary and responding to questions with descriptive details keeps all our minds actively engaged.
Describing how systems work, such as how a kernel of corn moves through each part of the combine fascinates Kade and keeps him engaged. We cover a variety of systems and consciously utilize proper terms.
Storytelling is another tool that entertains for many minutes. Usually, stories made up on the fly with details Kade gives as we go. Feels very much like an exercise from a creative writing or acting class!
Nursery rhymes and children's songs are calming for Kade and send Karsyn screaming NO by the third word. If Karsyn falls asleep or I happen to be alone with Kade we sing, a lot.
Favorites include, in particular order: Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, & I'm A Little Teapot
A perk of reading children's books repeatedly is memorizing the words! We "read" while we drive and in instances where I'm not narrating the kids look at the books themselves.
The time has come that when I read incorrectly, I am promptly corrected with the proper verbiage. This is also a bonus perk as Kade has started to "read" to the rest of us.
We have ~10 books that stay in the mom car until someone takes them in or brings a book from the house outside to throw in the rotation.
4. SMALL TOYS
Any time we have a small toy accompany us on the drive and get left in the mom car it's added to the canvas bag that hangs from the back of Kade's seat. Small trucks, loaders, shovels, and any other random small item gives them something to study. As the kids use toys, our selection naturally gets rotated through on its own.
Recently, my dad found these "Mix Match" sets and they've been a big hit. We have pieces floating around everywhere, but they have held attention for much longer than our average stretch.
While we spend more time in a cab during peak seasons than in the mom car, we do have the freedom of movement outside car seats. Cab activities include buckling the seat belt, climbing in and out of the buddy seat 1000 times and counting, changing seating positions, riding on my shoulders, rearranging the fridge in the combine or the cooler in a tractor and an occasional nap. It's truly amazing to watch their minds work with what they have.
It's actually been a blessing to spend this time together! Often, in the moment, it feels more difficult than a blessing, but our culture has been cultivated in this time. I saw a statistic about the average amount of time parents spent in meaningful conversation with their children and it rocked me. The study conducted in 1990 found parents engaged in less than 6 minutes of daily, meaningful conversation, whereas television-free households averaged about 55 minutes per day.
Reading those numbers solidified exactly why it's important to us to continue screen-free. Having the privilege of watching the "lightbulb" moments and mastering new words in proper context is truly magical.
Now, when we travel as a full family of five with Kyle, the kid's expectations are to travel as we usually do; focused on conversation with them! Kyle and I conversing ourselves, uninterrupted, in the front seat or listening to the radio are now considered luxuries we knew in a previous life.
Also, important to note, loading the vehicle is enough work as it is. Letting the natural flow of books and toys ebb in and out of the mom car on their own takes a task off my plate. Empowering the kids to take responsibility for packing along what they would like has been good practice for us.