Going on a long-haul train journey with small children can be a daunting experience. Little ones aren’t as good at occupying themselves in unfamiliar places with limited resources, unlike you and I. So it’s upto us as parents to think ahead and plan activities and tactics on how to make these journeys go as smoothly and as tantrum free as possible!
I’m lucky in the respect that all my littles have ever known is getting places either by foot or public transport. Them being more accustomed to it because it’s their ‘normal’ makes the whole thing easier but that’s not to say we end up at our destination with little halos hovering over their heads. They still get bored and being children of today the ever changing landscape simply isn’t enough to keep them content. So I’ve developed some strategies of keeping their little minds and hands busy for hopefully a more stress free travel experience.
1. Dedicate an activity bag to each child
This is something I took on board from another blogger when I was a first time Mum travelling with just one little. Now it’s the first thing I do in preparation of a long journey. Abbie and Ava both have a favourite backpack and I nip to Poundland and The Works to stock up on cheap travel activities. You’ll find lots of different character activity packs in these shops for mostly just £1 each. The bag must include;
– A small pack of crayons
– Colouring book
– Notepad for doodling
– Stickers + stamps
– Small reading books
– Any homework sheets
– Snacks and 2x drinks
For my 5yr old I like to include a children’s magazine such as CBeebies or Mr Maker because they’re filled to the brim with writing/drawing/colouring activities and come with small toys and non messy (but double check!) craft projects that if you’re travelling by train can do on the table to keep them busy. The trick is to make sure they do NOT discover any of the items you’ve packed until they unzip their bag on the train, you want it to be a bunch of new and interesting items. If they’ve already seen or played with the things, you’re risking them being bored before you’ve even reached the next stop…
2. Any loveys need to board the train!
Children are sensitive souls and as a Mum we know what situations easily unsettle them, particularly going to unfamiliar places. Young children don’t always grasp where they’re going even if you’ve explained many times. My eldest didn’t grasp the concept of staying in a hotel. She simply thought we were moving house, so the morning we were packing she brought her entire wardrobe contents into my room to put in the suitcase and fretted over all the things we’d be leaving behind. So in order to bring them comfort when they start to get weary on the train or tired, I make sure they’ve picked 2 of their favourite stuffed animals or blanket and I pack spare dummies just incase. The theory in packing more than one loved item is incase it gets dropped or misplaced, then we have a back up. Plus they can play make believe together with them.
3. Traditional window games
Despite we can’t shield children of this generation from screens completely, we as parents try our best to instill the teachings from our own childhood. It’s important they learn to enjoy the outdoors, their environment and learn as we travel. We play games such as who can spot the first sheep, cows, horses in the fields we pass, counting houses and seeing shapes in the clouds. Teaching them about the place we are going by dishing out facts E.g Scotland has lots of castles like in fairy tales. Trying to connect what I’m teaching to a common existing interest helps keep their attention.
4. Playing with them
I know this sounds so obvious but unfortunately we adults are also sucked into technology, particularly our phones. Yes, you’ve brought all these goodies to keep them entertained but now you’re away from the everyday distractions of work, social life and happenings, it’s the perfect opportunity to get some family time in. You’re in a close nit space on a train together after all. Help them with their activities, read the instructions on the crafts, do things together, grab their soft toys and pretend you’re a child again. Come right down to their level and you’ll realise your attention is priceless. Soon your journey will whizz past and you’ll depart with smiles all around.
5. Break out the iPad
I do bring our iPad as an absolute last resort. If they’ve completed their activities, we’ve bonded, we’ve played games and talked until the cows come home but there’s still some way to go. The littles are getting cranky and missing somewhere more comfortable I will make sure I’d pre-downloaded some films or favourites from CBeebies (CBeebies Kids iPlayer is fab and FREE!) for those desperate moments to get us through the last leg of the journey.
I’m proud to say we didn’t need to pull out that trump card with our last 3 1/2hr journey to Glasgow but simply knowing its there eases my mind.
6. Prepare for every eventuality
Mum’s are notorious for having huge changing bags with them, bursting with everything but the kitchen sink, but there’s a reason for this. Now this isn’t technically a ‘entertainment’ tip but that’s not to say the littles can’t have fun with a box full of Peppa Pig plasters, we’re only limited by our imaginations after all. I just wanted to emphasis that it’s OK to pack extra bits just incase, nomatter how many people roll their eyes at you and call you paranoid. It’ll be the one time you didn’t pack that calpol, didn’t pack enough nappies, forgot to replace the spare change of clothes. There’s not a parent on this planet that hasn’t had to deal with a baby/toddler blowout at the most awkward time. Including on a train and having to deal with the aftermath in a very crampt train loo. Kids are unpredictable, so pack your bag with every possible eventuality in mind, especially on long train rides. You never know when you may need these things.
I hope some first time parents embarking on a daunting train ride find some of these tips useful. If you’ve got a handy entertainment tip up your sleeve, why not comment and let us know below 👇