With kids headed back to school, parents again need to queue up in long lines of carpooling vehicles, waiting to pick up their kids. Where I live, bus service has been scaled back to the point that some kids endure rides of more than two and a half hours to get to a school that’s less than 10 miles away from their homes. Kids may have to get on a bus at 4:45 in the morning to get to school on time.
My older daughter would need to get on a bus well before 6 a.m. in order to ride the bus to middle school. Bus service isn’t even available for my younger daughter, who just started kindergarten. That means my husband spends a lot of time in the carpooling lines. I’ve done it before, too, at our older daughter’s elementary school in years past. Unfortunately, sharing carpool with other families isn’t a viable option for us, for various reasons, including scheduling conflicts.
It’s not so bad if you’re alone in your car. I can always answer emails, read or take care of other stuff. Having a kid in the car adds a new wrinkle, though, and that was often the case when I picked up my older daughter in carpool. Here are 10 ideas for surviving the carpooling line with another child in the backseat.
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Magazines to the Rescue
If you have access to a tablet your child can use, consider subscribing to Next Issue. This service offers digital editions of nearly any magazine you can think of, including several kids’ choices. These include National Geographic for Kids, National Geographic for Little Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Girl’s Life and Boy’s Life.
For your own reading pleasure, you’ll have a wide selection of magazines in plenty of categories, including fitness, general interest, science, technology and family. The cost is $9.99 monthly for the basic subscription, or $14.99 for the premium plan, which includes weekly magazines like People, Time, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated.
You can sign up for a free 60-day trial subscription to check out Next Issue and see whether you’ll like it.
An older kid in the car can start working on her nightly homework. Consider buying a comfy lap desk to make homework setup a breeze. Keep plenty of mechanical pencils in the car along with some extra notebooks.
Younger kids can play educational games on a tablet or smartphone to make good use of their carpooling time. CoolMomTech has a fantastic list of the best Android apps for kids. Your little ones can learn about letters, numbers, colors and shapes, and have fun while doing it.
Carpooling With Internet
To allow your kids access to Internet-enabled games and video watching, consider picking up a mobile hotspot or a plan that lets you use your smartphone as a WiFi hotspot. Check out Verizon Wireless’s plans here.
Plan Dinner Together
Ask for help planning dinner. Use an app such as All Recipes Dinner Spinner to determine what your family can have to eat based on what foods you have at home.
Have a Snack
For a quick and easy alternative to bottled water or juice boxes, try reusable Squeez’Ems. You can easily fill them with water, juice, milk or yogurt, then wash and refill at home. You’ll thank yourself later for not having to deal with a hungry and cranky child on your hands, or one who spends an hour begging to hit a drive-through on the way home.
If you partially rely on gadgets to keep yourself or your young’uns busy, you’ll want to make sure you have a way of staying charged up. Make sure you have adequate places to recharge your tablets and smartphones in your vehicle, and consider buying an external battery charger.
Educational Gadgets Just for Kids
If you don’t feel comfortable letting your small child play with your expensive tablet or phone, you can pick up an educational gadget made just for kids. Check out the LeapFrog LeapPad3 Learning Tablet or the VTech Tote & Go Laptop with Web Connect. Both of my daughters played with kids’ laptops when they were preschoolers and absolutely loved them. Such devices offer fun games that teach colors, letters, numbers, simple math, sight words and more.
Origami is a fun and easy hobby that kids love. They can fold paper into amazing shapes, and you can get them started on the cheap. You might want to start with a kit that includes Origami paper, like the Origami Fun Kit for Beginners.
You can also buy Origami paper by itself and pick up Origami books based on your child’s interests, such as Animal Origami for the Enthusiast: Step-by-Step Instructions in Over 900 Diagrams/25 Original Models or Star Wars Origami: 36 Amazing Paper-folding Projects from a Galaxy Far, Far Away.
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Read, Read, Read
If your kids love to read and don’t have homework to do, reading books might be number one on your list. You can load the free Amazon Kindle app onto a tablet or phone you already have. Or, you can pick up a tablet for your kids to use, like the $139 Fire HD 7. Most recent model Kindle Fire tablets offer a huge added bonus if you’re an Amazon Prime customer – the ability to download certain Prime Instant Video movies and watch them later without an needing Internet connection.
Many county libraries offer free lending of a large selection of Kindle books. All you need is a library card and an online account with the local library. Your local librarian can probably hook you up with one.
You can also spend just $9.99 a month and get Amazon Kindle Unlimited, an incredible service which lets you select from thousands of books to borrow and read for free. There are no due dates, so you can take as long as you need to finish a book. Plus, you can borrow up to 10 books at a time, which should satisfy even the most voracious readers in the family.
Kindle Unlimitedincludes numerous children’s books, such as the Harry Potter series, scads of Minecraft fan fiction novels and even some of the Diary of a Wimpy Kids books.
How About You?
How do you keep the kiddos and yourself occupied in the carpooling line at school?
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