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Keeping supplies for each child makes traveling easier

By By Michelle Blaylock, Mom’s Corner
We’re a busy family. I know that is not a news flash. When John and I decided to start a family, we also made the decision to try to take our children with us as often as possible when we went places and did things.
For example, when we lived in Missouri we used to go to “Archon.” Archon is a science fiction convention. If you’re not into science fiction, it would be just strange. However, if you enjoy science fiction it’s a blast! It’s like a science fiction carnival. We took our oldest daughter to her first Archon when she was about 17 months old.
From then on we decided outings with children could be done — with some planning. As we added children to our family, the planning got more involved and we learned more too. I have to admit when the children were younger it was harder to manage sometimes, but I still felt it was important for us to do things as a family.
However, we believed then and still do that the only way to “know” someone is to spend time with them. Just because a child “belongs” to you doesn’t mean your automatically going to have a relationship with them.
After we became foster parents, we felt it was even more important for us to do things as a family. The children we fostered desperately needed to feel like a part of a normal family and have the opportunity to develop positive relationships within a family unit. However with six (or more) children under the age of 11 or 12 years old, outings became more difficult, even going to church became a major production! I decided I had to come up some strategies.
One thing I discovered right after the birth of our first child was John and I always needed a change of clothes whenever we went somewhere. Our oldest daughter had infantile reflux and was constantly spitting up. Even with a generous supply of burp towels, John and I sometimes ended up needing to change. Our last birth child had infantile reflux severely and having a change of clothes for everyone became a necessity.
Since children do tend to be messy and accidents happen, I expanded the idea of extra clothes by taking a backpack and packing a change of clothes for each person. I changed the clothing out seasonally so I always had weather appropriate clothing as well as clothing that fit each child.
Also, in this backpack I kept a few inexpensive ponchos, a small first aid kit, a one day supply of medication for the people in the family that had to take daily meds, and a few travel size toiletries (brush, soap, shampoo, feminine needs, deodorant, sunscreen, bug repellent, etc.) I kept this in the van. On more than one occasion this backpack saved the day. I felt the backpack covered most emergencies and local outings. Next, I turned my attention to activities we did repeatedly. For example, I began keeping a swimming bag with pool toys, beach towels, sunscreen, goggles, etc. packed year round. After the summer swimming season was over, I would take our swimsuits and put them in the tote with other “swim gear.” As our family grew, the number of towels and swimsuits grew as well. I had to add totes.
Now I have one tote each for toys, towels, and swimsuits. Nevertheless, this is still very convenient, even during the winter, for when we travel and plan on staying at a hotel with an indoor pool. I can just grab the “pool bags” and we’ve got everything we need for swimming. I suggest whatever activity your family does most is what you need to set up for. My husband did something similar for activities like hiking, fishing and camping. During softball season and soccer season, I have totes packed with the appropriate gear.
I also encourage the children who aren’t playing a sport that season to keep a tote packed with things to entertain themselves during games or practices. When my children were younger I felt it was my job to keep things together for them. However, I truly believe a good parent tries to work themselves out of a job and so as my children have gotten older I make them responsible for their own entertainment totes.
The one thing that is an absolute necessity that I haven’t mentioned is snacks. No matter what the activity, snacks are a must. Granted most everywhere you go, the pool, sporting events, etc have concession stands, snack machines or at the very least you’re not usually very far from a fast food restaurant. However, those can get expensive and they are not typically the healthiest places to snack. The more children we added to the family the more it became a necessity to pack snacks and avoid places like concession stands. I found it easier to pack each child a zip-lock bag with a snack as opposed to taking an entire box of Goldfish or a large bag of chips. I used a permanent marker to put each child’s name on his or her baggie. This also cuts down on the argument of “he/she is getting more than me.”
Snacks I have found which work well are homemade trail mixes, granola, dry cereals, gummies, dried fruits, Goldfish, and, of course, chips. If we have a cooler accessible, I also like to take cheese cubes, ham cubes, and pickles. Like most children, mine do love candy. I prefer to take the small “snack” size candy bars to activities. I believe those “super” size packages of candy are part of the reason more of our children are getting “plumper.”
Of course, as the children have gotten older. We do allow them limited concession stand privileges. They are each given some money and it is their choice whether or not to spend it. I have some who choose to save their money and others that can’t wait to get the concession stand goodies!
We have had some wonderful family outings. When our third child was about eight weeks old we went to Elephant Rocks a state park in Missouri. I carried her in a tummy pack, while John and the other two kids climbed all over the rocks. Another fun outing was when we went with my parents and all six kids to Burgess Falls in Tennessee. It was a terrific hike to the beautiful falls, then the children had an opportunity to play at a great playground. Mom and I set up a simple picnic and everyone had a great time. However, not all of our outings go as well and when one doesn’t about the only thing you can do is abort it and learn from it. For example, our second Fourth of July in Alabama I decided we ought to go to Point Mallard. Unfortunately, the traffic was much worse than I ever imagined it would be and then to top it off we discovered our youngest child was absolutely terrified by the loud noises coming from the fireworks! It was so bad John had to literally run back to the van with him. The poor child was screaming hysterically in terror. This child still doesn’t like loud noises. Now if we plan an outing that has the potential for loud noises, we bring ear plugs for him. He will even ask for them.
The most important thing is spending time together as a family and building relationships with your children. I hope these suggestions help you to plan family outings. If you have any hints, tips or suggestions, please e-mail it to: moms-corner@juno.com.

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