The paved trail curved around the corner and out of sight amid the thick canopy of birch and the undergrowth of pushki and fern, the mudflats at low tide lying moist and gray and thick just beyond the trees.
Around the corner and out of sight the boys zipped, too, each with one leg kicking now and then to propel their scooters along. It was the beginning of a seven mile jaunt, so, naturally, they out-paced me as I ran behind. Just wait until mile four, I thought. I’ll be in the lead. You could say Mama’s a bit competitive, too. (That tall running boy of ours wasn’t on this trail, or he’d be in the lead, with nobody able to catch him).
We were on vacation, in our destination city, but despite all there was to see and do, we couldn’t leave out the necessity of running. Just how that would happen, with each of us at a different place in our mileage ability, could have been a trick, but thank goodness, we had an ace up our sleeve from a few years back: scooters.
This was the second time I’d purchased them away from home, to use on paved city trails during our stay. It’s a small fee for hours of exercise, fresh air, and sight-seeing, with the bonus of a level playing (running?) field for all. When we’re done, and can’t take them on the flight home, we’ll offer free scooters to the first takers to walk by.
I thought about all this, about travel with kids, and how it looks different now with half-grown ones than it did with toddlers. The one thing that’s remained constant, however, despite the ages of our guys, is our intention to travel with minimal baggage weighing us down, and to have screen-free entertainment in tow.
There were those times when I traveled alone with three toddlers. From gate to gate in airport terminals we’d go, our littlest guy in a simple umbrella stroller (that I could quickly fold and gate-check); our single carry-on, a wheeled backpack with a telescoping handle, was hooked over the handle of the stroller making a wheeled seat of sorts for our middle guy to hop aboard and ride; our oldest keeping pace along side. Within a couple minutes of de-boarding the plane, we’d be off and running.
Now, everybody is able to get himself and his backpack from gate to gate (amazing). Now, I show them our next flight number and tell them to find our gate and I’ll follow. Then I tell them to slow down so I can keep up.
When they were little, I would include a few small things in our carry-on for entertainment, bringing them out in succession throughout the flight, saving the most interesting until last. The trick was, they’d never seen these things before. I quickly learned, too, that if it was something that required their attention to open, close, or operate, all the better. For one son, a tiny tractor with trailer that attached and tiny logs to haul was the thing. He rolled it around and around the open tray-table, content to load and unload logs for a good long while.
For another, a matchbox car driven around the empty seat beside us was all he wanted to do (after our flights were fully boarded, if there were two empty seats together, I’d ask the flight attendant if I could be re-seated to give the lap child and me a bit more room). In lieu of coloring books and crayons that could be cumbersome and easily lost, I’d bring those simple magnetic drawing boards with pens attached. The thrill of adding silly mustaches and hair to a bald man’s head was inexpressible fun. And books. Of course, books. Open-the-flap board books were great for our little guys’ intrinsic curiosity and would keep them engaged for many precious minutes.
Now, it’s Farkle that’s played over and over on the open tray table. Who knew six standard dice and a simple set of rules, with high scores at stake, could be so fun? The deck of playing cards are handy, too, for seven card stud (to be played using change from the coin pouch in my purse), and for a bit of quiet time, new copies of Tintin. Though I have to say, on this trip, Farkle took the cake.
On road trips, when we were still part of the car-seat set, we would build playground stops into the itinerary. Even a run around the grass at a rest stop helped to get the wiggles out. We’ve taken along aerobies, hackey sacks, footballs, foxtails – anything to help get the move on. If no balls were in sight, tag never failed.
Now, though there’s nary a carseat around, we’ve came prepared for the road trip that’s sandwiched in the middle of this vacation. Simply prepared with a foldable frisbee. Anywhere we might find an open space – on a beach, at a park, on a patch of grass beside the parking lot – there’ll most likely be at least two of us playing catch. Stuff it into the back pocket when we’re done, load up, and head on down the road.
What are your screen-free kid-entertainment tips for travel? I’d love to hear.