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Tips to quell backseat screamers for vacation

Staff writers

Getting a young child to sit for an extended family trip is a torture the Devil himself might not want to endure. Several parents have offered helpful tactics for combating backseat screamers and road trip tantrums.

Alicia Nienstedt and her husband take a trip to Oregon every year. They spend three days and two nights on the road and about a month in Oregon. Their two children, ages 3 and 5, have been traveling since the oldest was a baby.

Nienstedt, 40, who started baby-sitting at age 8, has cared for hundreds of children.

“Very rarely do my kids scream or complain while traveling,” she said.

A month or two before they head out, she collects a bag of her children’s toys and puts them aside. She does the same with books.

She keeps them inside hidden nooks in the car, and when the children get restless, each gets a toy or a book, which can keep them occupied for three or four hours.

The toys and books are kept away from the children when they stop for the night or are in Oregon. That way, they stay fresh and new while traveling.

A year ago, the family got a portable DVD player, which worked well to put the children to sleep when driving late into the night.

For children who fight a lot, Nienstedt said, it’s a good idea to separate them. In their car, a large suitcase separates the children.

“They could hear each other, but they couldn’t touch each other,” she said. Playtime was in restaurants and motels.

Nienstedt brought along a favorite stuffed animal for each child.

“The kids travel very well,” she said.

Michelle Adkins and her husband Chad have an 8-year-old daughter, Jacy, who has been taking long trips with them since she was 3. The trips involve 14-hour days.

Window markers, movies, car games, a chalkboard, music, and sleeping occupy the little girl. She also enjoys food, stops for getting out and walking, books, and coloring books. Adkins noted that twistables don’t melt as much as other crayons.

An iPad, child’s camera, a flashlight, pillows, and glow sticks are other things Adkins supplies to make the trip pleasurable.

Marion High School alumnus Merissa Bowman uses a variety of activities to keep daughters Sybil and Hazel from whining on trips.

“I like using pipe cleaners and baggies of Fruit Loops,” she said. “The kids can make edible bracelets by stringing loops onto the pipe cleaners. It’s a two-in-one thing — snack and activity.”

Bowman gives her children cookie sheets as lap tables.

“We also use ‘car bucks,’ which are fake dollars with cars instead of faces,” she said. “Every 30 minutes the kids go without fighting or whining they get a car buck, which then can be redeemed to purchase souvenirs at gift shops.”

Marsha Meyer, rural Marion resident, said she used to use an idea similar to Bowman’s with her children.

“When they were young and didn’t know the value of money, we gave the kids a roll of nickels,” Meyer said. “They had to give one away when fighting but got one when they were good.”

Marion resident Ty Waner shared one surefire solution when all else fails and screaming just can’t be averted: “Ear plugs.”

Last modified May 27, 2015

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