The carpool world is one of those realities few parents can escape.
Whether you’re picking up or dropping off, chances are you have spent a decent part of your day in the car. You’re not only trying to get everyone and everything into (or out of) the vehicle, but driving to and from schools, sitting in line and inching ever-so-slowly forward until it’s finally your child’s turn to get in (or out of) the car.
This mundane morning task can turn even the happiest of moods – and even a potential bonding opportunity – sour. With a few of these small adjustments, though, you can take control of the carpool and enjoy the drive.
The Morning Drive
Spending the morning getting the kids in the car and making sure everyone has everything they need is not our favorite thing to do. But with a little planning, it could become downright enjoyable.
Check out these ideas for your morning drive:
- Establish a checklist – mental or otherwise – to make sure everyone has everything they need. Try letting your kids grab their own things, like backpacks and lunchboxes, to help establish their independence (but you should still double-check, just in case).
- Have some go-to songs or games everyone can enjoy. Part of creating an enjoyable routine may be letting the kids listen to their favorite silly songs. You can divert those “Are we there yet?” questions with some entertainment.
- There will always be exceptions, but try to leave around the same time every day and take the same path. It may seem convenient to swing by the post office real quick. But not only are a dozen other parents thinking the same thing that morning, but it may throw the whole morning off – and may not even save you any time in the end.
The Afternoon Pick-up
Give your kids something to look forward to at the end of their school day by keeping a few snacks in the car they can dig into as soon as they hop in. Use a plastic cereal container lined with a grocery bag as a makeshift garbage can to collect stray wrappers and other trash.
Try some of these super portable snacks:
- Cereal bars
- Squeezable applesauce
- Yogurt covered raisins
And don’t forget the bottled water!
While You Wait
It’s OK to enjoy your quiet time in the carpool lane. Many parents read a book or browse websites on their smartphones. Consider it built-in free time before the craziness of the dinner hour and bedtime routines begin.
If you’re itching to be productive, make doctor’s appointments, call the plumber to fix the sink or make a grocery list for the week. And while you’re drafting up your shopping list, you can add coupons to your shopper card to make your next trip even easier, and cheaper!
If you find yourself picking up multiple children from different schools, some of the children will be spending that time in the car with you. If they are older, they can get started on homework. If that is not an option (or you don’t want to fight that fight every day) have a few items in the car to keep them occupied, like books, a portable DVD player and movies, or handheld video games.
If you are fortunate enough to have a nearby field or school playground while you wait, let the kids throw a football or run around and play tag. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way home – ready to get some rest to do it all again tomorrow!