Get ready, parents! The days of endless, pitiful pleas of, “Are we there yet?” will soon be naught but a fond memory from road trips of yore. With the days of holiday travel just ahead of us, behold the Amazing Yarn-o-Meter!
This July, the Boyd family embarked on our longest road trip to date — a 14-hour drive from Chicago to Washington, DC. While the whole family did anticipate the trip, I must confess to experiencing a bit of anxiety in the days leading up to it. How would our four- and six-year-old daughters handle so many consecutive hours in the car without:
- inflicting violence on one another
- dissolving into tears of boredom
- driving their parents crazy, or
- all of the above?
So, I did what I always do when I’m anxious: research!
A partial solution
I received tons of excellent ideas from other parents and made an intentional investment in toys, reasoning that money spent on car-entertainment was significantly less than plane tickets for four. Some of our favorite car toys included Wikki Stix, reusable sticker books, and Post-it note flags (see photo and click to enlarge).
But by far the most useful tool we now offer to you: the Yarn-o-Meter.
The killer app
The Yarn-o-Meter is of simple design: a length of yarn representing the total distance of your trip with a knot tied for every 50 miles’ worth. As you travel, add a small bow or “flag” of colored yarn every time you cover another 50-mile leg.
Click photo to enlarge.
That’s it! As you get further along in your journey, the whole family has a clear visualization of how far you have already traveled and how far you have yet to go. This simple tool helped all of us to enjoy the trip by celebrating our progress along the way and seeing the remaining distance shrink.
I originally modified this from an idea I read about in the July 2012 issue of Family Fun magazine. I believe they recommended moving a single clip from knot to knot to mark their current position in the journey, but we definitely prefer our technique of tying on numerous short pieces of yarn. That way, you get a better, immediate sense of the cumulative accomplishment. (Plus, it’s easy to know which end is which when you pull the yarn out of the glove compartment.)
By the way, we found that the 50-mile increments were just about perfect this summer, suiting both our kids’ span of patience and the overall, 1,300-mile length of our trip (though we’ve used this on much shorter trips in the meantime, too). The key is that if you make each segment represent too long a leg, your kids’ll think it takes too long to cover that distance (and you’ll be right back where you started, with pestering about “how much longer?”), and if you make it too short, you’ll drive yourself nuts tying knots all the time.
Family Fun also recommended offering treats for each marker. We decided not to do that so rigidly, as there were times when the girls were playing happily and did not need a new distraction. However, I did have a “bag of tricks” I kept at my feet, stuffed full of small toys, art projects, a few special snacks, and other items that served to amuse and entertain at crucial moments.
With the Yarn-o-Meter, it’s been truly easy to train the girls to say, “Is it time to tie on another marker?” instead of “When are we going to be there?” It’s a small thing, but somehow it really helps to prevent crazy-making for the parents. We hope it helps you retain your sanity, too!