How do you keep eight kids entertained and happy during a long road trip? I'm still not sure, but we did it somehow. I did pack a busy bag for the preschoolers, and that helped. I kept it between the two front seats, so it was easily accessible to retrieve a new toy or to stow an old one. For them, I think variety was the key. I had notebooks and pens and stickers, Matchbox cars, new wooden airplanes from the dollar store, favorite little toys from home, a package of sunglasses... you get the idea.
I did not bring any small toys that required batteries or made noise. That helped the sanity of the other campers. Unfortunately, they came with their own noise. We had a few meltdowns, but much less then I was worried for. In fact, the most noise we heard from the twins was, "A-B-C-D-E-F-G..." They sang the alphabet song. Incessantly. But here are the rules of the game: one twin has to sing the song - the entire song - correctly. If there is a mistake, or even a serious hesitation, he must go back and start again. After successfully finishes, the other twin takes a turn. Everyone else must clap and cheer at the end of each song. After one round, the first twin has the option (usually taken) to begin another round. And the the second twin has to have his turn as well. After four complete songs, Mother can declare enough. After a short while, they would start up again. We all got pretty tired of the alphabet song. But at least they can sing it better now than when we started! (sigh)
Good snacks are important on a long trip. I have learned that we all get grumpy if we eat too much junk. So we had grapes, apples, and bananas, as well as crackers and pretzels. And water. Lots of water. The dry scenery we drove through made us all very, very thirsty. I was afraid that we would have potty issues, but apart from a few stops in the middle of nowhere to water the sagebrush, they all did great.
The older boys all had their homework, and they worked on it very well. We kept them out of school for a week, but they managed to not get too far behind. Oh yeah, and there was a lot of this running around:
We did watch some movies as we drove. Two of them. In the last few hours before we (finally) got home. But that's was it.
And we napped. And we made them get out at the rest stops to stretch. And it was fun. Really!