As soon as your child can walk through an airport wearing a backpack and pulling a small, wheeled suitcase, the time is right to get them to participate in packing. Sure, it’s going to take longer in the beginning. And expect some negotiating. But, each experience is a teachable “moment” as they say. (Everything is!) Trust me, by the time you blink twice, they’re going to be old enough to go to camp, visit a grandparent (without you) or stay with a cousin or a friend. What they learn to do under supervision, they will learn to do by themselves. An early start teaches them to make choices and packing goes from being a pleasant together task to their own feel-good chore, which raises a child’s self-esteem. It’s like eating, children who help prepare food, devour what they make. Likewise, including their wishes makes dressing while you are away one less thing to negotiate.
Here are 10 win-win packing tips.
- Purchase the largest, softest, lightest, most durable, fabric-clad backpack your child can — and will want to — wear. And, find a wheelie bag that makes your youngster feel professional.
- Consider your child’s favorite colors when you purchase a color-coordinated everyday wardrobe (a great idea for every season). Either choose solid bottoms and print tops or the reverse, just so everything goes with everything, no matter what gets dirty first. Then, choose the special occasion items, whether you are traveling to ski, beach, a family event or a restaurant.
- Pack each day’s worth of socks, underwear and clothing in a waterproof zippered bag. Usually a four-day supply works for travel, perhaps a week’s worth if finding a washing machine is a problem. (I use large Ziploc storage bags). Individual packages makes it easy for a child to find everything without making a mess and to dress, it’s especially useful if you are traveling on a beach vacation or on a boat or mobile home, when humidity actually dampens clothing.
- Put one of those bags with a full change of clothing in the backpack for who knows what spills happen where.
- Add a soft, washable blanket (one of your old shawls) that can be used for warmth or a floor covering.
- Give each child a two-option choice (either this or that) and encourage them to choose entertainment: books, games, videos and the like.
- Add one zipper-locked or a zipped nylon bag for them to include their tiny treasures. Just like the TSA with liquid toiletries, whatever the child can fit in a bag can go in the backpack.
- Yes, teach children to pack their toiletries the same way: toothbrush, toothpaste, cleansing gel, mini washcloth, comb and brush.
- Add a sweater or light jacket (in a large bag) and a favorite pillow or stuffed animal, if that is important to your child.
Congratulate yourself for teaching your child another important life lesson.