Waiting in line seems to be an unavoidable nuisance when you take your kids on vacation. From lines at the airport to lines at the zoo and everything in between, much of your time as a family will likely be spent waiting. How, then, can you keep your kids happy and calm while standing in line after line?
The easy answer may be to hand them your phone and let them play games, but I am not a fan of this method of entertaining kids in lines. For one thing, too many parents don't supply ear buds with their phone, so the noisy games grate on the nerves of everyone else in the vicinity. Besides, if you don't have some more tricks up your sleeve, you are going to have some very unhappy campers when the battery on your phone wears down. Here are some alternatives that my family has used to successfully manage our time in line at amusement parks, museums, zoos and more.
An ounce of prevention
All the entertainment in the world won't matter if your child is not prepared in advance for a long line. Take a few minutes to go to the restroom before you enter the line so you don't risk losing your place before the end. Also make sure your kids are not too hungry when you get in line.
It can be tempting to ride just one more ride before you eat, but a starving kid is more prone to a meltdown. I always try to pack a little bag of cereal in my waist pack to help the kids stave off hunger if needed.
Play some games
I asked my kids which games they like best for passing time in long lines. Their favorite is "What Am I?" We each take turns choosing an animal, then the others ask yes/no questions to try to discover the answer. It's a great game that helps kids learn more about different species and their habitats.
They also love to play "I Spy." And believe it or not, they enjoy doing mental math races, especially if there is a small reward involved, like choosing our next activity or even getting a turn standing at the front of our group.
Shift the focus
If your kids have a job to do, it can help them focus on things other than how slowly the line is moving. Give them a marker and let them chart a course on the map. Give them a fan and put them in charge of helping cool off the family.
Get to know the neighbors
When you are in a really long line, you may be standing next to the same group of people for an hour or more. That's plenty of time for kids to talk and get to know one another. Not all kids want to talk to the children in line near them, but if they do, it can be a great way to meet people from other states or even other parts of the world. I try to encourage my kids to be friendly without being pests.
Capture the experience
My older kids love taking pictures. They would just as soon take goofy pictures of each other as anything else. Sometimes in line, I give them the freedom to just take pictures of whatever they want. An extra battery and memory card can help you make sure your camera is ready when the line finally ends.