25 Ways to Tackle the “I Wanna’s” on a Roadtrip

by Laura on February 13, 2012

Today’s problem concerns the case of the “I wanna’s.”

This attack occurs when you take kids on trips and have to make a stop at a gas station, shopping center, museum, amusement park, or basically everywhere, because your child will inevitable find something he or she cannot live without.  You of course, not having the endless supply of money (or desire for it in your car or house, or really don’t want more sugar in your child) have to say no over and over and over again.

I want this!

"I really want this mom, please please?..."

Here are 25 ways to prepare for that inevitable problem now:


1.  Before you head inside, make clear the reason for stopping and the expectations.  Example, “We are only stopping for a quick restroom break.  We will not be buying any toys or candy today.”

2.  Make it a game.  Time yourself to see how fast you can get in/out and be on the road again.   “I bet we can make it in 15 minutes.  Ready, set, go!”

3.  Provide an incentive that will be in the car when they get back.  “Remember your snack bag?  We can choose a snack when we get back.”

4.  Allow them to earn a reward at the next stop.  “Color and read for 15 minutes.  We will then stop and you can choose a drink.”

5.  Let them buy something, within reason.  For a preschool child and older, give them certain amount they can spend.  “After we have fun in the museum, you can choose 1 thing that is under $5.”

6.  For toddlers and above, give a certain quantity and specific description of a kind of item to choose.  “You can pick 2 small items in this store today–1 treat, and 1 toy.”  or “Look at these stuffed animals, you can pick 1 small one you like.”

7. Distraction, distraction!  At that gas station stop, pick the most boring aisle to go down.  Pick up your child and have them help to find where the restrooms are located. Point out items that are interesting, but your child won’t have to have them…i.e. “Wow, there are lots of maps here.”

8.  Remind them of a fun toy that is waiting for them in the car.  “Don’t forget, we have your special sticker book in the car.  I wonder what stickers are in there?”

9.  Make those bathroom stops at a rest stop along the road.  These usually don’t have items for sale (unless there is a vending machine).  Use the outdoors as a quick exercise break as well.

10. If you have both boys and girls, keep score who can be faster.  This one might not be fair though as girls restrooms usually take longer and always have lines.  Maybe wait to initiate this one once you evaluate the lines inside.

11.  If there are things you need to pick up in the store, prevent the lingering and use a divide and conquer strategy.  Ex: “We’ll get the fruit while dad gets the drinks.”

12. If you have 2 adults, have one get needed items, while the other tends to the kids.  Ex: In a museum–”I’m going to get a surprise for you, your aunt will take you to the bathroom and we’ll meet at the dinosaur.” or in a gas station–”Dad is getting the snacks, we’re going to go buckle up in the car.”

13. Remind them of loved ones waiting to see them (“Grandma is waiting for us!”), favorite toys left at home waiting for the child to arrive (“I bet your bear really missed you”), or the hotel’s benefits (“If we hurry, we’ll have time to swim.”)

14.  Make a family rule.  One stop you get something, next stop you don’t.

15.  On a longer road trip with multiple stops, take turns who gets to pick out needed items.  “This time you get to pick ____ (the drink, gum, a snack), next time it is my turn.”

16. Before you leave on your trip, enlist your child’s help to create a snack bag.  Put fruit, crackers, a few sweets, water, etc.  Then, when you stop, you can say, “We already have all the snacks we need.”

17. Before your trip, pick a few small surprises your child would love.  When a moment comes that you need to use it, say “I have a surprise for you, it is waiting for you after we leave.”

18.  Take a picture of your child with the stuffed animal, toy, or “can’t live without” item they want to buy so you can “remember it.”  Works every time.

19. Give kids a job before you go in. “We need tissues.  You are in charge of finding those inside.  I wonder if they have some?”  Then, huge congratulation when you find them and make a beeline for that register!

20.  Play a game while at a gas station that distracts your child from the kid-pleasing items around.  “I spy something blinking….now it is your turn.”

21. Give your child a counting assignment while inside.  “Can you find 1 person wearing a hat?  How about 4 things that are red?”

22.  Reinforce appropriate behavior and remind them of past behavior.  “What a great listener you were last stop!  Can you follow directions again?  We will only get some cheese sticks this time.  I bet you can be my best listener again.”

23.  If your child has particular trouble going in a store and acts out in inappropriate ways if he doesn’t get what he wants, role play at home before leaving on your trip.  Make a list of appropriate things to do in a store and act it out.  Let your child demonstrate the behavior you want to teach him, and then reverse the roles and have him pretend to be the parent.  Maybe even give an example of inappropriate behaviors and then the positive ones.  Have your child guess which choice is the better one.

24. If your tactics are not working and your child is becoming frustrated, remove her from the problem area, remind her to calm down, and then try again.  If inappropriate behaviors still happen, pick her up, and leave the store.  Next time, remind her to be happy and your expectations.

25.  Memorize several of the above options for your child…sometimes you need to use any combination to get out of a store!

And my husband’s addition–”If all else fails, strap them to the top of the car and never let them off.”  Thanks honey…

Any other ways that works well for your family?  I’d love to add an addendum of readers’ tips.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cheri February 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Great Tips!! I especially love the idea of taking a photo of the item to “remember” it. Perfect!


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