So, I've been asked a fair bit about how I travel on the public transport with two small kids in tow. Even my mother tells my granny that when the hubby is out sailing, I often take the kids outdoors and we go to many places by bus, train or foot. They are often surprised when we tell them of our adventures and I know, sometimes they just wanna tell me to 'stop doing it', 'just take cab', 'don't you think it is tiring and dangerous' and so on.
My parents will offer me money to take a cab while my father-in-law will offer to drive us around if the hubby leaves his car at home. By the way, laugh all you want but I don't drive even though I have a driving license. Why? Because I am so much more confident of navigating the public transport and looking after my kids than using GPS to find my way around and having to parallel park when the kids are screaming their lungs out.
Anyway, since I became a mum, it has become a tendency for me to reject their goodwill and assure them that we will be safe and sound on the public transport. I like to let the parents know that they can count on me to take care of their grandchildren, that things are not as difficult as they seem, that with more practice, we can actually do it and do it well.
The good news is the kids now love taking the bus and the MRT so much so that they will sometimes rejoice when I tell them that Daddy is not around and we have to travel by public transport. That's comforting to know, right? Being able to enjoy the ride makes it so much more bearable for them and manageable for me. Today, I'm sharing with you 12 tips to travelling on public transport with young kids and hopefully this might come in handy for some of you.
1) Plan your route in advance
I used to love taking the bus to nowhere. By that, I mean I liked to surprise myself by taking random buses and going on an unexplored route, leaving my destination to fate. Even with the kids, I still like to remain spontaneous at times and we will just get out of the house not knowing where to head to and let ourselves be inspired when we reach the bus-stop or MRT station. That said, it only happens one out of 10 times and for the rest, I prefer to plan in advance so that we will know which bus to board, which station to alight, where to change trains or buses etc. It definitely makes things easier knowing your destination and you can also prepare the kids in advance by exciting them about where you are going, what you are going to do, how you are going to get there and so on.
2) Take it slow
You know how the majority of Singaporeans are always rushing to and fro and seem to be running instead of walking? When you have small kids with you, you do the opposite. You saunter, you stroll, you stop from time to time. You plan such that you have ample time to get to your destination without having to hurry. If your kids like to dilly dally, run around and need you to keep pulling them back onto the route, make sure you have even more time so that it doesn't become a rushed affair that ends up frustrating everyone.
3) Avoid peak hours
I think this is pretty obvious if you have been on a bus or train at the peak hour and realised that you can barely even squeeze two feet in. That is when you were without kids, a stroller or a bulky diaper bag. It can be a real challenge to jostle with the crowd and can be dangerous for the kids as they might not be clearly visible to many of the commuters. So, we do try to avoid the peak hours if we can but I have realised that there are times when this cannot be avoided, especially on the return journey. When that occurs, I will choose the train over the bus anytime (thankfully we now stay near to a LRT station) simply because it doesn't require me to fold up the stroller in order to board, which brings me to the next point.
4) If you have to, bring a light, portable stroller
Now that Ariel is big enough to walk for a considerable distance on her own, we try to minimise our belongings and we do not bring out the stroller for short trips. That means either we go out earlier in the day so that she can come back for her nap or we go out in the late afternoon when she wakes. In that way, she will have enough stamina and energy to last for the entire trip without demanding to sit or be carried. However, when it comes to a full day trip which will likely leave me with two exhausted kids somewhere in the middle of the day, I know jolly well that I do need a stroller. So, I will bring along a light, portable one which is easy to fold (just in case) yet sturdy enough to hold the kid, sometimes kids, and all the bags.
5) Be prepared with snacks and drinks
This helps to keep the kids occupied and happy during the waiting. It is also a reward for their good behaviour when they behave well on the bus or train. Instead of tidbits or junk food, you can also opt for cut fruits, multivitamins or healthy biscuits.
6) Keep an eye on your belongings
It can be easier said than done considering how we have to multitask whenever we are on the road. Always remember that the kids are of top priority so never let them go out of sight. I also make sure that the girls hold my hand, hold each other's hand or hold onto the stroller. As for the rest of the valuables, make sure they are safely kept in a bag and strapped onto you all the time or if you hang it on the stroller, tie or hook the straps in such a way that the bag can't be grabbed and gone in an instant.
7) Familiarize the kids with how it works
Train the kids such that they know how the whole system works. Every time we are out, I will hand the EZ link cards to the girls when we reach the bus stop or train station. They are in charge of tapping their own cards (technically, Ariel taps mine as she is still under 90cm tall) and passing them back to me to keep. The big sister helps to keep an eye out for the bus or train and when we are inside, they know that they are not supposed to run amok and fool around but to stay seated as much as possible. When we are about to alight, I tell them in advance so that they know they have to follow closely beside or in front of me, never behind me.
8) Emphasize on safety and make it a habit
Since we started taking public transport, I try to teach them about the importance of safety, for example staying behind the yellow line at all times, minding the gap, not going close to the road, flagging the bus in advance, sitting properly on the bus and train and so on. At the MRT gantry (which I once got caught in as a kid), they know that they have to cross swiftly once they tap their cards. They also help me to press the elevator buttons and if we have to take the escalator, they know they are supposed to keep left all the time and to stay still instead of climbing up and down. When it gets crowded, we also make sure we huddle together and keep an eye out for each other always.
9) Play games when the ride gets boring
Not being able to run around in the train or bus doesn't mean that you can't play at all. I disallow the use of electronic devices when we are on the go but we do like to sing nursery rhymes or play games (actually, these are my childhood games) like Chop Chilli Chop, Scissors Paper Stone, 青苹果, 鸡蛋鸡蛋看谁的鸡蛋先破 and so on. The good thing about having small kids is that they are usually very intrigued by these games and can be entertained for the whole trip. Sometimes, they just like to gaze out of the window and they even make up their own songs or games too.
10) Have your necessities on standby
These include wet wipes, water bottles, a change of clothes, snacks, sunscreen, raincoats or umbrellas. I like to keep my wipes easily accessible because I never know when one of the kids might sneeze or get her hands or mouth dirty. We also don't wish to be deterred by the weather so we do like to brave the rain at times.
11) Let the children help
I like to involve the kids by letting them play a part in pushing the stroller, carrying the groceries, taking care of the belongings and so on. On occasions when we do not bring out the stroller and have to take along quite a bit of stuff (for instance when we go swimming or water playgrounds and take with us swimsuits, towels, toiletries and water toys), I let them carry their own backpacks to help with the load. I like to think that they see it as a sense of accomplishment in helping Mama instead of being a burden.
12) Be flexible
Lastly, we try to be flexible in our plans because there might be days that plans will change due to weather, place closure, tantrums, last minute hiccups and so on. Angel is now pretty understanding about this and knows that some things are beyond our control. As for Ariel, for a two-year-old, she is slowly but surely learning. No matter what, I let the kids know that they can't kick up a fuss when plans change but instead, we just have to go with the flow and make the most of what we can.
So, this makes the list of tips that have worked for us so far. Whether they work for you or not, I hope we will always be confident enough to travel on the public transport and not be hesitant to go outdoors because I find that kids have so much to learn from the world out there.
Happy exploring, everyone!