(Reprinted with permission from Parade Magazine 6/20/99)
Do your kids turn into backseat tyrants during long family road trips?
When the family is en route, and your child asks, Are we there yet? never say, Well be there soon. It probably isnt true, and it wont relieve their restlessness anyway. Instead, tell the truth, then pull out something fun for your child to do. Here are tips for a family drive this summer:
GAMES. There are all sorts of games you can invent to keep children and adults amused. You could try something as simple as counting state license plates or truck names. Or you could buy a pack of cards called 52 Fun Things To do in the Car, buy Lynn Gordon (Chronicle Books, $6.95). Each card has a different activity to entertain children on long drives.
SING-ALONGS. Singing is an easy way to get everyone in the car involved in an activity. You can plan ahead by finding a songbook or cassettes. One good tape for children is: Are We There Yet?, Travelin Sing Alongs (GAA Corp.,$5.95).
VINTAGE RADIO PROGRAMS. Old radio mystery programs, like The Shadow and The Saint, are available on cassette and CD. Also consider the old comedy programs, like The Jack Benny Show, that delighted millions before the advent of TV.
LEARN A LANGUAGE. Captive in the car, even children as young as 8 may be willing to learn a new languageprovided its fun and doesnt seem like school. The whole family can learn with the series Learn in the Car (Random House, $18.95). In a short time passengers can be counting cows in French. You also can improve vocabulary with Verbal Advantage (1-888-416-9673), a tape that offers ways to remember word meanings.
AUDIO BOOKS. One sure way to improve childrens reading skills is to get them interested in books. Audio books are available for just about any age group. The Audio Book Club offers a wide selection of titles at reduced prices by mail and at www.audiobookclub.com on the Web. Or check with your library.
ELECTRONIC BOOKS. The MobilePlayer is a new digital device, similar to a portable CD player, that electronicallywithout tapescan play practically any kind of spoken material. A basic unit sells for about $149. Headphones are standard, and you also can play programs through your car radio. Books and other material are downloaded online to your home PC for a fee. You then down load the selection to the MobilePlayer and play it back anytime. MobilePlayer is sold online at www.audible.com.
DRIVING THEATERS. For years, people have been putting into cars TV sets that run on a dashboard cigarette-lighter current. Now some sets come with built-in VCRs. Brackets can secure the units in the car. Prices for AC?DC sets start at $199.
Visteon, an enterprise of the Ford Motor Co., offers a rear-seat VCR entertainment system as a dealer option (about $1499 installed) for all models of minivans. The package also includes a Nintendo 64 game system.
For those who prefer DVD movies, Panasonic offers the Palm Theater DVD player ($1400) which runs on its own rechargeable battery. Panasonic also just released an in-dash mobile DVD player (about $2400) that can be installed in the car or minivan you already own.
Check with your states department of motor vehicles to be sure its legal to have TVs in cars in your area.
CRUISE WITH THE KIDS. The key is to plan ahead on and off the road. Make a few stops, and let the kids run around. And, if you expect to stay at a hotel, try to make sure theres a pool as an incentive for good behavior. With careful planning and diversions, you may even hear the kids asking: Are we there already?