By JENNIFER K. BAUER
While many herald these devices as saviors of parental sanity, they don’t work for everyone and others question the constant need for distraction from the present moment. Families take vacations to connect with each other, so here are some ideas for making your own fun this summer and not letting a device come between you, your kids and memories in the making.
Audio books are different than movies or games because imagination is needed to complete the story. Choose a story the whole family can enjoy and listen to together. Short stories are great to break up the miles. An unabridged book can span a trip across the U.S. Audio books and audio e-books for all ages can be found at local libraries. There are also many audio book apps you can download before your trip.
I Spy, 20 Questions and the License Plate Game are all time-tested ways to pass the miles but there are so many more. Ever heard of Cow Poker? Teams on each side of the car count how many cows they see. Pass a cemetery on your side of the road and you’ll lose all your cows, but only if the other team yells, “Your cows are buried.” You can add additional points for other animals or things you might encounter.
Other ideas: Before your trip make a scavenger hunt list of things to watch for. Print maps of your route and let kids cross off the towns you pass. If you include mileage you can make them figure out the answer every time they ask, “Are we there yet?” Prizes are good incentive to participate. The website www.momsminivan.com offers printable car games.
One game you won’t want to forget is the Quiet Game, a contest of who can keep their mouth shut the longest.
Riddles are brain exercises that are thousands of years old and take thought, logic and reason to unravel. Tricky riddles can keep everyone guessing for hours. Long or short they can be found in abundance online:
1. There is a house. One enters it blind and comes out seeing. What is it?
2. What can travel around the world while staying in a corner?
3. The more of them you take, the more you leave behind.
(Answers 1. A school, 2. A stamp, 3. Footsteps)
Visit the dollar store before your trip to stock up on art supplies for drawing, journaling and coloring. Give kids a bag of pipe cleaners to turn into animal creations. A box of aluminum foil can be used to create unusual hats. Window markers transform car windows into moving galleries. Use wet wipes to wipe the slate clean. Get each child a container to keep things organized. Other purchases could include prizes for games and glow sticks for night driving. A word of warning: If you go the dollar store route, be prepared for cleaning up a lot of junk.
Make your own music. Print out lyrics before your trip and learn a song by heart together. You’re sure to be the talk of your family reunion when your clan belts out all the lyrics to “I Will Survive.” Adding your own lyrics about your trip — priceless.