Here’s a dare for all of the parents planning on traveling with kids this summer: Leave the DVD player at home! Are you cringing yet?
The immense success of in-vehicle DVD players can be chalked up to four little words: Are we there yet?
What mother doesn’t cringe at the thought of a long road trip with young children? While popping in a movie may be an easy solution to travel-time boredom, it doesn’t have to be the sole entertainment for the trip.
My friends still think I’m crazy, but one of our best family vacations was the one we took when our DVD player broke -- 20 minutes into the trip. We learned a lot about each other in the eight-hour car ride.
In today’s fast-paced world, car or plane rides are one of the rare opportunities families have to spend time together without outside distractions. I believe we should take advantage of this time by talking, playing games and reconnecting. Here’s what we did:
1.) We talked.
Imagine! Talking! If you need a conversation starter, check out a book like KidChat
by Paul Lowrie and Brett Nicholas offer fun and imaginative questions. For example: If you could ride on the back of any animal, which would you choose and why? Or: What is something most adults do that seems silly to you? (My son thinks my before coffee/after coffee transformation is hilarious!) Your child’s answers might surprise you, and sometimes the questions serve as a catalyst for more meaningful discussions.
2.) We listened to a book on CD.
I had picked up an Encyclopedia Brown
book, which is a series of short whodunit mysteries. Listening to an audio book uses more imagination than watching a DVD and can also be enjoyed by the driver. On another vacation, I chose a book that was one of my childhood favorites, Ramona the Pest
by Beverly Clearly. It was fun listening to it again and fun to watch my boys experience it.
3.) We made a scrapbook. I had packed art supplies, a lap desk, and a disposable camera for each of my boys and on our way home they created a great show-and-tell for school.
4.) We were silly. We decided to play a game by letting each family member take turns adding a few words or a sentence. Start with “Elsie was the talk of the barnyard because she was a cow who could... ” and see where your family takes it from there.
As parents, we spend weeks -- even months -- planning family vacations, booking hotel, researching attractions and charting routes. It’s easy to overlook the fact that filling up your travel time takes planning, too. Sure, DVD players are great travel tools, especially if your journey is long. But with a little planning, families will find that getting there can be half the fun.