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July 7, 2011

Security Blanket: In-the-Car Games

We just got back from our first road trip of the summer—the first we'd ever attempted with the aid of a backseat DVD player to get our boys through the long stretches. And for a few low-on-scenery parts of New York State, they turned out to be a godsend—but we discovered that they do have their downsides. I suppose I should have known that introducing screen time to car journeys would also mean introducing the tedious tug-of-war over screen time; our six-year-old, Dash, started begging to plug in the moment we climbed into the car, and got petulant if we denied him. Two-year-old Griffin was a bit less insistent, but that was probably only because sometimes the watching seemed to be giving him motion sickness. (Thankfully for everyone, he was aware enough of the problem to say something before it was...too late.)

So we also leaned heavily on music, both the kids' variety (a lot of Recess Monkey, natch) and not (we had the Civil Wars' Barton Hollow on heavy rotation, the title track in particular). But this was also the first long car ride we've embarked on during which everyone in the vehicle is old enough to participate in traditional passing-the-time games, like I Spy, the Alphabet Game, and 20 Questions. And they were a big hit—especially the latter, which we at first thought was a little over Griff's head (he had a tendency to repeat the same question after it had been answered, always with strangely perfect comic timing) until one of his supposedly random guesses ("Is it a camper?") was exactly right.

Now, it's no news to anyone that these kinds of games are fun for family car rides, I know; there's a reason they've survived as long as they have. And God knows that sometimes parents need something, anything, to keep the "Are we there yet" refrain at bay. (Seriously, that phrase must be an innate developmental human trait, like standing upright, because both our sons started using it almost before they could say anything else.) But in our age of endless distractions and stimuli, it was a nice reminder to me, at least, that simplicity is not only still possible—sometimes it's more fun, too. I think even Dash would agree.

[Photo: Whitney Webster]

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