all Q’d up and ready to go

We drove to New England this weekend for my FIL’s 75th birthday. We left Friday afternoon, drove up to New York and stayed in an adorable cabin that landisdad found online, then drove the rest of the way on Saturday morning. Had lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch with landisdad’s dad and his aunts and uncles, then drove the whole way home in one ridiculously long shot that was complicated by annoying and unexplained traffic.

Our ability to deal with hours and hours on end in the car with the kids got pretty frayed at the end. There are only so many versions of The Alphabet Game you can play, especially with an early reader who can’t read license plates fast enough to recognize the letters. It’s the one time I wish there were more billboards in the world! By the time I finally found a Q, we were 10 minutes from home.

There was a round of “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing an albatross, a blueberry, a canary and a donut!” There was “I Spy.” There was even, god help me, a round of “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 20” that devolved into a variety of weird things like:

I’m thinking of a body part between the toes and the nose.

I’m thinking of a planet between the sun and Pluto.

and even, I’m thinking of a Trojan between Hector and Cressida (okay, that one was for landisdad’s benefit).

What do you do to entertain your kids in the car when you have to go on a long journey? How many times can one listen to the Curious George soundtrack without losing one’s mind?


October 14, 2007. thoughtful parenting.


  1. chichimama replied:

    Heh. Since I drive solo to and from Maine several times a year, we have succumbed to the portable DVD player. The kids get one movie on the drive, a coin gets flipped to see who choses on the way up and the other chooses on the way back. Then between potty breaks and lunch breaks and snack breaks, we do OK and I don’t OD on Curious George. I have also bought two copies of books with a book on CD and they both listen and “read” the books. That’s actually their favorite these days. On the few occasions that M is with me we play the alphabet game and such, but I can’t drive and play the game.

  2. Kimberly replied:

    I am ashamed to admit it, but my parents bought a portable dvd player for the East Coast trip. So, everytime I was about to kill them, Disney to the rescue!

    I’m such a stellar parent.

  3. MetroDad replied:

    Thankfully, the car is like Ambien to my daughter. Every time we get in, she passes out immediately. If, by some chance, she does wake up and gets restless, we tend to sing show tunes in the car.

  4. elise replied:

    I developed the ability to tune them out. I go into a zone where they become background noise. If they get too loud I pull over and tell them I won’t drive until they stop being loud. When I am in “the zone” I answer all questions with “yes” and then deny that I did later. Are we almost there yet? Yes. Even if we are 500 miles away. It actually took them years before they figured out that I had been lying to them. I suppose that being in the zone could create some safety issues but I assume that I would notice if one of them were choking to death….

    Actually I used the zone on my husband just the other day. We were almost out of gas and he said that he had pointed out the closest gas station….twice. I let him know that I had stopped listening to him about 30 miles ago.

    And yes, we did have a portable TV when the kids were younger but obviously that’s the least of my sins.

  5. Library Lady replied:

    I think the DVD player is a cop-out. I hate seeing kids staring glazed eyes at the player as they travel. They’re missing the scenery!
    My own kids are 8 and 12.We’ve traveled 250 miles to visit grandparents (in NYC too!) on a regular basis since they were babies, and we didn’t have any such thing available!

    (Meanwhile my great-niece never seems to go ANYWHERE without a DVD in the car–my sister-in-law bought a new van with a DVD player specifically for her– and my niece worries about Leila’s lack of attention span in school. Hmmmm)

    Bee is definitely old enough for an MP3 or CD player. I used to burn the girls CDs of favorite music, but now I just load the players with tracks. Even the Potato can probably manage one with help from his sister.

    Then head for the 🙂 library–lots of books on CD Bee will like, and books with CDs or cassettes for the Potato. Your library may also offer downloads of books–even as I’m writing this I am downloading one for my own MP3.

    Look for storytelling on CD as well. There are lots of storytellers who specialize in stories for kids that you’d all enjoy hearing. I’d look for Bill Harley or Heather Forest for a start. Lots of good ethnic stories that way too!

    The girls loved Magnadoodle sketchpads when they were little, or had clipboards to hold a coloring book or drawing paper, plus crayons.

    And of course, if they don’t get carsick reading, just plain old books. We always have a stash in the back seat. SC used to hand JR board books back when she was a baby!

    Last thing–PLAY YOUR OWN MUSIC AS WELL AS THE KIDS STUFF! You not only will have a good time listening, you will get them listening to your stuff! My 12 year old likes Billy Joel and Harry Chapin as well as Beyonce (probably more) and has wasted no money on Disney music “stars”. And her little sister loves Abba and “The Mamas and the Papas”. So it’s worth trying.

    Happy travels!

  6. Anjali replied:

    I make a trip to the library without the kids right before the trip. Then when we start I pull out like 30 books for them to look at! This eats up at LEAST 2 hours. We also have a lot of CDs, and many of them are not kids CDs.

    20 Questions is also a big one for us. I also bring brand new Color Wonder coloring books.

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