I am totally amazed by what passes for amusement to keep children busy in a car when you have to take a long trip. Movies, DVD’s, iPad and iPhone games, electronic stimulus extraordinaire! Plus the fact that most of this stuff, or the stuff that runs the stuff, is astronomically expensive.

As you all know I come from a very different generation and I was the child of a WWII vet and a stay at home mom. There wasn’t a lot of money and we used to take an eight-hour trip to visit one of my grandmothers in upper state NY. That’s the one where they bundled us up at 4 a.m. and put us in the car to sleep half the way up from New Jersey.

But somewhere in the morning my sister and I would both wake up and the proverbial “Are we there yet?” would start to drive my parents crazy. But my dad was always ready with something to keep us busy. Even as little kids we learned from my dad. There was the license plate game. Not reading the name of the state because we were too little to read, but learning colors and keeping track of them.

“There’s a yellow one!”
“There’s a blue one! That gives me three blue plates.”

In those days the plates were recognizable by an array of colors that you don’t see today. By the time we were old enough to read a little we kept track of states. Not only did we learn a lot about the states we were driving through, but my dad and mom would talk about the state of Texas if we happened to see one. There was constant communication in the car between all of us. You have to remember that there wasn’t even a radio in the old Plymouth that was from 1951 in those days so conversation was the way we all stayed awake.

We would play an alphabet game.

This consisted of one person saying a letter and then the next person adding another letter. Whoever couldn’t add another letter lost that round. All four of us participated in that one. As we got older we played a game with animal names. We had a pad and crayon and someone would say a letter and we would have to come up with as many animals as we could say with the letter “G.”

Gorilla, giraffe, gold fish were some of the favorites of us then, 8 and 10-year olds.
Whoever came up with the most was the winner. And all the time we were learning.

But my very favorite thing of all was when we would all sing. My father loved to sing and he used to whistle and sing all the time. He couldn’t play an instrument or read a note of music, but her was one of the most musical persons I had ever met. From You Are My Sunshine (which he taught us how to harmonize to) to Does Your Chewing Gun Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight (really!), we sang at the top of our lungs for hours in a car. It was the best fun that I ever had on long road trips.

I lost my dad in 1996 and miss him every day, and I think that all of this electronic gizmo stuff is okay I guess, but I really think that young families are missing out on a lot by not communicating in a vehicle. I relish those days past and when my kids were growing up we sang in the car and played games similar to the ones of my childhood.

Give it a try.
You might just find yourself really like it.

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