There’s an article on the BBC’s breakfast programme about how to cope with long car journeys when you’ve got kids. There’s a very sensible child psychologist who suggests things like planning plenty of stops, taking a ball or something, planning a series of rewards (if there are no fights for an hour, you can have an ice cream at the next stop). And playing I-spy and numberplate games and so on, of course. All good stuff.
But the rest of the reporting is insane. DVDs are automatically assumed to be bad. I disagree. In fact, the psychologist disagreed too. Movies don’t have to be about passive consumption. Why not watch the DVD and then discuss it? Why did Woody feel sad when Buzz did whatever it was he did? On a four or five hour journey, it seems entirely reasonable to watch a DVD, better still if you discuss it. Why not ask the kids to summarise the movie? If you have more than one child, they will argue about it. That’s a good thing, providing they don’t come to blows.
It was generally agreed that colouring books were good but computer games were bad. Even though neither involve much in the way of interaction with others. I would think that computer games are probably ‘better’ insofar as these things can be measured.
There’s a clear bias in the media against hi-tech solutions for no reason I can fathom. Well, I might be able to fathom it: most people seem to want their kids to shut up and stop bothering them. It’s easy to throw technology at a problem like that. But I don’t really understand why people blame the technology rather than their own lazy attitudes.
Here’s my suggestion (in addition to the sensible ones already mentioned): if you’re going to an attraction of some kind and you have a mobile Internet connection, get your kids to browse the attraction’s website and get them to help plan what you’re going to do when you get there. Get them to plan a sensible route between the various parts of the attraction. This is an example of technology encouraging problem solving, interaction between people, negotiation, planning, language skills and savvy web use. If you’re going somewhere of educational value, then the kids can probably learn something from the website. They can teach each other (and maybe other people’s children) about some of the exhibits.
One of my personal hates is when kids ask their parents questions at zoos or museums and the parents read out the plaque, pretending that they knew the answer all along. Why can’t they say “well, I don’t really know, let’s look at what it says here”? Better still, why not encourage your children to find out things on the journey and then ask THEM questions and have them educate YOU?
When I have kids, the car will have Internet access.