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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2001

To keep the peace, make a game of family travel

July 15, 2001

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— "Are we there yet?"

It's the age-old question dreaded by parents and asked insistently by children that seems to come up on every single trip.

Often strapped into the back seats of cars, or dragging heavy backpacks around airport and bus terminals, it seems there's not much for children to do but ask then ask again.

"We keep our kids as busy as we can," says Brian Presley, author of the self-published book "What To Do With the Kids."

While he packs activity books and some toys, he often encourages the children to "build" a story, Presley says, which doesn't require any tools or equipment except their minds and mouths.

"You start with 'Once upon a time ...' Then the next person adds a line, then the next person and you get some very interesting stories. It's not just mindless sitting there waiting for time to go by, it actually gets them using their brain cells coming up with ideas."

Psychologist Stevanne Auerbach, director of the Institute for Childhood Resources, reviews children's vacation products every year and posts them online at the Dr. Toy Web site.

Auerbach says games are easy to carry and give children something interesting to do.

"Learning to play games is a good social experience for kids and they're practicing hand-eye coordination and thinking," she explains.

One of her top travel choices is a game appropriate for the family travel experience. It's called "Are We There Yet?"

The game, recommended for children ages 6 and older, can be played anywhere and doesn't require an extensive knowledge of geography.

Each player is dealt five cards from a deck of 250 and the one who accumulates the greatest number of points by sighting the most items that appear on the travel cards wins.

In the auto travel set, for example, a card may require a player to look out a window and spot a driver with one hand on the steering wheel. The air version may ask players to find a blue carry-on bag.

Each card is printed in English, Spanish and French, providing an opportunity for children to further learn or test their language skills.

Auerbach also suggests taking along classic travel games, including compact versions of chess and checkers.

Handheld puzzle games with attachable or magnetic pieces can keep children busy for hours and avoid tears by preventing lost bits. A Rubik's Cube is great, she says.

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