Thursday, September 20, 2012

My car is DVD-free. What about yours?

Welcome to the September 2012 
Natural Living Blog Carnival: Kids in the Car  

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about kids in the car.

Last month, while on vacation in Virginia, my husband and I were browsing through Goodwill. There was a television on in the back of the store and the movie Lion King was playing. A young girl (maybe 5 or so) was transfixed on the screen while her parents shopped. When it was time to leave, the girl put up a bit of a fuss, to which her dad responded to with a "We'll turn a movie on in the car. Let's go." She happily skipped out of the store. 

I was perturbed. Deeply. At what point in society did we come to the conclusion that children need to be entertained at all times? Even a simple drive to the store and home requires movie viewing. Really?

I, for one (and maybe the only one), do not believe in DVD players in vehicles. It appalls me that parents will pick their kids up from school, plop them in the back of the car and turn on a movie. And in some cases, turn on two different movies to suit the separate tastes of two children in the back seat! Whatever happened to talking to kids?! Does no one else see an issue with children needing to be entertained, even during short 10-minute or so car rides?! 

My husband and I drove to Virginia Beach with our 3-year-old granddaughter, Laura. It was an 11-hour trip and guess what... we didn't provide her with any electronic entertainment during the drive. But however did we keep her occupied? Well, let's see. 

  • talked
  • read books
  • told stories
  • sang songs
  • played games
Was it tiresome for us at times? Of course. But we made some pretty sweet memories. 

Some of the best times I remember having with my own kids when they were young involved car rides. We had fun when we traveled, which we did fairly often, as we would drive 240 miles on the Pennsylvania turnpike to visit my mother on the other side of the state. 

If you are one of those parents who has fallen prey to this on-the-go technology, I urge you to reconsider. The time with your kids in the car is a precious opportunity to bond with them. If there is sibling bickering behind the front seat, don't simply assuage it by slipping in a DVD. That does not solve the problem, it exacerbates it. Yes, you may have a few minutes of peace, but at what cost? Kids need to learn to work things out, not just tune things out. And, I'm sorry, but if your kids can't even cooperate long enough to watch the same DVD, you have some serious problems, my friend.

I imagine by now I've stepped on quite a few toes. It's not my goal to make you uncomfortable. I just want you to think about what you are doing. Just because every other kid in daycare/at school/in your neighborhood has their own portable DVD player in the car/van/SUV doesn't mean your kids need one. Rise above the crowd and have fun with your kids on your drives! Here are some of the things we do with Laura as we drive. You can adjust the activities according to your children's ages.
    Pennsylvania Turnpike
  • Look for rectangles, ovals, keystones (easy to find in Pennsylvania!) and other shapes
  • Look for things that start with the different letters of the alphabet
  • Tell stories by taking turns with each phrase. For example: Bill -- "Once upon a time, there was a rabbit and..." me -- "a spider, and they were arguing about who had nicer feet. The spider proudly showed off each foot, while the rabbit..." Laura -- "stomped his furry feet in the snow." Back to Bill to keep the story going. 
  • We also play a rhyming game where one person says a word and the next person has to rhyme it and then they say a word for the the next person, and so on. Bill -- "Car." Me -- "Star. Night." Laura -- "Right. Mouse." Bill -- "House. Street..." Well, you get the idea.
Keep in mind, these are games with a toddler, and yes, at times we listen to child-appropriate CDs, like Sandra Boynton's enchanting Rhinoceros Tap. A little bit of whimsy goes a long way when there are seemingly endless hours spent in the car. We also sang endless choruses of "There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o." 

With older children, there are other games to play, like auto bingo and the Ungame

I know you must have some car activities of your own I haven't mentioned. Aside from watching movies on the go, what are some of your family's favorite travel activities? Do you find car time a pleasure or a curse?

Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival! Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:


  1. I wholeheartedly agree about not having DVD players in the car. We don't have one now, and we don't plan too. As you said, road trips really are an opportunity for family fun if done right.

  2. Hi there, I followed the link from Pistachio Project. I don't have kids yet, but I totally agree. When my brother and I were kids, we drove 4 hours each way to the cottage and I don't even remember listening to the radio. We played alphabet games; we liked one where I say a place, like Chicago, and you have to name a place that starts with the last letter, say Oklahoma, etc.; there was another where we had to describe something using an adjective for each letter of the alphabet.

    Separate DVDs for each child also can create an issue where a kid wants to watch a movie that is not really age-appropriate, or that does require some parental guidance. Parents may not even know what the issues are if they are not watching alongside...

  3. We haven't caved to the DVD in the car yet, but I'll admit - it's tempting. Charlie is almost 15 months old and has HATED the car since day 1. When I say "hate it", I mean loathes it. We've tried everything you can think of to entertain him, but at this age, since he doesn't understand why he's strapped into a car seat, it's really tough. On a few super-tough occasions, we've shown him a video on our phones and it will quiet him down. With the frequent hour and a half trips we take to visit family, I'll be honest - at least until he can comprehend why he's in the car, I don't know that I'll be able to fight the urge to show him some of his animal videos to make the ride a little more peaceful. :0/

    1. I must admit, I never dealt with a kiddo that hates the car! My children and grandchildren started traveling when they were infants, so it was just part of life of them and they never fought it. I guess we were lucky.

  4. My mother-in-law is REALLY good at this with our kids on short little day-trips. She sits at the back of the van and will play the alphabet game four different ways again and again and again. We have lived 800 miles from the rest of our family since our daughter (now 4 1/2) was 5 months old. She has gotten car sick since she was 18 months old, and we caved on the DVD player in the car to focus her attention so she didn't get sick. It seems to help. As I came here to comment, though, I noticed a post all about carsickness with kids, so I learned some new ways. As the kids get older, I definitely want to do more activities, less movies. We ONLY use the DVD on the LONG trips back to Illinois. We like listening to audio stories. And my husband and I STILL play the license plate game, although the kids are a little too young to appreciate that one. Thanks for the reminder that car trips can be fun!

    1. I used to get really carsick when I was a kid, so I would ride up front between my mom and dad. Certainly can't do that with kids anymore! I hope your daughter outgrows it! Have you tried ginger gum?

  5. I agree that it is best not to rely on technology to entertain. I do think that there are some real challenges to long road trips especially when there is a huge age difference with kids.

    That said I do not have a DVD player in my car and I look forward to driving cross country with my husband and my kids when they get a little older!

    1. My late husband and I drove from Texas to Pennsylvania when the kids were 5 and 7 and I just remember it being a really fun trip. No DVD players back then (1989)!

  6. I love this! thank you! We drove from PA to FL and back with our toddler and it never even crossed my mind even though several people suggested it as a "must-have" before our trip. I never had one and I can't imagine my son zoned out with a screen during our family adventures. Like you said, it can be a little tiresome, but the memories are so worth it! Visiting from the blog hop!

    1. Hi Margaux! Thanks for visiting and commenting! I hope you'll stop in again soon! I blog 6 days a week, so there's lots of new content weekly!

  7. I enjoy car time! We are also DVD free and enjoy singing, playing I Spy games and talking about what we see along the way.


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