- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

Try some of these ideas to entertain children on long drives:

• Give your children an allowance for the day. Remind them that the money is for snacks, arcade games and souvenirs. When it is gone, there is no more. It will help them learn about budgeting money and making good choices.

• Give your child a map. A map will show them how far you have gone and how much farther there is to go. They also might enjoy a compass to go with it.

• Play the license plate game. Print a U.S. map off the Internet and color in the states as you see license plates from each one. You might even record the time, date and state in which you saw each one.

• Plan a stop somewhere wacky. Check guidebooks to see if there is an offbeat locale, such as South Carolina's South of the Border or Virginia's Dinoland, to take a photo-opportunity break.

• Create a scavenger hunt. Give each child a list of items to watch for while driving. Bring a small bag of prizes to be awarded for travel games (as well as for good behavior for toddlers).

• Play classic board games. Monopoly has a great car version. Battleship also is a car favorite.

• Read out loud. Take turns reading passages of a book. Books on tape that have books to follow along with are also good for the whole family.

• Get headsets for everyone. Invest in inexpensive personal CD or cassette players. That way, the teens don't have to listen to Disney songs, the preschoolers don't have to hear Britney Spears, and parents can actually talk to one another.

• Write or collect postcards. Get postcards to document the trip and write to friends while you are gone. Bring along stamps so you can drop the cards in the mail.

• Keep a journal. Give everyone a spiral bound sketch pad and a box of crayons or markers. They can draw pictures of what they did each day, as well as paste in mementos from the trip.

• Play rest-stop sports. Bring along a ball, Frisbee or jump rope. When you stop, everyone can stretch and get some exercise.

• Have a spelling bee. See who can spell the most words correctly. Bring along a pocket dictionary to check your work.

• Play I Spy or 20 Questions. These old favorites are still fun.

• Create aluminum foil art. Bring along a roll of tin foil. The children can twist it into animals, balls, jewelry and the letters of the alphabet.

• Bring the Gameboy. Even parents who are opposed to the electronic games find it useful on long trips.

• Turn on the television. When you are all out of ideas, the car TV/VCR can be a lifesaver. Prerecord the children's favorite TV shows. Half a dozen episodes of "Dragon Tales" can go a long way on an extended trip.

Source: Laurel Smith, editor of Momsminivan.com.

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