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Toys in the Car?
Many parents wouldn’t consider going anywhere in the car unless their kids take the entire contents of their toy box with them in hopes that it will keep them entertained and occupied for the entire trip.
However, this can be a mistake with potentially disastrous consequences because of the distraction it can cause parents to focus on driving – as I was about to find out.
I have to say that I never went down the route of toys in cars, believing that children should be able to entertain themselves on journeys simply by looking out the window. As they grew up, there were many games to play with them, such as “first to spot a red car”. Games developed, as they do, reaching the dizzying heights of ‘I-Spy’, for example, or many other memory games.
I felt the need to prove my dominance. Was I right to keep the toys out of the car, or were some of them worth it?
There are many toys on the market that aim to keep kids busy on car rides. They tend to be small, compact; designed to fit easily into a backpack.
Be careful because some can be so irritating that they will just drive you around the bend. For example, the rock guitar from Tomy was featured in ‘Top Gear’. Small, discreet, one thinks it is harmless. Wrong! After five minutes I was about to throw it out the window because the music was loud, irritating and completely distracting to me, the driver.
So next up was Nintendo, which both my kids love. Still, even with my voice down, I could hear that piercing, terrifying noise that drove me crazy and back, along with their screams of frustration as they were beaten – again. So this was also very much related to the children’s distress calls.
“I’m doing an experiment” I tried to reassure them as tears rolled down my face. “Bad mom” was all I heard.
So while my son was drowning, my daughter brought out her toy horses with various little accessories to brush their manes, or change their horses’ shoes, etc. The problem here was that there were so many small parts that fell off, not one, but most of them in a short time. Since I refused (obviously) to let her take these small parts, as that would mean she had to unbuckle her seat belt and leave her seat, she quickly lost interest in the whole lot. She began to annoy and then pester her brother, who was still reeling from closing his Nintendo. Annoyed producers soon led to an all-out fight with me trying to judge while driving. Not exactly a safe position to be in, I can assure you.
Needless to say, this experiment was short-lived, as I became so confused by their cries of distress when something was wrong with the toys they were playing with.
At the end of the day, I would advise all parents to try to avoid toys in the car altogether. Set the rules from day one before you create a bar for your back. There is nothing worse than a child screaming because they dropped a soft toy, or any toy for that matter. The parent’s reaction is to turn immediately to see what the problem is, taking their eyes off the road, which is obviously very dangerous and could end in disaster. For what? A soft, colorful caterpillar with lots of irritating bells.
Keep the car a toy-free zone.
Top tips for keeping kids busy in the car:
– ‘I spy’
– Memory games such as ‘I went to the supermarket and bought…’ (Match the items alphabetically, where each person has to remember the list in order and add an item).
– Teach them the Highway Code signs and ask them to point out similarities, or ask what they think the picture means. Educational as well as entertaining.
– Take a word from the license plate in front – don’t drive too close, obviously!
– Start a story. Each person takes it in turn to add a line to the story and watch it unfold. It can be a lot of fun.
– Practice Times-Tables! Sadly short lived!
– Description of objects. It stimulates their imagination and builds their creative skills and vocabulary.
– Speak up. You are all stuck with each other’s company. Make the most of it – it’s a great time to bond with the kids. Discuss school, friends, anything…
If the children become broken
– Find a safe place to stop and refuse to move until they are quiet.
– Don’t let the storm blow. As soon as you feel the tension, tell them your intention to stop if they don’t calm down.
– Never travel for more than two hours without a break. First, you as the driver need one, second, the kids need to get out and let off some steam.
– Distraction is a big turn off. Engage them quickly in one of the games mentioned above.
– Never lose your cool. Children will copy and the situation will escalate out of control. If you feel close to this dangerous level, find a place to stop for a while. Do not continue your journey until you are fully prepared.
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