Posted on Tue, Jul. 09, 2002
Car trips turning kids into game boys and girls
By GORDON DICKSON
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
When the Ahsanullah family hits the road, batteries are not
In May, the Euless family set out for a two-week, 4,000-mile
vacation. They shunned laptop computers, GameBoys and in-car
movies. Instead, they whiled away the hours looking out the car
windows and playing their versions of popular car games such as "I
spy" (the version they played is called "Riddly, riddly Randy, I see
With handheld electronic games now more affordable than ever,
and many cars being manufactured with built-in video players, it
would have been easy to pacify the children with high-tech
"We did look at DVD players for the car, and we thought about
taking a laptop in the car and letting the kids play games, but
decided against that," said Christy Ahsanullah. She has two boys,
Daniel, 5, and Adam, 2. "We just made that decision. It was like
turning technology off. We played cloud games - picked images in
the sky - and that alone would occupy them for two hours.
"We feel that they get too much TV as it is. On this trip to
Washington, D.C., to Vicksburg [Miss.], to Alabama and Kentucky,
we wanted them to use their imaginations."
Parenting experts who worried that the mass appeal of electronics
would rot the minds of youth may have underestimated the
modern-day parent, some counselors say. The same adults who
allow television to babysit their children at home may forbid such
artificial stimuli, or at least restrict it, on the road.
In accordance with this retro-philosophy, the long hours on the road
are not only tolerated, but embraced. Supermario, Star Wars and
Batman Vengeance take a back seat to old favorites such as the
ABC game, the cow game and the license plate game.
Gina Swann, who frequently travels to Houston and Austin, has
been surprised just how little interest her 6-year-old son, Tony,
shows in his GameBoy while riding in the car. Instead, he prefers to
open a coloring book, or play the sign game with his 2-year-old
sister, Gillian. The goal of the sign game is to be the first to spot
signs of a certain color, or signs containing a predetermined letter
"We have some of our best conversations in the car," said Swann,
who lives in Fort Worth near the Euless border. "My 6-year-old
brings his GameBoy but he doesn't really play it much. My 2-year-old
brings her books. We play games where we look for a red sign, or a
yellow sign, or we look for specific letters. And, we listen to a lot of
music. We take turns choosing a CD."
Laurel Smith, whose Web site (www.momsminivan.com)
dozens of ideas for keeping children busy on long trips, keeps a box
of travel supplies that her children are only allowed to play with
while on vacation. Among the favorites: car bingo.
The children also are given laminated maps so they can trace the
family's progress during a trip, and they write in their travel journals
at the end of each vacation day, said Smith, who lives in Slidell, La.
The children are only allowed to see the journals while on trips, and
they often are fascinated to read their entries from previous
journeys, she said.
"They are just for use in the car . . . they're extra-special," Smith
said. "My son still brings his GameBoy with him, but he really enjoys
all the other games he does in the car," she said. "I think you need
to have a balance."
Gordon Dickson, (817) 685-3816