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TV in the Car: Beyond Obsession

by Tracey Singer

Let me start by saying I am not anti-TV. I grew up on TV and I can still give you the plot summary for any Gilligan’s Island or Brady Bunch episode within 30 seconds of turning the show on.  Heck, as I write this I am watching a $100,000 Pyramid marathon on Game Show Network. As a dad, I like that my kids can relax a bit in front of the TV after attending the boot camp that is now elementary school. I am far from being one of those parents who brags about having no TVs in the house and implies that this will guarantee my children’s future acceptance into Harvard when we all know it really just guarantees the kids will be sneaking over to friends’ houses to watch the most sordid shows they can find. It is not an issue of yes or no when it comes to TV but rather an issue of moderation vs. obsession.

People like to blame McDonald’s for our nation’s obesity problem, but is the problem eating at McDonald’s or is it eating 17 Big Macs a week? Moderation. TV, in moderation and under supervision, can add a little needed down time to a child’s busy life.  However, the latest trend of buying cars equipped with TVs blasts us, with supersonic speed, right past moderation and straight on to obsession.  Now, some people will say that their kids get bored in the car and only TV keeps them entertained.  I say that’s just giving up.  To not rely on TV parents must learn to think like an entertainer.  Now, far be it from me to lecture about a problem without providing some solutions.  Here are some TV-free ideas for keeping the kids happy on car trips short and long:

  • Slug Bug – the timeless game of looking for VW Beetles and yelling “SlugBug” before the other team does.  Although our family doesn’t play the punching version, we do take the competition quite seriously.
  • Alphabet Game – Another classic game where you look for words on signs, trucks, whatever, that begin first with “A” then “B” and so on toward “Z”.  Great for new readers!
  • I’m Thinking Of… – Like 20 Questions.  Take turns thinking of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Fictional Character etc.  Guess by asking Yes or No questions.
  • Coffee Pot – Think of an action word.  Guessers ask Yes or No Questions and substitute “Coffee Pot” for the answer, I.E. Do you Coffee Pot indoors?
  • Travel Games – Tiny versions of board games the kids can play together.
  • Draw Draws – What our family calls the little Magna Doodle drawing boards with attached “pencils.”
  • Etch A Sketch – Same principle
  • Books – Remember these? Only if your kids don’t get carsick.
  • Mystery Bag – Fill a grocery bag with inexpensive and amusing toys and treats for each kid.  Pass out one item for each at regular intervals.  Great for long trips!
  • Make Stops – On long trips build in time to stop for snacks, playtime, or things you see on your trip.  Seeing the world’s 4th largest statue of a kidney bean really CAN be amusing!
  • Sing – It may sound hokey but singing together is a blast.  OK, maybe not for teenagers, but hey they’re a different animal anyway.  My kids like to take turns making up new words to familiar tunes like “Jingle Bells.”
  • Talk about the trip – Discuss interesting things you see, make fun of rundown small towns, and talk about places you are headed. Be creative.
  • Just Plain Talk! Remember conversation?  Bring it back. Some say the dinner table is the best place to talk to your kids. Please. The car is way better. Why? Seat Belts. Your kids can not get away!

Moderation is key in all things except taking time to talk to and love your kids.  TV in the car simply sucks interaction away. When you think about it, being so taken with TV that you can’t even live without it in your car is as silly as, say, letting your small child have a TV in his or her bedroom. Oh no, don’t tell me…..

Tracey Singer is a Singer/Pianist/Entertainer to the public by night and an At-Home/Super Dad/Entertainer to his kids by day.  To inquire about performances, seek parenting advice or to express your pity, please visit

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