Children grousing in the back of the car or on a plane while the delays mount is a scenario we’ve all experienced, sometimes vowing ‘never again’, often longing for the serenity of travel before children. However, there are ways to avoid this and so smooth your furrowed brow and quieten that din.
Our favourite, with a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, is a game in which a person thinks of a creature and the inquisitor has 20 questions to which that person can reply only “yes” or “no.” “Does it have fur?” might be your starter. “Is it larger than a dog?” is usually next and has led remarkably to the identification of everything from wolf to iguana to capybara.
Of course, in a car at least, I-spy also works well, although anyone below reading age might just lead you on a merry goose chase as they’ve identified the wrong starting letter.
Superior to this is a card game that found its way into a Christmas stocking. The concept is simple: the children take their share of the cards and turn one over. It will contain an object such as a taxi, a bicycle, a pylon or a telephone kiosk. Only once spotted can the next card be turned. Mind you, there can be tears if someone draws a bicycle on a motorway…
Of course, we all try to educate our passengers as well as amuse, but being told how lucky they are to live in the country and so be able to spot hoar frost or an inversion rather than a traffic jam holds water for only so long.
Singing to music is a favourite, as long as it’s not ‘Mamma Mia’ being belted out from the back seat, but you sometimes wonder why your little ones have become so fascinated by Cat Stevens. If you want a quieter journey invest in some good CD story books such as Just William or invest in the Harry Potter series read by Stephen Fry.
The car is one thing, but it’s far more important that flying is something that they take in their stride. The combination of a window seat and a full programme of in-flight entertainment is still a thing of wonder, especially with a Nintendo DS and a batch of ‘Beast Quest’ or ‘Where’s Wally?’ books as back-up. You might also try packing Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Hangman, any of the Brainbox series of quizzes in a box and a travel chess set or that classic, Mastermind.
Frankly, you’re more likely to hear griping when trying to convince your children to lug their carry-on bags – the curse of budget airlines – from the most distant gate to passport control.
Flying with wee ones is altogether trickier, as toddlers don’t have the concentration span to watch a movie, not that their age group is catered for. More by luck than judgement, a pair of small plastic figures of an astronaut and a space shuttle purchased from the shop at The Science Museum once proved enough to entertain an 18-month-old on the flight from London to Sydney.
Or so I was told, as I’d flown out a few days earlier…