Last weekend as my husband and I were packing up the car to go away for the Fourth of July weekend, I thought back to long car trips we frequently made when our two sons were little. We would load them into the back seat of our four-door sedan, with the trunk packed as tightly and carefully as a jigsaw puzzle, and drive from Minneapolis to St. Petersburg over spring breaks to visit my parents or across several state lines for a summer vacation.
A hallmark of those car rides used to be the "bags" of activities and snacks I would dole out at intervals throughout the drive. No smartphones then to pass to them in the backseat, or tablets, or built-in DVD players. We traveled analog style.
These travel experiences were the basis for my very first published piece from July 1996: Are We There Yet? in Minnesota Parent. It was a list of 100 ways to keep your children occupied during long car rides. I was elated to get the acceptance - and the payment! I remember using the money to buy backseat goodies for our next car trip.
Earlier this week, after we returned from our weekend away, I looked for and found hard copies of this piece in my office archives. It was with a significant wave of nostalgia that I looked over the list. Lots of these ideas are probably now far overshadowed by all the options for entertainment and activities that children can find on their or their parents smart gadgets. But still, looking at the list, my nostalgia is not just for my little boys (and sometimes our dog) in the backseat, but also for the tangible thingness of what they had to play with and do in that backseat. A stack of colored construction paper and your very own roll of tape? I'd like to spend an hour at play with that even now.
So here's the list for its historical value of parenting in another time, as well as for your viewing pleasure and potential use. You can click on the images below to enlarge, and you can also click the link below the pictures to download a copy. Perhaps you have a long road trip with your children or grandchildren still to come this summer and want some off-the-grid options.
[Photo: taken of my granddog peaking out from under the picnic table on July Fourth.]