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“We don’t use any screens on trips,” said St. Louis Park’s Gabriel Skelly, who takes her three children (10, 5 and 1) on trips to the Black Hills and Grand Marais every summer. “We play word games and listen to book tapes in the car.”
Gwen Sturrock of Marshall, Minn., just completed what she called “a DVD-free” three-week driving trip with her 6- and 4-year-olds. Every year, she gets the boys “a few more toys and more music and books on tape,” and makes lots of stops when they’re on the road. “I think the kids learn a lot by self-entertaining,” she said.
‘Busy and engaged’
Like Sturrock, Jen Newburg of St. Paul focuses on games, books on CD and even learning experiences when the family, which includes a 5- and an 8-year-old, goes on vacation. “Now, with our trips often being to national parks, we’ll talk a lot about geography and geology and how the country changes,” she said.
The Newburg kids do a little bit of everything: sticker books, Playmobil pieces, pipe-cleaner animals, Klutz arts and crafts books, and a lot of improvised games.
“That’s our secret,” Newburg said, “to keep their hands busy and brains engaged.”
Nicole Kopp of White Bear Lake hasn’t been that lucky. “We have TVs built into the van, a Nintendo DS, a Kindle, a Motorola Xoom, a Leapster, coloring books, reading books, DVDs, snacks and nothing entertains them long enough,” said Kopp, whose kids are 8 and 4. “When I was a kid, we went for drives and just read or played. These days there has to be electronics, and sometimes that doesn’t even satisfy them.”
Even Smith has struggled to keep her kids engaged. Despite all of her preparations for the family trip to the Black Hills, she got the question every parent dreads: “Within a few minutes of leaving the house, my youngest asked if we were almost there.”
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643