The holidays are a time when people travel to see their family and friends. While they may seem like a necessary evil, they can be fun, whether you’re driving to the next town, the next state, or flying to another country. So how, exactly, does a geeky parent keep the peace in the car? Just use your geeky sense of fun and you can have a trip that’s just as memorable as the destination, and in a good way!

 

Puppet Parenting

The Puppet Parenting game is near and dear to my heart because I use it all the time. Jim Henson is my hero and the magic of puppetry is something that has always enamored me. Young Children will respond differently to a puppet, even if it is saying the same thing as a parent. The puppets are also a great way to ask a question after everyone has already tuned out your voice.

During road trips, I’ve even been able to break up fights between my kids using this Puppet Parenting technique. After pulling the car over, I’ve turned my hand into a puppet and talked to them that way, no fancy toy needed. Did they know it was really me? Of course they did. In fact my daughter sometimes replies in a similar fashion using her hand to do the talking. However, it’s a great way to diffuse almost any situation, and for bonus points, use a silly voice.

There’s no reason to wait for a meltdown, though. It’s a lot easier if you can curb the tension by having a silly car in the first place. You can stash a few puppets in the glove box and bring them out to sing along to songs on the radio. Don’t force anyone to use them, but don’t be surprised if your teenagers, or even your spouse, want to get in the act as well.

 

Anyone Listening?

If you’re going to be in the car for a long time, pop in an audio book that you can all get into. The Salt Lake County Library has a wonderful collection of audiobooks that are great for the whole family. Need a suggestion? You can never go wrong with the “Harry Potter” series. Not only are the books amazing and engaging, but they are voiced by award-winning Broadway actor Jim Dale. If you are a “Buffy” fan, you might want to introduce your family to “The Dresden Files” which are read by James Marsters, aka Spike. My absolute favorite pick would be “Wee Free Men” by Terry Pratchet because the storytelling and voice acting are exceptional.

Listening to audio books together has another advantage: since everyone is listening to it together, you can all talk about it together during breaks; no need to wait until everyone has read to the same point.

 

Questions

If discussion is what you are after, there’s another game that can spurn that on. It’s incredibly simple and yet effective. Each person asks the group an open-ended question. Then everyone answers. Whoever asks the question answers last. The next person asks the next question, and play continues until everyone has had a turn, or as long as your family wants.

There are two more rules that are important. First, each person has to explain his or her answer; otherwise, it won’t be much of a discussion. It doesn’t have to be epic, just a sentence or two is fine. The second rule is that every answer must be correct. It is a good idea to keep the questing focused on what each person feels or thinks, such as “what super power would you like to have” rather than “what do you think the best super power is”. Otherwise, you could end up with a debate rather than a discussion.

This is a really interesting way to learn something about the other members of your family. I came up with a few questions to get you started, but be creative and make up your own list!

-Who is your favorite scientist?
-What planet would you like to visit?
-What’s your favorite invention and why?
-What is something that doesn’t exist, but you would like to invent if you could?
-What super power would you like to have?
-What character from a book, comicbook, or graphic novel would you like as a friend?
-Which fictional land would you like to live in and why?
-What would you do if you had your own Holodeck?
-How would you like to travel in time? Would you use H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, the Tardis, the DeLorean or another method?
-What is your favorite storyline from a video game?

 

Word Games

Dragon Words and is geared toward older children and grownups. It is a game I created and involves an average knowledge of spelling and of fantastical characters. You don’t have to be an “Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were,” just use the creatures you are already familiar with.

It starts off with you choosing one of the following fantastical creatures: Dragon, Unicorn, Witch or Wizard. You say your creature out loud, and then think of another creature that begins with third letter in your first creature’s name.

For example, if you started out with Dragon, your second creature would need to start with the third letter in that word, which is A. Say you choose Aphrodite as your second creature, you could then say aloud “Dragon is the starting word. The clue is ‘the goddess of love’.” No need to say what letter the second creature starts with because spelling is part of the game. Whoever guesses Aphrodite first goes next.

The second person now has his starting word, Aphrodite, so his second word would need to begin with an H. If he wanted to use the word Harpy he could then say, “Aphrodite is the word, and the clue is ‘winged female monster’.” Whoever guesses correctly would then choose a creature that begins with the letter R and play continues. The clues don’t have to be that obvious, just adjust the difficulty based on your family. The importance is to have enough challenge to keep everyone interested, but not so hard that everyone gets frustrated. There’s something blissful about the silence that comes from everyone being deep in thought.

 

In the end, who could ask for more than a trip mixed with quiet contemplating, discussion and bouts of silliness? I know I will be using these methods during my family travel this Holiday season, even if our only trips are just to the store or to catch a movie.