Alternatives to Screen Time in the Car
- What: Books on CD
- When: Long car rides
- Why: Keep kids quiet and entertained
- Where: Amazon or your local library
I thought CDs might be dying out, much like the cassette tape deck in my last car. Some new cars and lots of computers don’t even have CD players anymore, which makes total sense. But I revisited CDs this past weekend in the form of read along books.
In keeping with our recent travel spate, we went camping. Our destination required a four hour drive one way. My kids have no problems entertaining themselves on long rides, and at this point, can even pack their suitcases accordingly. But since I didn’t want to listen to the high volume resulting from their idea of fun for four hours, I tried something new: books on CD.
I’ve tried this before by buying a cheap CD player and hooking my kids up with it and a pair of headphones, but it never really took. (Perhaps that’s because they spent more quiet time mauling the CD player than listening to it, though my son did enjoy some music CDs before even I couldn’t get it to work any longer.) This time, rather than investing, I hit the local library and checked out eight titles in a variety of subjects. I aimed to get the longest stories possible, but had varying luck with that. They lasted from six minutes (not enough, not nearly long enough!) to almost 21 minutes (much better) in the car’s CD player, safely out of reach of little hands.
On the plus side, my kids loved them. On the downside, I listened to most of them at least four times. Despite the lack of argument about which one to do next, I’m not sure if I prefer my kids’ normal noises or the same story repeated over and over. They managed quite well taking turns holding the accompanying book and turning the pages when indicated (one book didn’t have a page turn noise and we all found that perplexing). Even better, the stories lulled all three of them to sleep at some point (never at the same time, that would be asking too much of the travel gods), which they direly needed after exhausting themselves and staying up extra late. The remaining two awake children listened quietly to the story and didn’t wake up the sleeper despite sitting right next to them in easy reach.
Unlike with their individual electronic devices, when they get angry on the road (or in the airplane) because they don’t have a wireless connection and end up restricted to whatever we’ve downloaded for them, my kids didn’t cry about the content or lack thereof. My youngest, at age three, can’t totally navigate his screen without help and needs assistance frequently, which can wake the other kids and gets tricky if I also want to nap, or you know, face forward in the car. But he mastered flipping pages in books a long time ago. If you haven’t given books on CD a try, I highly recommend a trial run with your family.