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Written by:  Michele Ranard
Date: December 1, 2009

So much about family road tripping has changed. I remember what a big deal it was when FM joined AM on the radio, but with DVDs, MP3s and video games, kids now have more entertainment than ever to stave off boredom and enjoy the ride.

Still, all that electronic media can leave families disconnected. Can you honestly stomach watching (or hearing) The Incredibles one more time? There are plenty of creative unplugged activities that will keep kids occupied during long drives. Create lasting memories before you even arrive at your destination, and reconnect with the ones you love most, with the following activities:

Pipe Cleaner Paradise — A pack of inexpensive pipe cleaners and a nail clipper will keep fidgety kids happy for long stretches of travel time. They can bend the fuzzy sticks or wrap them around pencils to form cheerful colorful creatures. The best part? When they're satisfied with their creations, they can play imaginative games with them for more stimulating fun.

Cootie Catcher — Remember these? You pick a color, then a number, then you get to read your fortune. You only have to show your kids how to do this once before they'll come up with variations and stay busy for stretches at a time.

Figures and Games With String — Supplies required: just string. Kids can make "Jacob's Ladder," "Kitty Whiskers" and "Cup and Saucer" or play "Cat's Cradle." And it's quiet!

Foil Fantasy — Remember when shiny, reflective aluminum foil was magical? Give your artsy, imaginative kids a cheap roll and watch them go to town. They can transform themselves into superheroes, making masks and "power bracelets." Girls, especially, might enjoy constructing tiaras, jewelry and headbands. And it's fun to sculpt foil into cool animals — with no cleanup! (Aluminum foil that hasn't touched food may be recyclable; check with your county or city solid waste management department.)

Old-School Card Games — Card games are great for traveling because a deck is easy to transport and there are tons of games to play. Crazy Eights and Old Maid are two possible kid pleasers.

License Plate Game — Before you hit the road, print a map of the U.S. so the kids can color in the state when they see a license plate from there. They can even record the time and date they saw it.

Virtual Hide and Seek — This guessing game is a hoot. Pick a place inside your house to hide — and here's the fun part — it can be any size! A sock drawer, the dishwasher, the medicine cabinet. Everybody asks questions until you are found.

Wacky Roadside Stops — Go to www.roadsideamerica.com to find quirky, eccentric, touristy places to visit. The kids will remember these nutty detours with you long after the trip is over.

Michele Ranard is a professional counselor and tutor and mother of two. She loves a good road trip and writes a cheeky blog @micheleranard.blogspot.com.



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