One of my favorite times to tell stories with my kids is during a road trip. While many of the newer mini-vans are equipped with DVD players complete with multiple screens to help entertain the family, I’ve found that storytelling, with a captive audience, can be as equally entertaining if not more. An example of this was during our Thanksgiving trip to my wife’s relatives. I think one-way, complete with a rest stop was about 1hr 30min. It wasn’t super long at all, but just enough to get something started. Before we began, I thought maybe we were going to tell one for a couple minutes till the kids fell asleep. But I was surprised to find that we told the same story all the way there and all the way back, rest stops included.
The best thing about stories on the road is you don’t have to come up with everything yourself. It’s very similar to using your kids’ favorite characters from shows they enjoy. You don’t have to create them, it’s already done. You are merely incorporating them into something new. When traveling, let the road tell the story. Your only responsibility may be to keep the story intact. Each new place, car, and building can be your characters. It’s funny how well things will fit into the story you’re telling.
Our story began as we traveled down a road near our house that went between a military base and a bioengineering plant. Naturally, the military base side of the road became home to a power hungry, weapon-bearing, world-dominating general, and the bioengineering plant side was home to mad scientists. As soon as we started, everything from electric towers to nondescript factory-type buildings became incorporated into the plot. We would duck down and hide while sneaking past both groups. We watched out for snipers and were careful of any gas attacks that if breathed would make you crazy. In case of such an attack, we would shoot missiles back at enemy encampments, hold our breath, and tell the driver to get us out of there fast. I would use the electronic dials- radio/ac, etc. in the front of the van as the command center. We would listen in on top-secret conversations between the general and the scientists when we would pass by telephone towers that spanned the road we were on. Bridges would block us from any military helicopters and would momentarily scramble their search signal long enough for our escape. It was a full-on interactive story, where everyone and everything played a part.
My kids’ imaginations were engaged and they would shout out warnings of impending enemy attacks. They weren’t just looking out the window to pass the time, they were a part of an elite team sent to infiltrate enemy territory. Depending on which side of the car even the rest stop building was determined which camp it was associated with. The story had a plot twist as on the way back the sides were switched. We celebrated as we victoriously passed by both the base and the plant on our way home. It was a close one.
Some people like road trips to be quiet and meditative, if you’re one of those or are in a mood, use the DVD and get your kids some headphones. As for me, I see too many benefits of storytelling to not do it. I’d rather have them look out their window than at a screen any day.