Bulldust and acacia-lined tracks in northern QLD
Birds wheeling amongst the smoke to pick off the bugs: burning off time in the north
A morning glory cloud formation above the open savannah of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
‘Kangaroo tails’ (grass trees) alongside a sandy track, south-west NT.
My first tip for being on the road with kids is simple: let them look out the window. In these days of general over-programming there is a lot of apprehension about what ‘might happen’ if children become bored. WIthin the confines of a vehicle, it seems parents fear boredom in their children even more. The easiest option, in many people’s minds, is to combat boredom with electronic gadgets: iPods, games, iPhones, portable DVD players….plug them in and shut them up. Right?
My advice is this: don’t be afraid to do away with the gadgets and let the children sit and watch the landscape unfold.
The photos above depict a small number of the myriad of constantly changing views from the window on one of our previous trips. You would miss these sights and so much more if you were plugged in with your head down.
On our road trip to Central Australia last year, we travelled 8000kms from our home in the Snowy Mountains. We drove across the open Hay plains, through the cotton and rice-growing areas along the Murrumbidge to the mallee country and citrus farms of the Riverina. We admired the historical towns and grapevines of the Barossa Valley and passed on northwards through the Flinders Ranges, and across the saltlakes of the desert inland. We counted many things: how many times we crossed the mighty Murray River, how many emus we could spot in the plains country, and how many carriages on the long freight trains on the Ghan line. We watched the country turn from green, to brown, and slowly, slowly, with my heartbeat increasing with every deepening shade, to red.
The children watched all this. They watched the land change its contours, its colours, its vegetation and its symbols of human presence. When they tired of this they had lots of things to keep them occupied in the car (and this will be the subject of the next post in the Road Trip Series), but this did not extent to electronic gadgets. Sometimes we play ‘I Spy’, family quizzes, or the children make up their own games. For us as a family, gadgets do not work – they tend to stifle creativity, cause friction between siblings, and make minds ‘doughy’ and attitudes sullen. Plenty of families develop methods of including gadgets in a regulated manner which adds to their experience, but for us we find it easier simply to do without.
So remember: look up! Unplug your kids. Give them the space to be ‘bored’ and see what they construct out of it. Talk about your destinations – after all, why bother with the trip in the first place if they are just going to do what they can do at home. Most of all, watch the country change with the miles, and marvel at the great diversity of this amazing land of ours.