September 22, 2005


Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit. By the editors of Klutz. Klutz. $19.95.

     Now that the summer car-travel-with-kids season is over, parents can sit back and relax and not worry about keeping the kids occupied until next year.  Except, of course, for the Columbus Day long weekend, Thanksgiving, Christmas or winter vacation, assorted Monday holidays, weekend-lengthening teacher workdays, and…arrrgghh!

     Never fear – Klutz to the rescue.  Kids Travel is good for any car trip, at any time of year, and will last a long time, even if your kids are more than usually restless.  The book is intended for ages 7-14, but is also fun for younger kids and even for adults.  It’s a big board-and-paper book with stuff to do on every page.  The back cover, for example, is a shoot-the-penny-toward-the-hole board.  It also has a sturdy clip built in at the top – into which is clipped a 100-page “Kids Pad” filled with puzzles, dot-to-dot games and other activities.

     And that’s just the back of the book.  Toward the front are hand games, decoder games (with spinning wheels built into the page), word games (try “Skilled Lying”), geography games, palm reading, an IQ test for grownups, even a really interesting test for drivers (kids ask parents how many sides a stop sign has, which of two states has more accidents per mile driven, when it is legal to cross a double yellow line, and so on).  There are mini-mysteries, an April-Fool picture by Norman Rockwell, songs for the road, dollar-bill folding – the list goes on and on and on.  That’s why, when the miles go on and on and on, this book can be such a sanity saver.

     As usual with Klutz, everything you need to play the games (well, except the dollar bill for folding) is included.  There’s a string for playing Cat’s Cradle, a pair of dice, felt markers, thread and much more.  There are also good descriptions of classic car games (20 Questions, Hangman, and so on), plus some games designated as classics that are really pretty innovative (use letters taken from license plates of passing cars to make up silly sentences).  Klutz is innovative even in the most old-fashioned game of all: spotting license plates.  The book has a wonderful two-page spread showing 65 license plates from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with a place to note when and where you see each one.  Good luck spotting the bear-shaped Nunavut plate with the motto, “Explore Canada’s Arctic.”  That would require a loooooong car trip at any time of year.  But even that trip would seem much shorter, and be much more fun, with Kids Travel to help keep the family occupied.

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