Summer’s coming and you might be getting ready to take a long trip, either on the road or perhaps a long flight to Grandma’s place. If you’ve got kids along for the ride, you know that keeping them occupied is a strong element of your own satisfaction with the journey itself. Here are some ideas on making your own content for the trip.

Materials

  • Home computer (relatively updated) with CD burner (or a portable MP3 player, if you go digital)
  • Audio recording software (Audacity is free for PC or Mac)
  • A microphone (either your built-in, a desktop mic, whatever)
  • CD burning software (if you want to make an audio CD)
  • Books to read, magazine articles, something to talk about
  • Music (that you have purchased, own, etc- don’t sue me RIAA)
  • The family

Now What?

That depends on who’s going to be listening. I’ve got a four year old daughter and a 3 month old son. My daughter isn’t yet into chapter books, so in my case, it’d be fun to read stories into the mic, and let her listen along. Mix some music in there, and we’ve got a production. Using sound recording software is fairly easy, especially if it’s just for your own consumption. There’s a record button, a pause, a stop. It’s fairly straightforward.

Record Billy Goats Gruff using all the funny voices you can muster. Read the next chapter of Harry Potter in your own voice, with your own effects. Sing along to the music, and better still, get the kids to help out!

Now, what becomes an additional fun part of this hack is that you can get your kids to do some of the recording with you. Sit them in front of the microphone, and now you’ve stretched the experience into the recording sessions, and also their consumption of their own voice when they get to the car.

I won’t address older kids because they tend to have their own media to consume, but obviously, you can mix and match into this things that would be of interest to other people in the vehicle. Don’t forget yourself and your significant other. Feel free to mix in short bits that are pertinent to yourself, including a song or two that’s kid-safe but more for you than them.

Why This Works

As I mentioned, part of the pain of travel is doing something to keep the kids engaged enough that they don’t suffer, and that their suffering doesn’t spill over into being your problem. Some famlies do well playing travel games, like spelling the alphabet over and over based on any text they can see out the window (I’ve occasionally been tempted to cheat and write “Q” on a napkin and hold it out the window).

But the beauty of this hack is that by getting the family into the act of creating the content, there’s much more reason for them to want to listen to it while on the road. Further, when all is said and done, the disc or mp3 files become a kind of soundtrack for the trip that you can later incorporate into a multimedia project later on. Imagine using bits of your newly created content along with some of the video and images you’ve snapped to send Gramma and Grandpa a new DVD of the family to watch.

Now, remix this. How would YOU add to this hack?

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