It’s Spring Break time for many families and I know what some of them are thinking. Peaceful car rides? Are you kidding?
“Are we there yet?” “He’s touching me!” “Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Dad–” You get the idea.
The most common solution? Crank up the sappy, mindless, pop music a little louder and hope to minimize the injuries. At least you increase your own chances of surviving the trip and staving off more drastic measures.
Our family has been intentional about having peaceful car rides. We’ve been able to learn how to have relatively peaceful car rides even with six young children and more trips back and forth to Florida than I can remember — or is it the kids I can’t remember — well, no matter. The solution works the same even if it’s just you and one very special passenger.
Here’s What Works for Us
Radio theater. That’s right, audio drama designed for kids almost always gives us peaceful family car rides — and a lot more.
I know what you’re thinking. Radio theater? Didn’t that go away in the days of Eisenhower? Well, almost. It faded quite a bit when television surged. But it began a comeback in the late 1980s and has re-emerged as a high-quality, creative storytelling medium in the last decade, especially in faith-based communities. And although episodes usually do originally air on the radio, they are most easily heard via CD or iPod on family car rides.
So how would it help your kids when your family is on the move? By doing at least five things at once — talk about synergy!
- Keep their imaginations active. Television is like Novocaine for the creative mind. [ Tweet this! ] Kids get enough of its numbing effects without being further sedated on family car rides. Audio theater requires them to engage their mind’s eye in much the same way that reading a book would do. I find now that the most annoying part of most car rides is their eagerness to get back to whatever story they had been listening to from the last ride. Not bad.
- Keep them learning critical life lessons. None of us have time to prepare creative lessons for our kids each day to teach them all they’ll need to know. Think of faith-based radio dramas as vitamin supplements for the parenting soul. No prep needed. Just push play to fill in the gaps of our kids’ spiritual diet. We just heard a story today about the dangers of jumping to conclusions. Some are silly. Some action-packed. Some more serious, dealing with topics of divorce, disappointment, and even the passing of loved ones. All come with intentional moral lessons woven into the story.
- Expose them to key historical figures. Radio is not bound by the barriers of visual special effects. No CGI needed. By inserting characters into historical stories (the American War for Independence) or having stories dramatically retold (the Underground Railroad), radio theater can bring these historical figures to life through imagination in a way textbooks just can’t do. A few even reenact Biblical scenes to bring new life to our children’s understanding of the Bible.
- Enrich their appreciation for stories and storytelling. #3,263 on that list of important-but-not-urgent things we all want to do: Help our kids learn the delight of a good story. And be able to tell one to their own kids someday. Come to think of it, listening to radio dramas may just be good prep for you as a future grandparent!
- Give your family culture a shared history of stories. Sometimes it’s hard to give examples to our children when trying to teach them life’s lessons or make some progress in family conflicts. We’ve found it extremely helpful to have our entire family well-versed in a shared body of stories. For example, when I was struggling to come up with a creative way to help my son understand the perils of envy, he quickly whipped out an example of his own from a story we’d heard many times about just such a topic. Because he related to the character in the radio drama, we took off 80% of the communication barrier and focused on the more vital heart issues. Thanks radio theater guys!
Some Radio Theater Suggestions
As a final help to your family having a peaceful car ride the next time you leave the driveway, here are some of the radio theater dramas we think are the most professional, creative, faith-based productions out there. No doubt there are others, but this list should get you started:
Adventures in Odyssey: The big one from Focus on the Family! More than 25 years of episodes and counting. If you are a parent of faith and have not made the small town of Odyssey part of your family culture, it’s as if you are missing the 67th book of the Bible. Order it today: The Grand Design (Adventures in Odyssey)
- Lamplighter Theater: Features the scrumptious vocal talents of John Rhys-Davies as narrator. Usually explores historical tales and similar accounts. These performances often have a harder, more realistic edge and are more suitable for older children. Expertly produced as seen below.
- Jonathan Park: Produced by Vision Forum, it has become one of our family’s favorites, especially for our boys. Explores the scientific evidence for a Biblical account of Creation through action-packed stories (I know. How do you do that? But they do.) And our kids love them. Check it out: Jonathan Park: The Adventure Begins (Jonathan Park Radio Drama)
- Others: You might want to check these out. Jungle Jam , Down Gilead Lane, and Moody radio classics.
Now you can enjoy the look of amazement on the face of others when your family emerges from the car after the next family ride talking excitedly about a story, rather than fighting furiously over seat-space violations. One warning: you just might end up enjoying the stories every bit as much as your kids.
But I can live with that.
What tricks have you learned to keep car rides peaceful? What other radio theater series have I left out? Leave a comment with a click here to help us all live with abundant faith — even in the car.