In-car entertainment systems to keep children happy
In daily life there are few situations more trying than a dispiriting car journey that stretches hour after hour. Having to conquer your own boredom and discomfort is one thing – but dealing with bored and fidgety children is quite another. And while adults may be able to rationalise the five hours on the motorway by studying the map, kids are often reduced to asking the helpless, eternal question of ‘Are we there yet?’
So, with Christmas around the corner, and many young families making trips to visit relatives across the country, what are the best ways to keep young eyes occupied during those interminable hours on the motorway?
At the movies
Probably the simplest option is the trusty old DVD – just slap on a kid-friendly flick and let them get on with a little escapism from the reality of the road.
It’s possible to buy a portable player with a seven-inch screen relatively cheaply, though as with any electrical product, prices vary depending on the quality of the item – and whether you fancy a larger screen. In addition to the laptop-like clamshell designs, there are car-specific twin sets on offer, which allow the devices to be mounted on the back of both front headrests, meaning rear-seat passengers can each have their own screen held securely in place at eye level.
When buying, consider whether the system can run off the 12-volt car power supply, and whether it features two headphone sockets to double the (silent) viewing pleasure – for them and for you. Many also feature audio and video inputs, allowing them to be linked to games machines too.
And if you don’t mind spending a little extra to give the young ones even better quality, consider a portable Blu-ray player.
Gaming the system
It’s more than two decades since the original Game Boy’s appearance on the market, but Nintendo still has handheld games systems that cut the mustard in the 21st Century, with a huge range of games available on the DS. Its 3DS brother offers a genuine 3D experience without the need for the comedy glasses. Something to bear in mind is that not everyone gets on with the 3D, though the effect can be dialled up and down to preference.
Meanwhile, if you want more of a multimedia device, Sony’s PSP offers plenty besides gaming, by playing films, videos and music and also displaying photos.
Of course, if you want to combine the ultimate in multimedia capabilities, with gaming potential and more besides, you can’t go far wrong with a tablet device. It is a more expensive option, but investing in an iPad or Android device will not only amuse the kids, but will be a hugely capable machine for the driver – once they get off the road – allowing them to keep up with the news, read books and use all manner of apps.
The future of in-car entertainment looks fairly exciting. Researchers are currently working on systems that use motion-sensing technology and holographic displays to control everything from video games to accessing emails.
And while prices on current technology have generally fallen fairly substantially on many devices, some electronics – especially at the cutting edge – are still not cheap. A credit card may be a useful way of getting your hands on the some electrical pacifiers for those long journeys at Christmas time. If you need to spread the cost, a good option might be a card that offers an interest free introductory period or offers rewards – just make sure you clear your balance in time to avoid paying interest.
[Editor’s note: This blog is sponsored by Sainsbury’s]
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.