Guest Blog : Are we nearly there yet?

William David

In-car entertainment systems to keep children happy

The future of in-car entertainment?
The future of in-car entertainment?

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?

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]

Keith Adams


  1. Kids… It is amazing that just after Santy has been our little Brat is still after more toys with her extra”money” from Aunties/Uncles not sure what to buy Children these days And despite our house bursting at the seams more is never enough.

    Am sounding quite old now but…..”When I was a child” my Parents didnt have transport so any journey on Transport was a treat in itself, from leaving our house we jumped on the Public Transport Leyland National (Northern General), Our Holidays sometimes started on the 1st of August, So we were the 1st to jump on board a Brand New National, just had a flashback of the “New Smell” and screaming wale from that engine…

    Then we climbed on Board a Coach which as a young Dude was always on the lookout for what type it was, Volvo/ Ford / Bedford (dont recall any Leyland powered ?) and usual Duple Dominant Body when Buses looked quite stylised rather than the white Domestic appliances we have now…

    Even the seats came in for observation, that crushed fibre trim that appeared indestructible, the Air conditioning controls and playing with the map lights even though they never worked during the day! and some better specked buses had curtains and covers for the Headrests… Also watching the Driver with that long Gearstick making what felt like 10 changes before we got up to speed along with the wonderful noise from the 6 cylinder Diesel engine as it sang for a living… I remember I wanted to be a Bus Driver.

    Now Fast Forward to modern day, any length of Journey means Nintendo DS plus a bag full of Games, Portable DVD player plus a wallet full of films, Sweets Drinks and then the inevitable… I need the Toilet !

    In the top picture of realistic 3D viewing, will it be long before our TV’s will be the same?

  2. I always found that nightnurse laced fruitshoots did the trick or a quick toot of heroin!on a serious note what happened to top trumps and i spy to keep the kids occupied?
    Oh and the engine note on those AEC yelloway coaches was as legendary as a miles davis trumpet solo!

  3. Electronic gizmo’s? Pah. have todays parents no imagination at all (judging by the amount of corporate silver passats/golfs/BMW’s that is affirmative). There is so much outside the window to watch out for: Windmills, water towers, Eddie Stobarts, trains, foreign number plates, Minis, Beetles, 2cvs? Castles, churches, post boxes etc.

    William have you got any children?! They are not quite as vegative as you might expect, unless they were bought up on a diet of evil Disney dvd’s and Murdoch’s (even eviler) remote control.

  4. @ dontbuybluemotion. Agree with you. As a child I hated Disney and Nintendos, and loved a car journey. My favourite games were Spot the Jag (which I still play with friends if I’m not driving), Rubbish Car Spotting and Looking Out for Car Transporters (and get unduly excited). I would fill in my I Spy books, so would be kept company by The Michelin Man. Car journeys were an adventure.
    But now all the little brats can think of is gadgets, gadgets, gadgets, because they’re all taught cars are evil because they’re killing Pingu…
    *mumble, grumble*

  5. Feh, when I were a lad, I was more than sufficiently entertained trying to direct the vomit into the nooks and crannies of an Austin Allegro footwell.

    (Or talking. I suspect most of my education came from my dad rambling away about things like entropy and Sheffield’s inner-city issues, whilst listening to Gary Numan or Sisters of Mercy. Explains a lot, I suppose).

  6. Rob B – It’s the bit at the bottom that says “Sponsored by Sainsbury’s” that did it. Go on, admit it.

  7. Not really, it just reminded me of one of those placed editorials you get that look like an article, bar the “advertisement feature” wording at the top.

  8. I think one of the biggest problems with Brats of today is there is no excitement anymore and the only adventure is a new game for the DS or Wii, though I do remember a huge group of us crowding round someone playing Space Invaders in our local chippy, showing my age but for 10p (the same as a bag of chips) it kept us mesmerised despite one dimensional graphics, who would of thought It would be the start of things to come!
    As for Transport in them days growing up in Mining Village (Until Mrs Thatcher got in power) there was only one car in our street, a rather sorry looking mk1 Escort which I cant ever remember it moving, For a sizable but small and scattered Village in the countryside very few needed transport, as Work was on the doorstep and the shops were just along the lane.
    So jumping in someone’s who had a car was a treat, I remember jumping in a beige Marina series 2 and thinking it was quite posh ! Brown velour seats which still had the cling film on!
    Your Mother or Grandparents shopped everyday part from Sundays as nothing was open, But they could send you to the corner shop with a shopping list, We went on bike rides for miles (BMX’s) had the Big Woods, Park, Quarry (quite dangerous really but we didnt care) the ponds which were full of wild life and of course the pit heaps to slide down on, How we never killed our selves on old Biscuit tins, but we appeared happy… as long as we were in when the street lights came on !
    Fast forward nearly everyone has at least two cars, shops have shutters and alarms, Pizza and Kebab shops everywhere (though sometimes that isnt bad) and our little one doesnt go the corner shop unless accompanied… What went wrong?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.