"I'm a writer living in the Perth Hills with my relentlessly fun seeking children.
Published February 27th 2017
The Road Well Travelled
Perth to Monkey Mia, 850km, about 10 hours. Perth to Esperance 720km, about 8 hours. In fact, Perth to anywhere is pretty much a long way, even longer with three kids in the back of the car. Whilst you can pass a lot of time on a road trip with DVDs and a smartphone.
there comes a point when you hit 'the device wall', that part of the trip where everyone has overdosed on screens and your kids have turned into petulant data sucking junkies. Time to switch off for an hour or two. Once the trail mix has been consumed and the eye spy is in its 57th consecutive round of 'something beginning with T' you might want to break out some travel games.
Temple Trap, One of the Smart Games, that travels well
Are we There Yet? The travel games of my childhood consisted of tic-tac-toe on the back of an envelope, with a dodgy biro my mum had in the bottom of her bag. If you were lucky, you might get a scaled down version of solitaire or battleships. Those with tiny plastic pieces, so minute and fiddly they could only be played by elves. A vital piece would usually be lost within the first three minutes, rendering the game unplayable. The magnetic scrabble did not fair any better as the magnets concerned possessed less attraction than Tony Abbot in a pair budgie smugglers.
Neat little Packages
Fast forward to today and you can pick up a whole host of colourful, clever games that are fun to play and actually work whilst your on the move. They also are suitable for a wide age range from 5-adult, with no prior experience needed.
I tested three types of the newer travel games on offer from Smart Games, on our travels around the South West. The price was good enough to let each child pick their favourite, my thoughts being, they could swap among themselves when they had finished. Although they look very similar, they all have subtle differences that make them different enough to feel you are getting a whole new game.
Witches and Penguins We chose Penguins Parade, which concentrates on spatial awareness skills, where you have to get your penguins arranged correctly, Magic Forest, which is about building different paths for a witch to collect her spell ingredients and Water World, in which kids have to play hide and seek using four shapes to conceal certain animals. Apart from the fact that the playing pieces actually do stick to the board, there are a few reasons these games are a good buy. All of the puzzles have clear non-verbal instructions, which means you don't need to be able to read to use them, so they are perfect for younger children, who pick them up easily. You can also order replacement parts.
Easy for little fingers
Easy Wipe Surfaces They are also split into four levels of mastery (with all the solutions in the back), so you can start where you feel most comfortable. Also, the board and puzzle pieces are easy to wipe clean. Great for those sticky fingers and rogue chocolate biscuits. Finally, everything folds up into a small book that fastens with a satisfying popper, ready to be stored in the door shelf. Best of all you don't need anyone else to play, one player games are a big tick in the box for separating squabbling siblings.
City Maze Game (pic Smart Games)
Amazing Mazes If you need something that feels a little more like a game than a book, smart games also make a couple of larger, chunkier puzzles that are all about building labyrinths. City Maze and Temple Trap require that little bit more on the manoeuvring side to get the puzzle pieces into place, but are still small enough to handle in the back of a car.
Addictive for all ages
Test your IQ My ultimate choice for both size and playing ability would have to be any of the sets in the IQ games series. They come in a small plastic case, small enough to fit in a pocket with either beads, links, or shapes and the simple premise is that they demonstrate how some of the beads fit in and you have to work out the rest. The difficulty gradually increases with the level and the IQ puzzler version allows you to eventually stack the pieces to build a 3D pyramid. It is intensely addictive and easy for most kids to pick up, that is of course if you can wrestle it out of mums hands, after all, you need amusing on a long journey too right?