No Burma Shave, but kids' trips can still be fun

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 14, 2004

When I was a kid, going on long car trips could get quite boring. There were some traditions, however, that saved the day.

One of them, whenever we traveled in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s, was to keep my eyes peeled for roadside Burma Shave signs. The series of five or six small signs carried various humorous slogans, one line per sign, ending in the name of a men's shaving cream. The memory of one of them makes my hairy chin tremble:

She eyed his beard
And said no dice
The wedding's off
I'll COOK the rice
Burma Shave

My wife Mary Anna's favourite Burma Shave slogan was the one along the country road leading to her grandparents' home:

Can let you down
Quicker than
A strapless gown
Burma Shave

Of course, when I ran out of Burma Shave signs and things got really boring, there was always the old standby, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall – especially if there were several of us kids in the car to sing it with gusto.

Fortunately, both for the sanity of today's parents and the delight of kids, Cochrane writer and recreation specialist Candace Weisner has come to the rescue.

Candace recently published a book chock-full of creative alternatives: memory, imagination, language and hand games; collective stories; wildlife, vegetation, cloud, vehicle, aircraft and tune identification; and lots and lots of lyrics for singalongs.

Let's Get Going! the step-by-step guide to successful outings with children (Red Deer Press, 2003) offers much more than suggestions for avoiding boredom while on long trips, however.

Candace has organized over 250 activities into 12 kinds of outings specifically designed to provide parents and teachers happy moments of "interaction, education and creative play" with their children. These include trips to the zoo; the beach; a farm; the park; the airport; sporting, recreational and entertainment events; and the like.

She has broken each of the 12 themes into six sections: preplanning; activities before, en route, during and after the outing; and further reading. Activities sections are subdivided into two groups: ages two to five, and six to ten.

Take Chapter 4, for example, "Let's Go On a Nature Walk." Since nature is all around us, there's opportunity for discovery everywhere the child turns.

Preplanning may involve getting information about the area you are intending to visit: maps; field guides to plants, birds, and other animals; trail warnings; etc. Candace provides an equipment checklist, suggested menu, and some commonsense precautions, such as what children should do if they get lost.

Activities prior to departure include making a treasure box, a feel bag, and GORP. "GORP"? Candace says that's an acronym for "Good Old Raisins and Peanuts" – she even provides a list of ingredients and a caution about allergies.

En route, the kids can sing songs like Eensy Weensy Spider, create a story, or guess the name of a plant or animal from clues.

On location, diary entries and leaf rubbings can be made, specimens collected (where permitted), and "senses snapshots" taken. In senses snapshots, Candace explains, "children stand still from time to time along the way, close their eyes and describe their surroundings, using their ears and noses."

Follow-up activities include making a rock family, a pinecone bird feeder, and a string-art spider web.

The further-reading section consists of annotated reference to seven books of nature activities and crafts.

Let's Get Going! is "not a rule book," Candace emphasizes, "but rather a resource for your imagination" that "can help you build enduring memories for you and your family."

She can be heard Saturday mornings this summer on CBC Radio One discussing her highly-acclaimed book with Daybreak Alberta's host Terri Campbell following the 8:30 news.

I doubt you'll hear any Burma Shave slogans or rounds of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. But beware: Candace's enthusiasm is contagious! You'll never experience a trip with the kids the same again.

© 2004 Warren Harbeck

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