WITH schools breaking up and 17.6 million people set to drive an average of 400 miles on their summer holidays, new data reveals that many families could be missing out on the bonding time their journeys offer.
Researchers for Kwik Fit asked people to look back to their childhood journeys and what they most enjoyed.
They found that twice as many people liked group activities on their family car trips compared to solo pursuits - 74 per cent versus 36 per cent respectively.
However, the study found that a quarter of those who now have children aged 0-16 spend less time doing family activities than they did with their own parents on their childhood car journeys.
The finding indicates that up to 2.8 million families could be missing out on making valuable memories on school holiday journeys.
When asked in more detail about their childhood car journeys, 41 per cent of people say they enjoyed the time just chatting as a family, 32 per cent enjoyed playing games such as I Spy and Car Bingo, with the same proportion enjoying listening to music together.
More than one in five got enjoyment from singing songs together and 14 per cent from telling stories. Only one in nine people (11 per cent) said they didn't enjoyanythingabout their childhood car journeys.
However, despite parents' many happy childhood memories of a variety of group activities, their children's solo activity is on the increase.
With many children using their smartphones, games console or listening to music on their own, over half (54 [er cent) of parents of 5-16-year-olds say their children spend time on solo activity on their car journeys. This compares to less than a third (29 per cent) for children of the 70s and earlier. The figure rises to 58 per cent for those whose children are aged 17-20.
Professor Sam Wass is a child psychologist who specialises in concentration, stress and learning in childhood and is known for his work on Channel 4's The Secret Lives of 4 and 5 Year Olds.
He believes that families viewing a journey as simply a chore to get through risk missing out on valuable family time.
He said: "Family activities, such as playing I Spy and singing along together to the radio, may be seen by some parents as a way to kill time on a car journey. But in fact, research now suggests that they can benefit your family dynamic, and help spark a feeling of togetherness and shared understanding as you head off together on holiday.
"For example, when we're singing we're forcing ourselves to take big deep breaths in, and let them out slowly, which research suggests can be effective for putting everyone in a good mood. Doing things together - such as everyone joining in a game of I Spy - is proven to be effective for improving social dynamics within the family unit. So when everyone is in the car at the same time, it's a perfect opportunity for families to naturally build togetherness."
With games known to be a good way for families to interact, the researchers identified the nation's favourite car games. I Spy is top of the list, although it has dropped in popularity over the decades. It was played by over three quarters (77 per cent) of people enjoying car games as children, but this figure has fallen to 58 per cent of families with children aged 0-16.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: "The research shows that car journeys can provide families with valuable time together if they focus on group activity. Car games are still a great way for families to enjoy their time on the road and for those who want try a new game but are not sure of the rules, we have provided a car games guide at kwik-fit.comand on our social channels. Of course, these are just a starting point as one of the joys of car games is developing individual rules that are bespoke to your own family. But whatever game you choose to play, if the driver is joining in, it's vital that their attention isn't distracted from the road.
"We also want to remind people of the importance of pre-travel checks in ensuring a happy summer holiday journey. Even the most exciting car game is going to lose its appeal if you're stuck at the side of the road. We encourage drivers to make as many checks as possible before setting off and to make sure their car is in top condition for the summer trip."