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Motor Mouth articles 2010

Entertainment? It’s child’s play

I SPY with my little eye something beginning with . . .

It’s a familiar refrain for almost everyone who used to be a child or has had children – and surprisingly, it seems it’s as popular today as it ever was.

Despite the numerous more sophisticated counter-attractions, such as in-car DVD players, video games and mobile phones that can jump through hoops, good old I-Spy remains the nation’s favourite car game.

According to an extensive research exercise carried out among more than 2,000 people by Manheim Auctions, more than one-third of parents play I-Spy with their children to help pass the time on long car journeys.

When I was but a lad, barely able to peer over the dashboard at the slowly passing world, most of the words chosen seemed to relate either to tarmac, white lines, fields, trees or the truck in front.

Sometimes someone would throw in a sneaky one relating to something inside the car – like G for gearstick, which would instantly spark an argument over whether it was two words so should be GS for gear stick. That would usually be the end of the game and grumpy silence would ensue.

At other times small, annoying sister would demand to take part but as she had not yet mastered the art of spelling and insisted that all words began with A, that too tended to bring the game to a premature end.

Nowadays I suspect ‘S’ more often stands for sat-nav rather than sky, ‘T’ is more likely to be traffic than tree, and ‘B’ for burger instead of blanket.

The survey shows that listening to music, talking to other passengers and even taking a snooze also rate highly among children’s car pastimes.

Despite parental ambitions, however, it also records that 90 per cent of British parents expect their children to opt, given the choice, for computer games and DVDs to relieve the boredom of long-distance travel.

“It’s refreshing to know that, despite all of the technology at our fingertips, the traditional games are still the most popular,” said a Manheim spokesman.

I-Spy has certainly stood the test of time, with 60 per cent of parents admitting they remembered playing it during car journeys when they were children.

The game is thought to have originated more than 100 years ago to encourage children to use their imagination in an age when they usually had to find their own entertainment.

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