Learning Games to Play in the Car
Does the idea of a car trip with small children fill you with dread? Road trips don't have to be torture. In fact, they can be an immersion learning opportunity for your kids. If you fill your time in the car with fun games and activities, you can expect your children's vocabulary and knowledge to grow exponentially in a short time while you cultivate fun memories and a strong relationship.
The real challenge of road trips is keeping kids entertained. Here are some ideas that will engage your kids and help them learn and grow at the same time.
Play rhyming games. Let the youngest child say a word and have everyone else say a word that rhymes. Try to come up with as many rhymes as possible. Read Piggle by Crosby Bonsall, and play "Piggle" by saying four words that rhyme, mixing up real words and nonsense words.
Play I Spy. Kids under three will need to stick to objects in the car. You can play with colors ("I spy something red.") or with shapes ("I spy something that's a circle.").
Play alphabet games. Say a letter and the sound it makes. Have everybody say words that starts with that sound. Look for objects that start with that sound, inside and outside of the car. When kids can recognize letters, start with A and try to find the letters of the alphabet on billboards and license plates. Give older kids a map, and have them try to find cities on the map that start with different letters of the alphabet.
Tell progressive stories. One person starts a story, then each person adds a little more to the story. This is great for creativity, vocabulary, and logic.
Read lots of books. With babies, name pictures. Older children can "read" board books to babies, naming objects in the pictures. Have kids look at books by themselves, and read to them. Comic books are great for pre-readers and beginning readers.
Sing songs. Songs are great for developing vocabulary and the rhythm of language.
Play finger games. You may know games like "Where is Thumbkin?" Check out Becky Bailey's I Love You Rituals for some great ideas.
String Cheerios or Fruit Loops. Give a child a piece of yarn. (Before you leave on your trip, soak about an inch of the tip of the yarn in school glue and let it dry. This creates a stiff "needle" for threading.) Let your child string Cheerios onto the yarn before eating them. This not only makes snack time last longer; it's great for fine motor skills.
Bring manipulative toys like Rubik's Snakes. These are great for finger strength and fine motor skills, as well as being a lot of fun.
Make toys out of pipe cleaners. Kids can make all kinds of things out of pipe cleaners. For directions on pipe-cleaner people, see here.
Bring pegboard and shoelaces. Kids can thread shoelaces through the holes in the pegboard to make designs and pictures. Again, this is great for fine motor skills and finger strength.
Bring Frisbees and balls for active play during pit stops. Give kids a chance to really run around and stretch and play when you take breaks. This will help them get through a long drive more easily.
Family trips can become wonderful memories when you take advantage of the time together to do fun and special things and have lots of conversation and play time. Have fun!
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