Recently we went on a cross-country road trip with our twin four-year-olds. As we were preparing for the trip, many people asked me what I was going to have them do for 16 hours in the car. All of a sudden, the pressure was on and my anxiety hit like a ton of bricks. What WERE they going to do for 16 hours in the car?! How were we going to survive this journey? I panicked. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I literally stayed up all night preparing activity bags to keep them entertained throughout the trip. We charged up the iPads and loaded them full of new kid-friendly apps. Though I was exhausted, my worries began to subside.
The next morning, we loaded everything into the car and got going. Then something happened that I could have never prepared for…my children were perfectly content doing NOTHING! Hours passed and they didn’t ask for the activity bags even one single time. They talked and listened to music. They ate snacks and watched out the window as the landscape changed throughout each new state. They giggled and asked questions about everything under the sun. They held my hand as we simply enjoyed each others’ company. It was absolutely amazing.
Even when we are not on a road trip, we spend a lot of time in the car going from place to place everyday. Often we think about time commuting in the care to be wasted time, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about the amount of time you are in the car with your child every day/week/month. Imagine if we took ownership of this time together and chose to be present with each other while we are in the car. You may be surprised by what you learn about your children in this time. There are so many things that you can do in the car that can make this time engaging.
How to Enjoy Car Rides with Kids
- Practice academic skills out loud (rhyming words, beginning sounds, opposites, spelling words, syllables, math facts, etc.)
- Practice letter and number identification with license plates and signs
- Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share feelings and ideas (steer clear of yes/no questions)
- Talk in depth about the best and worst parts of their day; help them reflect on their feelings and take advantage of possible teaching opportunities
- Stretch their imagination and practice story telling.”Once upon a time….”
- Talk about different vehicles that you see and explain what each vehicles job is
- Sing-a-longs! Practice the words to a favorite song and put on a show
- Think about the people that are special to you: “Why do you love them? What makes them special?”
- Think about your favorite memories together
- Talk about family values and rules
- On the way to school/a new place: Come up with a family motto or mantra to encourage them as they go out into the world. Ours is: “Today I will be safe. I will be kind. I will be respectful. I will do my best.”
- Make up different scenarios and ask them that they would do
- Discuss family goals and dreams
- Play categories: Name a category and take turns listing things in that category (Colors, animals, food, etc.)
- Play “Would you rather…?” Give them two options and ask which they would prefer
- Play 20 questions. One person thinks of an object and everyone else take turns asking yes/no questions to guess the object
- Ask about their favorite things (because they are constantly changing!)
- Point out street signs and talk about what they mean
- Point out familiar buildings or landmarks
- Point out and talk about landforms (mountains, rivers, hills, lakes, etc.)