One of my favorite ways to spend quality time with the family is embarking on a summer road trip. Too often however we get caught up in packing for where we are going and forget to “pack” ideas for the time in the car, where a significant part of the family time will take place. Then there you are, trapped in a small space with the people you love the most, and before you know it everyone is whining, complaining, and annoying each other. I have found that prevention is the key. Keeping your crew actively engaged will make the trip more pleasant for everyone, ensure quality time spent together, and can even help to reinforce what they have learned in school to prevent the “summer slide”. What I find most challenging is finding games that are age-appropriate for all 3 of my children, whose ages span a 6-year range. One game they can all enjoy is making up a group story. One person begins with a few sentences, and the next person continues the story and so on around the circle, until someone finally makes up an ending. The ideas they come up with usually provide us with a lot of laughs. Here is another game they all can play: Each person chooses a color. Then as you drive along he/she counts how many cars (or you can use signs, etc.) that he/she sees of that color. It becomes quite a contest of whose color is the most popular.
Another multi-age game is making comparisons. Choose a nearby car on the highway. Each child takes turns comparing it to your car, such as the color of the car, number of people in the car, placement of stickers, the state it is from, etc. You will be surprised at the details they discover.
- Keep your child thinking with these games:
- One player says a name, and the next player has to say a name that begins with the last letter of the name just said. How long can you keep it going?
- Think of a number. As players guess, use “greater than” and “less than” until they guess the number.
- Count by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, or 10’s, or any multiple, depending on your child’s level. Try counting backwards by any of these as well. This will help with addition, subtraction, and multiplication.
- Play 20 Questions: Think of something and players guess 20 yes/no clues (Does live in the water? Does it have 4 legs?) until they know what it is.
Don’t forget to bring along some books. You can take turns reading, have an older sibling read to a younger one, or add some drama by using extra expression or a silly voice. You’ll have lots of time to discuss the stories you read. Make predictions, discuss the characters in the story, and share your reactions. Your local library probably has books for all ages on tape or cd. When finished listening, children can draw a picture to go along with the story or make up an alternate ending. I also keep a box of activities “for car trips only” including a Magnadoodle for playing Hangman or Pictionary, Hidden Pictures from Highlights, and magnetic games. I have found some great resources made by Cranium (such as The Cranium Ultimate Book of Fantastic Fun and Games) and American Girl (The Family Quiz Book and other quiz books) as well as the old favorite, Madlibs. The Children’s Museum gift shop usually has a nice variety of idea/activity books from Klutz and other authors, as well as portable crafts and small toys perfect for car entertainment. Here are a few websites with additional game ideas, printable activity pages, and tips.
If you like these ideas, print them out and keep them in the glove box. Enjoy your trip, but especially enjoy your family.
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