Being in the car for long periods with kids can be a frustrating time. “Do you want me to turn this car around?” and “Do I have to pull this car over?” have become common parenting phrases. These 10 simple ways to engage young kids in the car should help you on your road trips or even your while running errands around the town.
We were in the car a bit the last couple of days, and I thought it might be helpful for you to hear about how I engage the kids in the car. It’s easy to check out in the car. There are times for that. It’s actually good for everyone. However, this is a time you have a captured audience, and it can be a wonderful time to engage. It can also be a perfect time to teach, and I take a lot of opportunities while we’re on the road. Here are some really simple ideas. It doesn’t always need to be an activity either. The car is a great time to connect with your kids and really listen to what is going on in their hearts, minds and lives. You don’t need to bring any props. Just help them use their brains as you’re traveling along.
- Antonyms/Opposites – I find you can teach kids big words. Their brains are sponges right now, so you can tell them they’re learning antonyms. All you do is come up with one word and have them come up with the opposite (high – low, black – white, up – down, cold – hot, wet – dry).
- Synonyms – Help expand their vocabulary with synonyms. I initially try and come up with the harder word and have them find a synonym. When their vocabulary is expanding, you can give the simple while they come up with the more complicated (delicious – yummy, burning – hot, soaking – wet, enormous – big, disgusting – gross, fascinating – interesting).
- Stop Light Fun – You can have them watch to tell you when the light changes. My kids love that. You can teach them about the colors of the stop light to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle with these lyrics: “Twinkle, twinkle traffic light on the corner shining bright. Red means stop, green means go, yellow means go very very slow. Twinkle, twinkle traffic light on the corner shining bright.
- Teach them to Count – It’s a great time to work on counting. They can count by ones, fives, tens or anything really. You can have them see how high they can count. A lot of our familiarity with counting actually has happened from car counting.
- Look for the Alphabet on Signs – Start at A and end at Z. Help them to browse signs or license plates to find all the letters. You can also work on certain letters. If you are trying to teach T, try and see how many t’s you can find.
- Work on Letter Sounds – You can have them look for things outside the car that starts with certain letters. “What can you find that starts with a c?” You can also just have them try and think of all the different things that start with a letter (this doesn’t have to be found visually). “What can you think of that starts with an s?” You can also just ask them what different sounds letters make. “Kenzie, what does an L say? Abby, what does th say?”
- Work on Spelling – What a great time for spelling. For beginning readers, it’s going to be simple words. For older kids, it’s a great time to work on their spelling list from school.
- Learn Bible Verses – The car is a great place to work on scriptures you’re trying to instill. Follow our weekly character development series and embrace the scriptures there. You may already have a plan through your church or verses that are special to you. You can go back to my post about memorizing scripture for behavior to find verses there. I also have a CD that is made up of children’s songs that are all scripture. Music can help set verses in your children’s hearts. I love the CD Seeds of Faith because the music is really well done, not annoying like some kid music.
- Sing – You might have your favorites, but some simple favorite childhood songs are “Wheels on the Bus,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” “Alphabet Song,” “B-I-N-G-O,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “London Bridge,” or “Old McDonald.” For more ideas, you can go to freekidsmusic.com.
- Look for Shapes or Colors – Work on familiarization with shapes. Make sure you don’t limit yourself to 2 dimensional shapes. Once they have those down, you can add in spheres, cubes, prisms, etc. Once the basic colors are down, expand those as well (turquoise, magenta, silver, lime green, chartreuse, etc).