Entertaining Kids on Road Trips
Summer is coming and you are probably planning your summer vacation. If your summer vacation involves a road trip you might be wondering why you chose that when the kids start to complain of boredom. Fear not, moms, you can keep your kids engaged!
While many cars come equipped with DVD players so you can entertain your kids with movies and kids have their own electronics, sometimes it’s good to take a break from all of that. Electronics tend to be a solitary activity so get the kids to power down for a while so you all can have some group interaction. Stimulate your child’s brain with some fun car activities.
Read on for Entertaining Kids on Road Trips Tips.
Yes, I’m talking “old school” like the car games you might have played when you were a kid. Those “old school” car games are still relevant today. They may not be quite as exciting as the latest and greatest video game, but kids can tire of their video games and need some other form of entertainment or boredom distraction.
Science shows the more we can stimulate our child’s brain, the greater their chance of becoming a smarter adult. And studies show smarter adults tend to make more money. I don’t know about you, but I want my son to be financially independent so he doesn’t rely on my husband and me when he becomes an adult. I want him to be able to sustain himself in the lifestyle he chooses. Teaching them at a young age contributes to their intelligence which is an indicator of success. Give them a head-start now with these “old school” car activities.
Studies also discuss the dreaded “summer slide” where kids forget most of what they just learned in school. Teachers have to spend time reviewing last year’s basics to get them started up again. One way to keep the summer slide from happening is to keep kids’ brains engaged during summer. Entertaining and teaching on road trips can make that easy.
Entertaining and Teaching Your Kids on Road Trips Tips
Take Detours & Sight See along the Way – If time permits stop along the way to your destination. Not only can it break up the trip and make it more exciting and give you a rest, you might be amazed at what you find. Google up your itinerary before you go to see what is along the way or do it in your car. Oftentimes GPS will have an option to find things along the way so you can use that too. The photo on the left was taken when I researched sights along the way and found out that Birmingham, Alabama, was once a major steel producer. The photo was taken at Vulcan Steel.
- Play “I Spy” – This is a great car game for kids of all ages. If you’re not familiar with this game you simply take turns finding something in your immediate line of sight and give clues for other players to figure out what you saw. For younger kids focus on easy things like colors or animals. I can’t tell you how many times my mom pointed out cows or horses along the way to keep us occupied!
- Count the Number of Colored Cars or to make it harder, Count the Number of the Same make/model car – Ok, you probably have to be really bored to do this one, but some kids still like this very old school game. Focusing on the number of cars of a certain color is great for younger children. If you have a teen on the brink of learning to drive they may enjoy noticing the make of cars as they probably have an interest in what kind of car they want to drive.
When Passing through a Certain Area Notice the Terrain – Is it flat here & hilly there? This is a great way to teach your kids how varied our American landscape is. Some states (especially here in the middle of the country) are really flat, others are hilly and some have mountain ranges. Last summer we took our son to Colorado. We decided to drive just so he could see the variation in the US landscape. On the way up we went through many of the “flat” states so on the way home we decided to take another route that wasn’t nearly as boring. Our son learned what all those states between here & Colorado looked like since so often we fly. Sometimes the terrain of a state can contribute to its economy or influenced the outcome of a battle. See what you can find out!
Discuss the History of the Area you are Passing Through – For school aged children this is a great way to educate them on the stories of our country. Make it fun. Tell it like a story. Are you passing by a battlefield or a historic marker of some sort? You may be surprised when they return to school in the Fall they may be learning about someplace you drove through! History comes alive when we see it first-hand rather than reading about it in a book or hearing a teacher lecture about it. If you’re an organized parent, check out what’s on the school lesson plan for next school year and be sure to highlight anything on your trip that relates to that. One year we stopped to see the Civil War battlefields at Vicksburg, Mississippi. In Frisco ISD kids study the Civil War in eighth grade so this was a good way to prepare our son to see what it really looked like on the battlefields.
Identify License Plates to see how Many of the 50 States you See Along the Way – This was a game we always played in the car when I was growing up as we took many road trips (and those were pre-electronic days). I still play it today to keep myself from getting too bored! My husband, the driver, will watch out for unique plates too especially if I doze off. If you have children that like to check off lists this is a great one to entertain them as they can check off the states they identify. It keeps the names of our states fresh in their minds. Oftentimes license plates reflect something unique about that state. Your child can learn about what our states are known for just by looking at license plates. Again, history and geography come to life in the car and it’s not as boring as school lessons can sometimes be. I snapped this photo of a North Dakota license plate because it’s not one you see often! Ok, yes, I’m a geek. See what’s on it? Buffalo! Use that as a learning moment to talk to your children about buffalo because they are unique to a few of our western states, certainly not Texas!
When Passing through Various States Discuss what is the State Flower? State bird? State motto? Anything else of note for that state? How did the state get its name? – Another great way to educate kids on what each state is known for. Your child’s teacher will be impressed when they come back to school and know so much about our country!
For Older Kids Discuss the Dominant Industry in a State you’re Passing Through. Ex – farming in the heartland, logging in Washington, lobsters in Maine etc. – They may learn some of this just by your discussions on license plates. Take the time for the information to come alive as you pass through a state. It may seem boring, but when we took our son to Colorado at first he decided the trip would be boring and he didn’t know why we had to go to Colorado. Since coming home he has told me several times that he is really glad we went because he really liked Colorado and he might want to move there when he gets older. As he was complaining about the trip I explained to him that one reason we are going is so he can see how beautiful Colorado is and what this state is about. When he grows up he may get a job there and now he’ll know if he even likes Colorado. Now he gets the “method behind my madness” and is glad we went.
Name Corporations Headquartered in a State or Large City you are Passing Through. Ex – Coca Cola is HQ in Atlanta, Frito Lay in Dallas – Last Christmas we drove through Atlanta on our way to see my family. We always stop along the way so Atlanta was our city of choice this time as there is so much to do there. We stopped at Coca Cola headquarters to tour their place. Of course the highlight for my son was all the free soda taste-testing you can do at the end of the trip. If he didn’t remember anything else, he now knows Coca-Cola is headquartered in Atlanta. Who knows, he may get a job there one day!
While it may seem boring or old school at the time, parents, I promise you, you are doing your child a great service to pry them away from their (& yours too) electronics for a while to play these educational games. Changing gears from electronics and movies stimulates their brain in a whole different way and allows them to appreciate the diversity and beauty that is our United States of America. So next time you’re in the car for hours, remember these simple tips for entertaining kids on road trips.
by Catherine Cates