Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting There Is Half The Fun! And a Freebie!

I have a question for you. It may seems strange, but I'm curious. What goes on in your vehicle.  You know, when you climb in your car or van for a quick trip to the grocery store with your child, what do you do after make sure everyone is buckled?  For many the answer is 'pop in a DVD.'  Seriously!  Have you driven around your local community, to the post office, the bank and seen the reflection of those little DVD players through the window of a mini-van?  I have!  And I have to wonder, are they missing all the fun?

Now I want you to know, I don't personally have anything against those little DVD players that seem to come standard in so many SUVs and Mini-vans these days.  I really don't.  I can actually see where they might be beneficial if I were driving from my Northern Michigan home all the way to Florida with my three boys in the back.  But the fact is, we've never had one.  When we started having children and purchased our first 'grown up vehicle' (you know the kind that doesn't allow for baby seats to tip over) I just had  this feeling that kids get more than enough screen time these days and  decided with the birth of that first child  that we really didn't need to add transportation time to the list of additional time to be in front of a screen.  I'm not going to tell you that it has been all cupcakes and roses in the back of our SUV with three boys 4, 6 and 8 years old, but I will tell you, I wouldn't change it for the world. In addition to made up games, sing alongs, stories and 'teachable moments,' I have had the opportunity to have some invaluable conversations with my sons when they have literally been my captive audience.  How often, as parents, do you get that chance? 

But I understand you might be wondering, if you're not plugged into Alvin and Chipmunks what can your kids do during this time of strapped-in captivity?

Of course I can offer some suggestions of things we do in my own vehicle with three active boys 4, 6 and 8:

Play great kids music.

Currently playing in my own vehicle is:

Snacktime by the Bare Naked Ladies (Polliwog In A Bog and Popcorn are favorites)
Very Derryberry by Debi Derryberry
Uncle Rock U by Uncle Rock
The Best of Laurie Berkner

and Earth Wind and Fire's Greatest Hits (it was the one thing that would instantly stop my oldest son from crying when he was an infant and we continue to keep it on hand even though he's now 8. )

Play games. 

Do you play Skittle?  Every time you see a yellow car (no construction or service vehicles allowed) the first one to scream 'skittle' gets a point (you get 10 points for yellow motorcycles).  But be careful of skittle busters (any police vehicle).  The person that screams 'skittle buster' first gets to erase any one other person's skittles. 

How about Animal Guessing Game?  One person thinks of an animal and everyone has to ask a yes/no question.  You might ask, 'would you find this animal in a zoo?' 'does it have fur?' 'is it brown'?  When a person finally guesses it, it then their turn to think of an animal. 

I-Spy This can be especially good for your little ones who are mastering their letters, letter sounds and numbers

 Have your little players mark off the letter or number they see.  The first one to mark off all that are on their card wins.  

Or how about  I-Spy items for the country and vehicles for when you are out about town.  I hole punch them and put them on a ring for easy use.

Stock your car with books. 

There is nothing better than a quiet trip home from the library when everyone has a book in their hands.   Even better, while you're at the library pick up some books on tape.  Yes, they have them for your little ones too.

Create a personal space for special items. 

For only a buck at Dollar General, you can get  yourself one of these 5 pocket organizers which hold A TON of things to keep your kiddos happy and occupied.  Take off the head rest and slip it through.  Then stock it full of you kiddos favorite items. I have one for each of my boys. And here's another little hint . . . when my son was learning his phone number, I taped it to the front of his little organizer so he could look at it everyday to and from day care. A couple of trips back and forth and he had it memorized with very little effort.

In case you're wondering what kinds of things a four year old might keep in his organizer, here's what you'd find in my son's:

letter rings . . . I say a letter and he likes to see how fast he can find it. 

I-spy bottle . . . with letters

mini-clipboard (Those little ones you can get are the perfect size for this organizer.  I just added a little scrapbook paper to fancy them up a bit.)

crayon roll (these things are great for keeping writing utensils together)

His leapfrog Tag pencil  which reads books you down load  and 'Scout' letter recognition and sound games.

A small box for little toy items such as his figurines, cars and the like.

And I-Spy cards and a magnifying glass.  This one is for spotting hidden letters and recording them. One of my facebook followers actually gave me this idea.  She had written to me that she printed off my I-Spys for her triplets to use in the car.  I thought it was such a great idea, I made a smaller version to fit in my son's organizer.

My rule is you can put in your organizer anything that will fit.  Books go in the middle console.  This helps eliminate some of the clutter (unfortunately not all).

How about using all that time in the car to learn a little more about your child . . .
Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
As a kindergarten teacher, at the beginning of the year, parents always tell me that 'my child just doesn't talk that much about school, or friends or what they are doing."  Often, young children just don't know 'how' to tell you  about their day and need to be asked the right questions.  I suggest that instead of asking 'how was your day' or 'what did you do' ask them very specific questions to get them warmed up and start their mind working in that directions.  Ask them what they had for lunch, who they sat next to or who they played with at recess.  Then when I feel like my boys are sufficiently 'warmed up,' we do 'thumbs up and thumbs down.'  What was the best thing about your day (thumbs up) and what was the worst part of your day (thumbs down).  You'll be amazed what you can learn about your child's day in the  time it takes you to pick them up from school and arrive safely home.

photo of: "Getting There is Half the Fun" Family Fun Freebie for Car Trips

These are just of few of my ideas making the most of time spent with your children in a vehicle.  I'd love to hear your ideas. 

In the meantime, if you'd like to snag some goodies to get an organizer started for your own child, just click on the picture below to download the printable shown above.  I hope your little ones enjoy them. 

As always, I would love to have you stop by my blog. Until next time, drive safely and remember, getting there is half the fun.


  1. What a wonderful post! I will say I am a DVD and music person for the van. Can't wait to check out all these new finds :)
    Melissa at http://transitionalkinder.blogspot.com

  2. okay, i LOVE the organizer and the printables! thanks for the ideas!!!

  3. Awesome ideas, Marsha! My family always loved road trips, and the trips would have been even better with some of your activities. I plan to feature your freebie tomorrow as the Free Printable of the Day at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page. I pinned your post to my Traveling with Kids Pinterest Board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/traveling-with-kids/


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