Kids in the Car

Both you and the kids spend a good deal of time in the car. Make it fun!

By Sara Kendall


Kids tend to zone out while riding around in a car. If you want to turn those blank stares into inquisitive gazes, get their minds working with games that will help them learn while being fun.

Check out these six ideas to encourage kids to enjoy the time in the car, whether you are on a long car trip or just making a quick run to the market.

Letter Search: For younger kids who are working on recognizing the alphabet, take them on a visual scavenger hunt. Call out letters and have your child search for them on signs along the route. Even if they don’t see the letter immediately or before you pass the sign, it makes them aware of letters and words in the outside world. You will know you have made progress when you are waiting at a stop sign and your five-year-old spells s-t-o-p.

Word Search: For older kids, go beyond letters and call out words for them to find. A little preparation is needed before playing this game. If you travel the same route on a daily basis, familiarize yourself with words you believe your child can read. Call out a word and give them as much time as possible to find it before you drive past it. This encourages kids to read outside of books and be more aware of their surroundings and how the world works.

Practice Counting: Take the 10 minutes it takes to drive to the store to practice math skills with your child. Little ones can count from 1 to 10, then backwards from 10 to 1. Continue onto harder counting when you feel they can handle more. Counting in multiplies of 2s, 5s, 10s, and 100s is fun and you will be getting your children primed for multiplication tables.

Multiplication: For kids who are in the midst of learning their multiplication tables, asking them to solve easy problems gives them a little extra practice when you are stuck sitting in traffic. Randomly call out problems, starting with easy ones and moving into more difficult territory. Pepper the trickier ones with an easy one now and again. This keeps them on their toes, and you’ll hear them scoff: “Oh Mom! That’s so EASY!”

Spelling: This is the perfect opportunity to help your younger children learn to spell their names. Once they have mastered that, move on to mom, dad, the names of brothers and sisters, best buddies, and pets. Add small words like dog, cat, bird, pool, doll, and bike to build on their spelling vocabulary with words that interest them. The possibilities are endless.

For kids old enough for spelling tests at school, a few minutes of extra quizzing of their weekly spelling words will reinforce them and help boost their performance levels. Your offspring may grumble about doing “homework” in the car, but remind him that it makes the time go faster when you are stuck in traffic or driving on a long and familiar road.

I Spy: Don’t put your child to work every time you get in the car. That’s a recipe for making them dread the car! Mix it up with a fun game kids of all ages can play: I Spy. Take turns looking for something in the car and give out a color clue. It is best to find objects in the car to allow everyone enough to find it. Objects outside the car don’t work, because driving along a road does not give anyone enough time to find a subject before driving by.

When I Spy, multiplication tables, and spelling have run out, try singing songs. Maybe not as educational, perhaps, but loads of fun.