Miles to go to the camp site, or national park, or Grandma's house. What to do?
These days, children often have their own iPods, Game Boys, and even DVD players to occupy themselves during the drive. Yet "old fashioned" games are great ways for the family to interact (!) AND exercise the brain.
Games like "I Spy, "Alphabet," and "20 Questions" help pass the time -- and even lengthen the miles -- between stops.
"I Spy" can be played with colors or letters. "I Spy with my eye, something that is red...." (a stop sign) or "something that starts with the letter 'h' (haystack). In "Alphabet", you can individually, or more fun, as a group, call out items that start with A, then B, then C. With "20 Questions," one person has a person or object in mind , and others asked questions that can be answered "yes" or "no" -- is it an animal? vegetable? mineral? alive? bigger than a bread box? (or these days, your microwave)? If the mystery can't be solved in 20 questions, the answer is revealed.
Feel free to make up your own games. One trip years ago to Yellowstone, our family started calling out license plates from various states and provinces. When we realized how many we were were finding, we started writing them down. We eventually counted 47 states and 3 Canadian provinces!
What are we doing? Practicing observation skills and creating categories - both math skills. Expanding vocabulary and creating awareness of the world around us. Then as children read, they have greater knowledge and life experience to apply to what they read, increasing the all important reading comprehension.
Then, of course, there is singing. Singing adds vocabulary, demonstrates the natural rhythm of language to pre- and early readers, reinforces rhyming concepts, and more. Start with: I've Been Working on the Railroad. Bingo. Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
Make up your own verses. Be silly. Maybe MacDonald had a pig that went Meow. Or had a dinosaur!
Besides being just plain fun, you are manipulating language, encouraging imagination and creativity -- all skills that help with success in school. If your children are old enough to rhyme (and the song calls for it), make the lyrics rhyme. With younger children, just be wild and crazy with the ideas.
Here are some more fun songs where it's easy to write new verses, and recordings where you can find them:
Down By The Bay (Nancy Cassidy's KidsSongs) - have you ever seen a llama wearing pink pajamas? Or a goose dancing with a moose?
There's a Hole in the Middle of the Sea and Throw It Out the Window (Wee Sing Silly Songs): What else is in the Middle of the Sea? And what other nursery rhymes can "go out the window."
Alligator Pie. (Pam & Greta's Magical Music Express) - include your favorite food. Alligator Spaghetti - if I don't get some, I'll go tell Aunt Betty!
Let me know what others songs YOU like to sing....