by Heather Toms | Lakeshore CRM Manager
I love family road trips. I get to spend quality time with my loved ones while creating unforgettable family memories. After all, who’s going to forget seeing the world’s largest rocking chair?
I always have a blast once I’m on the road, but I have to admit, the planning can be a bit stressful…especially when I start wondering how to entertain my four-year-old and six-year-old for hours in the car. Questions swirl through my head: What should I pack? How can I squeeze some learning into the trip? Where do I start?Read More →
Now that I have a few family adventures under my belt, I’ve learned how to add entertainment and education to road trips while staying stress-free and excited for my vacation. Before I pack, I simply run through my road trip-approved activity checklist to make sure everything I bring is:
- Easy to transport.
- Easy to clean up. (Avoid messy materials and items with lots of parts and pieces. Who wants to spend the next five years picking gooey glitter dough out of the car seats?)
- Device-free. (Even though there are plenty of educational apps out there, I like to give my kids a break from iPads and videos—it always helps set the tone for a relaxing family vacation!)
Here are some road trip-ready educational activities that meet all my criteria. My kids love them—and I’m sure yours will, too!
1. Write on your windows
With some Window Crayons or Write & Wipe Markers, you can use car windows to create a spectacular mobile learning station. Windows provide the perfect place to solve math problems, draw pictures, practice writing, and even play games like tic-tac-toe. Be sure to bring a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle full of soapy water for easy cleanup.
2. Belt it out
It might seem old-fashioned, but a classic sing-along can entertain the whole family for hours. Plan ahead and create a playlist of your kids’ favorite songs so they’ll be super-excited to start singing. If you really want your kids to feel like rock stars, bring along this awesome Echo Microphone.
I also like to give our sing-alongs a learning boost with Listen & Read Sing-Alongs. These books are great for kids who don’t like to sing—the CDs do all the work! Kids just sit back, look at the colorful pictures…and sing along if they want to!
3. Reinvent classic car games
When it comes to car games, you’re really only limited by your imagination. Most car games require zero materials, and they’re easy to tweak to add an educational punch.
Car games don’t get much better than the Alphabet Game. To play, simply go through the alphabet and find objects outside of the car that start with each letter. To deepen the language lesson, have your kids search for objects with matching middle and ending sounds! See who can find the most matches in 15-minute increments. You can up the ante by using a Write & Wipe Lapboard to keep score! My kids love playing kids against parents.
Give the Alphabet Game a math makeover by playing with shapes instead of letters. Print out a list of basic shapes for your kids to reference. Go through the shapes one at a time, asking kids to search for items outside with the same shape. Keep playing until you’ve found a real-life item for every shape on your list.
4. Stop and smell the roses
Don’t let snacks, gas, and the restroom dominate your stops. Do a little research before you leave to make a list of monuments and historic sites along your route. The National Register of Historic Places has an awesome interactive map that makes it easy. I like to look up information on my phone before we arrive at our stops so I can share some historical tidbits with my kids.
If you don’t have time to do research, be spontaneous! We like to make stops when we come across beautiful scenery; everyone appreciates the chance to stretch, enjoy the view, and get some fresh air.
Tip: Pack balls or a plastic disk to help your kids release extra energy. My kids love tossing these sensory balls—they even like to squeeze them during the car ride to keep their fingers busy.
5. Trust the good old worksheet
No matter how busy you are, there’s always time to download and print free worksheets from Lakeshore’s website. Grab some pencils, magnets, and a Magnetic Write & Wipe Lapboard, and your kids will have everything they need to enjoy some learning on the road.
Tip: When my kids are done with their worksheets, we use our magnetic boards for magnet play! We like Magnetic Letters to practice alphabet skills and spelling…and Magnetic Numbers to practice counting and simple addition.
6. Document the trip with creative keepsakes
It’s easier than you think to help your kids make a one-of-a-kind travel journal. Before any trip, I use this free, printable template to make a blank journal for each of my kids. I pack some crayons and colored pencils, and voilà—my kids have everything they need to fill the journal with memories while on the trip back home.
Tip: My kids love to be photographers, finding the perfect shots for their journals. Since taking pictures is usually an adult domain, letting kids take their own can be an exciting way to pass the time. Pack a Polaroid or disposable camera…or just let them use your cell phone!
If your kids want to get really crafty, the My Scrapbook Kit is a perfect way to make scrapbooking kid-friendly. It includes everything they need (paper, accents, and even scissors) to preserve precious memories from your trip. We love to scrapbook as a family when our trips are over—it keeps the fun alive!
I wish you safe and happy travels…and I hope these ideas inspire you to come up with your own family road-trip traditions!