Summer vacation is in full force. My Facebook stream is peppered with posts from friends describing their vacation adventures in the car, on the plane or on the train. How we keep kids occupied often can make or break that road trip, whereever the ultimate destination may lie.
Even if the extent of your vacation is a stay-cation and the big adventure is to the grocery store, there are fun (and dually educational) opportunities that can keep kids entertained along the way.
A great game is calling out a letter and seeing where your child can find it: on billboard, a street sign, or on a mailbox. For older kids, call out the letters in a certain order to spell an object (like Lion) and see if they can put the ‘clues’ together. Once they have found the letters, and have guessed the object that the letters spell out, see if they can then find that object.
For children who are starting to read, take a walk in your town’s center with the various shops and signs. Find a word, like “Coffee” and see if they can find the sign that has that word. Then have them spell it out. They can then turn the tables on you by using the letters in the word they found, like ‘C’ in coffee, to call out a “C” object that you need to find.
For toddlers who may not yet know their letters or numbers, find images or colors. Like a teddy bear in a toy store sign, or a dog on the sign for the local veterinarians office. Or the color red on a stop sign, or a blue car in a parking lot.
Don’t forget about math! Look for numbers too, and find ways to incorporate mathematical problems for various stages like adding, subtracting or multiplication. For example, ask your child to find a sign with the number 9 in it. Then ask them to find a sign with the number 3 in it. Once they do, ask them what is 9 + 3. When they say 12, ask them to find the number 12 on an object like a price tag on a tee shirt or the “For Sale” sign on bananas at the grocery store.
One final idea that we used to do on long road trips, is to find license plates of cars from various states. We would write them down and see, at the end of the trip, who found the most states. Great way to incorporate geography into a learning opportunity too.
These activities are fantastic when you are standing in long line at Target, at a theme park like Disney World, or in a security line at the airport. Even if the game captures your child’s attention and imagination for only 15 minutes, it is an educational quarter of an hour (and a peaceful one too.)
All in all, using “environment print” is an easy way to educate, entertain and engage kids of all ages.