With the summer holidays here families spend lots of time in the car, whether for a day trip to the beach or park or on a longer adventure. Time spent in the car can mean lots of arguing and complaining or with a little thought it can be made into a time of fun and learning. Here are some ideas for keeping kids happy while travelling and developing their language skills at the same time.
Ideas for younger kids:
1. I Spy concepts:
This is a variation on the traditional game that can be used to develop language skills and is suitable for children who are not yet familiar with letters of the alphabet. You can try colours, shapes, sizes, textures and all kinds of describing words. Try "I spy something that is red ....or long or round, or furry". You can also try categories such as "I spy something that is an animal, ... or a plant, transport, furniture etc. Why not try function words, "I spy something you can ride, ....eat, pat etc.
2. Simon Says:
This traditional game is good for developing attention and listening skills. If you link a few actions together you can also develop memory skills. Kids can't move around in the car but they can do actions with their hands and faces, touch body parts and say words or make noises. "Simon says touch your nose then make a noise like a cow". Once your child can link a few actions together you can try developing sequencing skills and time concepts "Make a noise of a cow after you clap your hands".
3. "I went to the shop and I bought..."
This game develops vocabulary, memory skills and understanding of categories. One person starts with " I went to the shop and I bought... and adds an item. The next person repeats what the first has said and adds an extra item. Keep taking turn to add until someone forgets one item. Develop your child's vocabulary by doing different types of shops, such as bakery, butcher, fruit and veg shop, and by doing different places such as "I went to the zoo, beach, farm ,park etc.
4. Scavenger hunt.
This game takes a little planning but can keep kids occupied for a longer trip and can develop attention and vocabulary. Make a list of things you might see as you travel. For younger kids draw the items or use clip art to print off a list. Kids can then tick of the items as they see them and perhaps earn a small reward when they tick off all their items. If you laminate your list and use a whiteboard marker you can use your list over and over again.
5. Make a story.
This game develops a range of language skills and knowledge of story structures, an important literacy skill. One person starts a story and each person takes turns to add a sentence or two. If you have a voice recorder function on your phone kids can record the story as they go and play it back. If it turns out well you can also type it out later and make a book.
When you get to your destination you could also record what you do with a camera and use a book making app on your phone or iPad to make a story about your trip. Younger kids could look at the pictures and record a voice over or dictate to an adult or older child a story to go with the pictures.
Ideas for older kids
1. I describe
A variation on "I spy". Older kids can give a description of an item they see for others to guess. The better the description the fewer guesses needed. Can you make your description so good it can be worked out in one guess. Develops descriptive language skills, understanding of others perspective and cooperation.
2. 20 questions
This game is great for developing higher level language skills such as concepts and categories. One person thinks of an item and the other people have to ask yes/no questions to work out what the item is in less than 20 questions. Help kids to think about which questions are more useful such as "Is it a living thing?" and which are less helpful such as "Is it a cat?".
3. Advanced "I went to the shop and I bought..."
Play the game as for the younger kids but try thinking of things in alphabetical order " I bought an apple, banana, cherry, .." Or things that rhyme " I bought a hat, mat, and a bat. Or things that have a certain characteristic such as red foods " I bought an apple, cherry, tomato..." Keep on adding until someone can't think of anything more to add.
If you have a voice recorder on your phone kids can take turns to interview each other. They might like to pretend to be a famous person, character from a book, movie or TV show or even an animal. The "reporter" needs to make up interesting questions to ask and record the interview to play back later. Kids could also interview each other on the way home about how their day went.
Ideas for speech practice:
The above ideas are great for developing language skills. If you have a child who is working on developing their speech sounds here are some ideas for practicing these while in the car or out and about.
1. I spy my sound
As you drive ask your child to look for things with their target sound and say " I spy a ..." using their sound correctly. Keep and tally of how many things can they see and don't forget to tell them when they use a good sound.
2. Fill in phrases
Make up a phrase that has your child's special sound in it, that they can say and complete with things that they see on their trip. For example if you child is working on "s" their phrase might be " I can see a ..." and they say it for thing that they see as they travel. " I can see a bus, I can see a traffic light". This phrase would also work for the "k" sound. For "l" you could try "look at the ..." For 'th' "there is a ..."
3. One minute practice
Give your child a topic and see if they can talk for one minute about this using their target sound. Count the number of good sounds you hear. Then pick another topic and see if they can use more good sounds the next time,
Have fun when travelling and remember to drive safely. Some games are best played with an adult that is not driving or with an older child.
If you are concerned about your child's language development browse our website to see how speech pathology can help.
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