85 hours on the road including only stretches of at least 1.5 hours from January 26 to March 16. This was our reality with 3 kids in the car all under the age of seven.
And the best part? They had approximately only 6 hours in front of screens. The rest of the time, 79 hours to be exact, they played games in the car!
Verbal Games to play on an educational road trip or vacation.
While I tried to prepare for our roadschool adventure by printing our resources for my 2, 4, and 6 year olds to do along the way, sometimes I couldn’t reach them and honestly in the end, the verbal games won the prize as the most fun of all. And they were great ways to encourage learning on the road.
Count your cows
This was a favorite when my brother and I were growing up because we would be on long stretches of road with nothing but pasture lands and occasional cemeteries.
It is easy. Each person can only look out of the window on their side of the car. If parents are in the front, it’s easy to have each one be a sort of referee. And all you do is count the cows you see. But if you pass a cemetery you must bury your cows. Whoever has the most living cows once you get to your destination wins.
This is the perfect road trip game for people traveling through rural areas or farm land. And it’s completely unpredictable.
How does it relate to learning? It helps kids concentrate on counting quickly and sometimes to very high numbers. They start learning to use better counting strategies like skip counting by 2s, 3s, 4s, or 5s depending on how the herd of cows is grouped which helps with quick mental math skills. Older kids can use it as a way to do quick multiplication and estimation.
Alphabet game OR spell-it-out
Most of us have played the alphabet game in the car at some point. My husband and I grew up playing it different ways. Some play where you can only use signs, others play without signs, and sometimes you can play where it has to be the first letter of a word.
But a more complex game to play that’s an educational travel game requires that the driver or other adult/teacher picks out words for the child[ren] to spell using the letters they find. It adds an element of remembering not just what letter you’re on but also the need to spell the word correctly.
You decide if the child has to start over if they spell it wrong.
Semi truck uno/Spot It
You have to pay attention to trucks driving by and track characteristics. So as a car you look at the first truck and detail all the things you can about that truck.
The as the next one passes, you have to work to figure out what is the same about it. For instance maybe they both have red cabs or the licenses plates are both from Indiana. It could be that the company each represent has a name that starts with the letter P.
How can this be used in roadschool lessons? This is a great way to build short term memory. Having memorization skills is something that is often not focused on as a skill to be taught, but is a valuable asset throughout a person’s life.
Our family played twenty questions as a roadschooling game dedicated to learning about specific topics. Therefore, we would pick out certain broad categories like “Ocean Life” or “Animals” and tell them that up front. This allowed us to not ask our children questions, but to allow them to show us what they knew.
Even as a teacher in a regular classroom, this was a huge gift. Tests can only show so much. But maybe kids learn things we’re not asking but that are still important.
One of the units we did on our roadschooling adventure was a Plains Unit because we were in Missouri and Oklahoma for awhile. This unit included the geography of the plains, the animals like Bison, prairie dogs, and snakes, and it also incorporated weather like tornadoes. So if we were playing, we might announce that the category was Plains and the main person would have to think of something from that category. Both for questioning and verifying clues, this was a great way to see what our children had learned along the way!
Eye Spy – Who can get the most points?
First, let’s differentiate how this is different from a scavenger hunt or bingo. In those games, typically you’re only going to get credit for finding an item once. In this case, players are encouraged to find as many as possible while on the road. In fact, on our family vacation, this game lasted for 2 full weeks and wound up being our fallback anytime someone was bored or a sibling fell asleep… because that’s the best time to rack up points without competition!
This car game can be adapted to the needs of your location. For instance if you are road tripping in the plains, you’re going to see a whole lot more cows and oil rigs than if you’re in Northern California where you might see more orchards or maybe even a bear.
To start, we let every family member pick a few things they have seen several of in a certain amount of time… say 15 minutes. Then the driver typically dictates the points associated with each. So a cell phone tower might only be one point because they’re all over but a tractor that’s not green could be twenty points. It’s all arbitrary to your needs.
Then for game play the only person that gets the points is the first person to spot it. They have to be able to clearly articulate what they see so that there is no overlap. When we got into areas that didn’t have as much to see or it was nighttime, the rules switched to late night mode where only kids under a certain age could call out things like speed limit signs or exit signs.
The nice thing about adding speed limit signs is that it helped us keep track of our own speed so that’s actually why we started the game.
- Cell Phone Tower – 1 pt.
- Oil Rigs aka “Oil pecker” – 3 pts.
- Giant smoke stack – 45 pts.
- Tractor that’s not green – 75 pts.
- Train tracks 10 pts.
- Road work sign 1 pt.
- Blinking light 1 pt.
- Army vehicle 7 pts.
- American Flag 5 pts.
- Steeple 15 pts.
- Speed limit sign 1 pt.
- Swing sets 30 pts.
- Cemetery 15 pts.
How it’s educational:
It requires keeping track of your score as well as building observation skills. It also gave us the opportunity to talk about both physical and cultural geography. For instance some areas of the country have a higher density of churches, some are more agricultural, and some are more factory-focused. This opens up a lot of conversations about people, occupations, and how culture and geography can shape a person’s life.
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