Learning on a long car drive.

First of all, let me say that all car drives in our house are learning drives. Sometimes learning is really simple: we listen to songs. Sometimes we get more complex; We clap to the beat, spell words we see, find letters, count things….We simply spend time talking in the car too. We talk about clouds, why the sun comes up, why a car goes, what the difference between a man and a machine is (I’m sticking with my explanation – God made people and people make machines).

And then there are the longer car drives – I’m thinking anything over an hour. Ever since the move to the booster seat, Nicholas doesn’t sleep in the car, so I have to plan activities.

Sometimes the activities are simple – I give him his Leapster or Tag reading system. But sometimes I am for more interaction.

For more interaction I plan ahead – I draw a map of where we are going with easily recognizable landmarks or signs. If you don’t know the route you are travelling on, turn on Google Maps (on the satellite image), zoom in, and follow your route. You can see signs and interesting landmarks. The map doesn’t need to be that accurate. I tend to draw a curvy line and put landmarks on the curves. Then, I draw a list of things I marked on the map. So he has his map and a crayon, and I have the list.

Then we start the drive. Every so often, or as we are approaching a landmark, we look outside and talk about how close we are to the end. Questions like, “Are we more or less than half-way there?,” and “How far have we gone?,” are great questions to ask. They teach children to recognize fractions as part of a line, learn where a half-way point is, and recognize more than and less than questions. We cross off landmarks on the map until we get to the end.

This helps keep him occupied. It gives him something to look forward to and something to help him keep track of the time. It gives me a required amount of talking with him so he doesn’t zone out to his Leapster. It also makes sure he doesn’t get carried away with asking me “Why” all the time – especially if he has asked why and then wants to know the why of the explanation.

It also starts to teach him about maps and landmarks. I imagine as he gets older I will invest in a set of maps and laminate them so we can do the same thing. Laminating them will allow us to use dry erase markers (or Crayola’s new dry erase crayons) to cross things off and then use the maps again after wiping them off.

This takes some planning, but it is fun to watch his face as we get closer and  closer to the destination.

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