I am the first to admit that when I travel with my kids on an airplane, I pack and prepare meticulously. Books and snacks? Check. Shows and games loaded on to the tablet? Double check. I just do what works and what will keep the people in the rows around us from shooting us dirty looks or asking to move.
On road trips, however, the stress is lower and we are the only people who can hear my kids fuss. We try to keep the screen time to a minimum by playing games instead. One game we played while driving in North Texas this week was the classic alphabet game, but we adapted it in a few ways to make it work for everyone. You know this game: it’s the one where you start at A and go all the way to Z using letters from road signs to get you through all 26 letters. Luckily in Texas there are lots of Dairy Queens — Q is a tricky letter to find!
You’ve probably played this game sometime in your life, but it can be really frustrating with a mixed-aged group of siblings, and frustration is not a good thing when you’re stuck in a car. Here are five variations that we used to make this a game the whole family can play.
1. Work together. Growing up, my sister and I played this game competitively and whoever found all 26 letters first won. This is great if your kids have roughly the same ability, but for many of us, that won’t work. If you work together, you can also work on teamwork, encouraging others, and confidence.
2. Look for your initials. This is a great option for kids that are eager to be competitive but aren’t patient enough to go through the whole alphabet. The first person to find his or her initials wins.
3. Spell. My 6-year-old is eager to learn to spell, and even though his younger sister can’t yet, I still have her search for specific letters without any help. For example, you can give your passengers the word “dog,” then ask them to find each letter one by one.
4. Skip the alphabetical order. This works best with a pad of paper or a note-taking app on a smartphone. As kids see letters you can check them off. This is a really fast version, so be aware that once they find that Q and V, the game is almost done!
5. Count specific letters. Let your children choose a letter and in a specified amount of time, count how many they see. Now the letter game adds in math for extra learning! This is wonderful for kids who might not know every letter of the alphabet or feel intimidated by older siblings or other children who are playing. Everyone is counting for himself/herself, and this game can be repeated with the same or different letters in a snap.
Let’s keep this conversation going. How have you made road trips more fun and educational for your kids? Tell us on Scholastic Parent’s Facebook page.