Try these ideas to help keep backseat (or airplane-bound) fidgeters having fun and learning from point A to point B. You'll get great mileage out of these entertaining activities!
- Travel Scavenger Hunt
Before setting off, give your child a list of things to find on your trip. (If you've got more than one child in tow, make up a different list for each.) Customize it for the terrain you'll be traveling, and make sure to throw in some hard-to-find or unusual things to challenge his mind.
- The Alphabet Game
Starting with "A," challenge your child to find each letter of the alphabet on signs as you travel. Players call out the letter and the word it's in as they see each one. The first one to reach "Z" wins.
- Twenty Questions
In this game, one person thinks of something and the other people try to guess what it is by asking yes or no questions, such as "Is it bigger than a toaster?" You can have players choose from something in the "Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral" categories, or start with a "Person, Place, or Thing."
- License Plate Game
Give the age-old travel game a learning boost by printing out a map of the USA and having your child check off each state as she sees it on the map. She can keep count of how many from each state she sees, mark the date and time she saw it, or write down the license plate number itself within the state.
- Miles of Maps
Keep your child from endlessly asking "how much farther?" by giving him his very own map with stops on your journey highlighted. Have him try to guess which roads you will travel (or airports you'll visit), how long he thinks it will take to get from one destination to another, and find places on the map as you travel past them.
- Records on the Road
Why not populate your trip with stops at unusual roadside attractions? Guides like Roadside America and Eccentric America are filled with weird wonders and amazing attractions. Check out Roadside America's Web site and search for interesting places along your route.
- Retrace Great Explorations
For a truly ambitious and wonderful learning experience (requiring just a little research), infuse some history into your trip. Discover the history of famous monuments you'll pass, or stop at a Civil War battleground along the way.
- The Professor's Cat
Build your school-age child's vocabulary as you go through the alphabet, alternating adjectives to describe the professor's cat. You say, "The professor's cat is an A_____ (angry, agile, avaricious, etc.) cat." The next player says, "The professor's cat is a B_____ (big, boring, bodacious, etc.) cat." See if you can find words from A to Z.
- Family Fact or Fiction
This game works while you're on the road and also as an icebreaker at family gatherings. Ask each player to say three things about himself — two true and one false. After hearing the three statements, the other players pick which "fact" they think is false. Appoint a scorekeeper who will award one point to each player who guesses correctly. If everyone's wrong, he'll give a point to the player who made the statements.
- Street Sums
Build basic math concepts with an addition and subtraction highway game that will challenge your grade schooler. Each player picks a car color. Every time a car of that color passes, he wins a point. But each time a pickup, 18-wheeler, or RV of that color passes, he loses a point. The first person to spot an emergency vehicle gets five bonus points and the first to 25 points wins.
To banish boredom and boost skills, you can also host a spelling bee or have your child calculate your gas mileage. Other great ideas to pass the time include singing songs, listening to books on tape, playing "I spy," counting animals, or taking turns saying what clouds look like. And don't forget to bring books!