Being a backseat passenger may be a regular part of your child’s routine, but it doesn’t have to be boring. In addition to singing songs, my preschooler and I enjoy playing games in the car. These activities allow us to interact while I drive, and reinforce developmental skills as she grows. Most of the games can be played with more than one child at the same time. Here are some favourites.
“I Spy.” Each of us takes a turn looking outside for something of a certain colour for the other person to identify. The first player says something like “I spy with my little eye something red,” which could be a stop sign, a fire engine or another object. The other player calls out possible objects until discovering the correct one.
Alphabet Hunt. Have your youngster look for each letter of the alphabet on the signs and license plates you pass during your journey.
Phonics Game. Have your child think of words that begin with the “sound” of a particular letter of the alphabet. For the letter b, for example, ask your child to think of words starting with the sound “buh.” For more advanced players, think of a word for each letter of the alphabet.
Spelling Bee. For your beginning speller choose simple words, such as “hat,” “cat” and “rat.”
Rhyming Time. This rhyming and phonics game is appropriate for older preschoolers. Chant the following to a simple tune: I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with house, it starts with an “m” so it must be “_____.”
Follow My Rhythm. Chant a simple rhythm for your child to repeat. As she becomes more able to follow your lead, slowly make the patterns more complex. If you’re musically inclined, create a short rhythmic tune for your child to imitate.
Guess My Number. Tell your child you’re thinking of a number between one and 10, or between any two numbers, depending on your child’s knowledge. Each time your child guesses a number, say whether yours is higher or lower than the one guessed, until your child arrives at the actual number.
Counting Game. Ask your child to count 10 blue cars, 10 stop signs and so on. Older children can keep score with a pencil and a small notebook.
Story Together. Create a story together with your preschooler. Start with an intriguing first sentence then have fun with the plot as you take turns narrating the next parts of the story.
Twenty Questions. Think of a person, place or thing and offer clues. For younger children, clues can be obvious. “I’m thinking of the town where Grandma lives.” “I came to your birthday party and my first name begins with C.” Older kids can tolerate more frustration, so clues for them can be more complex. The clue “The seventh book about me will be the last in the series” could be followed with “My best friends are Ron and Hermione.”
Once you get in the habit of playing games, being in the car can become a special time together. Connecting through games is also a natural precursor to the car ride conversations you’ll be eager to have as your child grows.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.