Strapping the whole family into a car for more than ten minutes has a (very well-deserved) reputation for causing siblings to bicker out of boredom and nag stressed parents. But in fact, car journeys can be wonderful learning experiences, if you’re willing to take advantage of the time on your hands and the ever-changing surroundings.
Make the most of the journey
For a start the journey itself is a perfect opportunity for your child to practise what they have learnt in geography. They can read the map, help you plan the route and point out the road signs as you travel, so turn off the sat nav and delegate the navigation duties for a change.
Indulge in chilled out activities
Long journeys with children provide ample time for nurturing communication skills and cognitive thinking – whether debating the merits of the final Harry Potter book or sitting silently in awe of your children, as they sit silently in awe of an audio book. Most books have an audio equivalent these days, meaning the experience can be factually informative or fictionally creative – visit your local library for a selection of audio books to borrow.
However golden, silence never lasts forever where children are involved and eventually you will need something that entertains them on an interactive level. Fortunately there are plenty of educational games that will keep the kids amused all the way to Gran’s and back. Try these:
Make up bingo sheets with images of things you might see on your car journey. Each person should have a slightly different set of images and the first person to spot all the things on their bingo sheet is the winner.
The alphabet game
Pick a theme and, starting with ‘a’, take it in turns to think of a word starting with the next letter of the alphabet.
Animal, mineral, vegetable
Think of an animal, mineral or vegetable then let everyone take it in turns to guess what it is by asking you questions – you may only answer "yes" or "no".
Pick a colour and then try to spot a car of that colour. Once you’ve spotted seven you can look for a black car to win the game. However, if your opponent spots a white then it’s their turn to spot the cars. This game can also work using the rules of snooker.
Registration plate games
There are a number of games you can play with a registration plate, including a variation on the alphabet game where you work your way through the alphabet as fast as you can spotting plates with the relevant letters. Alternatively your child could compete with a sibling or parent to see who can add up the plate numbers quickest.