What if you played one verbal game per drive - either while driving on the freeway, or waiting at a stoplight? "I Spy" was our family favorite - choose easy objects for younger children and select tougher items to spot as they get older! "I Spy....something blue..." might be the sky for a two year old - or a large truck. But "I spy...something red..." for a four or five year old might be their own shirt or shoes, or a billboard sign. Alternate turns as soon as they can, and let the fun begin! Of course, the driver probably shouldn't be the one playing the game (unless you are stuck in traffic and going nowhere)! Just think what ONE GAME per drive could do to enhance your preschooler's language learning!
Other fun car games:
- The Alphabet game - look for the letters in alphbetical order - "I found an A!" ... let one person look out the right side windows, and another out the left side windows. Road signs, billboards, and license plates are all fair game. This would work best with 4 and 5 year olds - or as soon as the child reliably knows their letters. Long before that, however, you can help younger learners find the letters one at a time, "Can you find an 'A'?" - but stick to billboards or road signs, because they will be easier for a preschooler to spot.
- Questions - think of an animal, object, or person and let your child ask questions that require a yes or no answer. They should start by asking questions like, "Is it a person?" "Is it an animal?" and then progress to "Does it fly?" "Is it a man?" The best way to teach this game to young children is by modeling, and using very narrow categories - tell them, "Think of a cartoon animal." Ok. I'm going to try to guess. "Is your cartoon animal from a movie?" Once you have played a couple of times, say, "Okay, my turn. I'm thinking of a fruit you LOVE.." and encourage them to ask questions. If the child can't think of questions, you can even suggest - "Ask about the color!"
- Count the.... - Cows? Buses? Start this easy conversation by saying something like, "Let's count how many buses you see before we get to Auntie's house!" (Of course, this is for short trips!) As attention spans get longer, you can narrow it to types of cars, or a certain fast-food restaurant. For the very young, you can start this game by saying, "See if you can find ONE...(police car, fire truck, motorcycle ... whatever). They will quickly grow into, "Let's see how quickly you can count FIVE buses..." !
- Sing that Song! - Start a song your children know well. It might be a nursery song, a song from Sunday School, a Christmas carol, or the Sesame Street theme song...but sing a ways, then STOP and see if they can complete the song. We started with the a,b,c's and "Jesus Loves Me" and worked our way up to Bible Book songs and state capitols when they were older. Of course, if your child gets stuck for the lyric, you better be able to complete it! Also as they get older, let them challenge you with a song. (Our family rule: it has to be a song we would all know!)
- Singing Songs! - Rather than keep the radio on traffic report, or on dad's classic rock station, all the time - add in some family friendly fare once in a while. I know it is easier for each kid to have a little ipod with headphones, but singing along with you child is a great memory-maker. Songs are one of the best ways to achieve language development and vocabulary enrichment. Find a CD the whole family can sing with and put it in the rotation. Our family has always loved the CDs we get from church for VBS - great songs, easy to learn, lots of great character and spiritual training in there, too. But any tunes your child loves - from Veggie Tales to Disney movie tracks - will be fun to sing if you are all willing to get into it a little! Then, after you sing "Let it GO..." for instance, ask, "Do you know what (isolation, conceal, swirling, rage on) means?" (Yes, those words are all in the lyrics of the most popular kids song from Frozen...) Let them guess...and then help them understand.
Does this seem obvious? Keep tuned - we'll head into deeper waters soon. Do you have a favorite language game for the car? Comment - we'd love to hear about it! And, when you get in the car next time - try one of these games with your kiddos and see how it goes! Even if it doesn't "work" the way you expect, lots of laughter and language learning is sure to take place!
Remember - Not all Rigor is Mortis!