Saturday, May 23, 2009

What to do on long car rides?

Vacation season is fast approaching. (For some of you, it's already here!) We happen to be a day's drive away from our families, and finding activities for the car can be a challenge. I thought I'd blog about some of the stuff we do and some ideas I have.

I Spy and I See Something You Don't See are not the greatest games on the interstate. Parents, you have to remember to use these perspective taking games that provide experience in attention shifting and attention sharing when you are off the interstate looking for a gas station or restaurant.

Animal Sounds: I stumbled on this one by accident. I traveled with a friend of mine to a national ASA conference a few years back. We had a day-long drive. Sue made me laugh, because every time we passed any animals in a field along the interstate, she began making their sound. She "mooed" and "baaaed" and whinneyed all the way to the conference. Our next family trip to see the grandparents (same route as to the ASA conference), I thought of Sue every time I saw animals grazing in a field, and I imitated her, making the sounds of the animals I saw. I thought my kids would moan and cringe, but they all looked around to see what I was looking at. We were in our early RDI(r) days then, and I was delighted to see that my daughter on the autism spectrum joined too. She had to understand what was in my mind, that I had seen animals and was making their sound, and then she had to follow my gaze to see where the animals were. We even saw buffalo on that trip, and when I mooed and she squealed "BUFFALO!" I fought back tears. (Now, I need to figure out what sound a DEER makes.)

Rubberneckers is a great game. It's hilarious. It's RDI-able.

Taro Gomi's coloring books. TOTALLY worth the price. Info here. Very RDI-able.

Year-round, I "cruise" through the red-tag clearance sections at craft/hobby stores, department stores, even grocery stores, for markers, crayons, colored pencils, invisible ink notebooks, gel pens, velvet art kits, word searches, crossword puzzle books, sudoku, etc. I store them in a box, and when we are packing for a trip, I pull them out. Sometimes, I pack them up in large baggies, one for each child, and hide them until we are on the road. They get a kick out of going through all the suprises. Sometimes, I let my children go through my box and choose what they would like to take.

An aside: At the homeschool convention in April, I bought some "good" colored pencils (not the cheapie back-to-school ones from the department store) for my children (gotta love Miller Pad and Paper!), and they really like them so much better than the "cheapie" ones.

One unusual item that I look for is a notebook of black lined paper, made for matching with gel pens.

A clipboard is a "must have" for drawing in the car.

Magnadoodle or Etch-a-Sketch

BrainQuest travel games

Bubbles, sidewalk chalk and a soft football are ideas you can pack for a break at a rest stop.

Alphabet game: Search for letters of the alphabet on road signs, starting w/ "A". You can play the same game w/ numbers.

The license plate game -- keeping track of all the states is fun! Sometimes we see a vehicle from Alaska or from Canada.

Yellow Car -- If you see a yellow vehicle, you call it out, loudly: "YELLOW CAR!" and that person gets a point. We play a little differently on every trip. Our game is quite flexible. An unusual yellow car gets more points, and we all talk about what might get more points and why.

On a short trip from my parents' house to a nearby lake area, my mother began playing, "I'm thinking of a number between one and nine!" I took that idea and ran with it with variations: "I'm thinking of a day of the week between Wednesday and Monday." Or, "I'm thinking of a letter between A and F." Or, "I'm thinking of a month of the year between June and September." For a younger child (even an older child who is a developmentally younger child), you can say, "I'm thinking of a day of the week between Wednesday and Friday." The kids like to take turns thinking of these questions as well as answering them. And I like to throw them a curve with questions that go backwards, like, "I'm thinking of a number between92 and 85."

Carol Barnier's "The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles" describes some math games that would fit into this category of "I'm thinking of" games: "I'm thinking of two numbers that have a sum of 8 and a product of 15?"

We have introduced our kids to "our" music, from the 80's, on long car rides. Garage sales are great places to find old music for next to nothing.

We have introduced our kids to the silly songs of Ray Stevens on long car rides. "Gitarzan" and "The Streak" still make me laugh.

Cracker Barrel gift shops are a treasure on the road. Yes, we let the children choose a ring pop or whistle pop or push pop (corn syrup and artificial colors, arg). A hard candy like one of those lasts a LONG time, keeps the kids quiet for a little while, gives some oral-motor input, too. The gift shops sell little fidgets and travel games, coloring books, audio books as well, and I try to budget for a small purchase there.

Audio books: An option for families whose children will tolerate them. One of mine, the one w/ auditory processing challenges, does not like them. She did listen to a Jim Weiss story cd with the family a few weeks ago, so maybe we will try them again. I own a few. I did try bringing the actual BOOK along w/ the audio-cd, and my daughter did not like that compensation. We will try that again, though.

My mother (bless her heart) sometimes gives the kids a "game" when we leave my Mom and Dad's to head home on our day long drive. She writes a list of the bigger cities we will pass through and she puts a dollar or cents amount beside the city names. And she gives me the cash to distribute at each city. The kids have a check-list of cities to watch for and anticipate getting money along the way. They get to add up the amounts to see how much they'll have when we arrive home. And they get to talk about all the ways they might spend that money!

Giant Lifesavers candies can be fun for a contest. See who can suck on one the longest and make it the smallest, whole ring of candy on the tongue. Crunching them is SO tempting!

Teach a child to blow a bubble w/ bubble gum.

Teach a child to tie a bow (I'm thinking of shoe-tying here). Knot tying lessons might be fun.

Teach a child to tie a man's tie. We did this on a church bus on the way to church camp one year when I was a teenager.

String games: Jacob's Ladder. Cat's Cradle. Teacup and saucer. Remember those?

Our drive can be as short as 9.5 hours or much longer, depending upon how often we stop and for how long, and depending on traffic. We've had trips that took approximately12 hours because of construction and accidents. So, YES, we bring along our share of electronics. Our van came with a VHS player, and I hook a DVD player to it and the kids watch movies. Two of my children have ipods. We have a collection of handheld video games that I purchased from clearance racks.
Google "games for long car rides" for more ideas. Here's the first hit I got when I did: (She has way more ideas than I do!)

If you have any fun ideas for long car rides, please pass them along!

Happy travels!


Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

i'll print this one up. gotta add nintendo DS for mommy's sanity.

Penny said...

Did I leave the Nintendo DS OFF my list? WHAT was I thinking. Yes, we have that, too, and is great for traveling. I don't want them on electronics the WHOLE time, though!

Jennifer Dyer said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on and telling us about this great list! I'm going to tell my support group about this one!

My younger daughter is autistic and has severe sensory issues. Because of the noise in public restrooms, she will not even go inside one, much less use it. So, I've learned to bring along our little potty in the car.

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