Automobile travel continues to be a major part of life for American families (especially with the rising cost of airfare combined with the reduced number of flights). However, children are not looking out of the window like they used to. During my childhood, I recall trips to Disneyworld and Silver Dollar City, as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio, and New York. Other than sleeping or playing with a magnetic Travel Bingo game, I spent the majority of the travel time looking out the window and taking in the sights (or lack thereof). That doesn't happen so much these days. With in-car dvd players, smartphones, tablets, Kindles and other handheld devices, it is difficult to get kids to observe. However, there are ways to keep young passengers in the back seat (back rows if the vehicle is a mini-van) entertained without the use of electronics! Here are a few activities to use this summer or anytime you will travel 30 minutes or more.
In The Car
Travel Bingo Create and print a Travel Bingo card. It should be a 4 by 4 array of squares (16 total) with each square containing one picture. Examples of pictures are a bird, tree, rabbit, squirrel, stop sign, person jogging/biking, dragon fly, etc. A child can fill in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Or perhaps they can play "coverall" or "blackout" bingo. Since you are in a moving vehicle you will not be able to use bingo chips. A perfect alternative is to laminate the bingo cards and use a wet erase marker to mark objects with an x or o when they are seen. A moist paper towel or rag will sufficiently clear the markings from the board when the game is over. The objects are easy to see from a car, but this can be played almost anywhere.
At The Grocery Store
Shopping at the grocery store, Target, Walmart, etc is the perfect opportunity for practical application of math skills and concepts. Parents can take advantage of this time to explore shapes, estimation, sales tax
(for upper elementary and middle school), addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, making change, and debit. Retail stores make for the perfect "math playground". Here is an activity to use that only requires a pencil and a note pad.
Add Them Up Have your child take a small notepad (e.g. Steno Pad) to the store. As you select items from the shelves, have your child write down the cost of each item. They can either add as they go along (calculate a subtotal after every 4 items) or they can add them all at the end to obtain an approximate cost of the entire purchase. If you child knows how, they can calculate the total cost of all items including sales tax or you can show them how to do it when you return home.
How Much Change Have your child observe as the items are being scanned and the total cost for your purchase is increasing. If you are paying with cash, tell your child how much money you are handing to the cashier (try not to use exact change), and have them quickly figure out how much change you should receive.
What games have you used?