Car rides, while seemingly empty spaces in the day, can be meaningful ways to engage with toddlers and young children. Interactive car games not only strengthen a playful bond with kids, they also help kids learn vocabulary, problem-solving skills, observation skills, pre-math skills, and pre-literacy skills.
Research suggests that the quality of conversation parents have with young children predicts the children's vocabulary three years later. Engaging in fun talking games during car rides is one way to follow experts' advice to "expose children to words in meaningful contexts." Games are also an ideal way to strengthen a bond or attachment with young children and build joy into your family's day. Research suggests that parents’ emotionally close connections with children are important for children's self-esteem and behavior, and also provide a solid foundation for their future relationships.
Here are 16 simple and fun games to play with toddlers and preschoolers in the car.
Say a nursery rhyme and use one wrong word and see if your toddler can guess it.
Say an animal and have your toddler say where it lives.
You say a bunch of things that are a certain shape and they guess the shape.
You say a bunch of things that are a certain color and kids guess the color.
You say one of a twosome of friends and they say the other one.
You say something and kids say if it’s big or little. (Can add medium for variation.)
You say a cousin’s (or a friend’s) name and kids say their last name.
(Everyone guesses a number and see who wins.)
Let’s find a car of every color.
You say words that start with the same letter and kids guess the letter.
You say a word and they say the rhyming word.
You say three words and they guess the one that doesn’t rhyme.
You say an animal noise and they guess the animal.
You say something that you spy (that’s right in front of you) with a color and a description and the kids guess it.
Spy Volkswagon beetles. One point for regular, two points for a convertible, and three points for old-fashioned. Keep a running total throughout the day for some friendly competition.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, Ph.D. is a counselor in Chicago's western suburbs. www.erinleyba.com. She is the author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents: 101 Ideas for Overcoming Fatigue, Stress, and Guilt - and Building a Life You Love (New World Library). Join her on Facebook or Instagram or sign up to get free articles on parenting with mindfulness and joy.