Honestly, how much time do you and your young ones spend in the car? Make those minutes count: strengthen reading and pre-reading skills while driving!
1. Sing a favorite nursery rhyme or traditional song. BusSongs.com has hundreds, with words and music, for free.
2. Pick a letter and brainstorm how many words you can think of that start with that sound.
3. I Spy reinforces observation skills. Try colors, shapes, or starting sound.
4. Storytelling: Talk about your day, past, present and future. What did you have for breakfast? What will we do after gymnastics? Being able to discuss sequence is a learned skill and knowing the schedule helps kids feel in control, decreasing potential meltdowns.
5. Have old magazines, flyers, and books in a location where your child can reach them without help. (I use a behind-the-seat car garbage can.) While you’re at it, throw in some literacy-building toys, like a tiny whiteboard and marker or etch-a-sketch to encourage scribbling.
6. Name places as you drive and describe your path. Use street names, as well as landmarks. Building awareness of neighborhood landmarks is simple safety, builds your child’s sense of belonging in the community, and can spark memories, too.
a. Examples: Are we getting close to home? I think so, there’s the yellow house on the hill that we walk past after dinner every night.
b. Look, this is Oak St., the street our friend Marie lives on.
c. Remember when we saw the Christmas tree lighting at this park?
d. We’ll be home as soon as we pass the hospital, the park, and Aunt Charlotte’s house. Look, here’s the hospital now. Tell me when you see the park!
7. Tune in to the radio and describe the songs you’re listening to. (This works best with jazz, classical, or folk music, but any station is fine.) When kids start to identify abstract concepts like emotions and connect them to concrete things, that’s stretching their thinking minds. Songs can be happy, angry, mysterious, spooky, or sound like things … butterflies, dump trucks...
8. Listen to audio books together. Stop the recording after each chapter and have you child describe what happened, or what might happen next. Even my small town library has downloadable audiobooks that go straight to my phone.
9. My favorite “on the way home” talk is something we call “best thing.” What was the best thing that happened at school today? What was the best thing we got at the grocery store? What was the best thing we saw at the museum? Help your child strengthen his memory and understand the concept of ranking things with this activity.
10. Letter Recognition. Use billboards and signs (license plates for older kids) to spot letters… and eventually words.