Long trips with your preschooler

Child sitting on a suitcase

A long car or plane ride can be stressful but it is also a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to enjoy each other’s company. Capitalize on this time to laugh and play games. This will not only make a tedious journey more entertaining but you will also get a better understanding of how your child is thinking and what is important to her.

When you let your child take the lead in suggesting or inventing her own play activities you are sending an important message. Following rather than always directing tells her that you like and respect her ideas. This will encourage her to continue thinking and making more decisions. Here are some ideas for interactive play for you and your child during the drive:

  • Guessing games – these games encourage young children to observe and think about how objects function in their environment as well as give practice in language. You start off the game but then let your child take the lead so that you have to guess what’s in her mind. Some examples include:
    • “I Spy with My Little Eye – something that is blue”
    • “I’m thinking of something that starts with the letter ‘A’ “
    • “I’m a spoon – what am I used for?”
  • Storytelling – listening to a story without a picture book takes a lot of concentration and imagination. Create your own story together by starting off with “Once upon a time there was a girl who….” Invite your child to add a sentence to the story. Respond with a new sentence and keep this pattern going until your child has had enough of story creating.
  • Creating silly rhymes – use the “phonic families” to devise funny sentences, e.g. the cat sat on a hat looking for a bat; the goat put on his coat and swam to the boat which wouldn’t float.
  • Counting – understanding the concepts of numbers takes a lot of concrete practice. Ask how many cars of a particular colour can she count? Let her choose the colour and help her when she gets lost with the sequence of numbers; ask your child what else she would like to count as she is looking out the window.
  • Reading signs – point out common signs that your preschooler may be aware of and beginning to recognize such as “Stop” or “Exit”
  • Singing songs – encourage your child to pick her favourite tunes and sing together. Also, bring favourite tapes to listen to in the car.
  • Talking – seize this opportunity to have a conversation about things that you don’t always have time for, e.g. who she likes to play with at school/child care; what is her favourite thing to do during the day at school/child care; what was something funny that happened this week? The topics are endless and allow your child to give you a glimpse into her life.