When your family is in transit to your vacation destination (be it by car, plane or another transportation mode), this is one of the greatest opportunities to have some quality family interactions. During these times, you have a captive audience — everyone is together, the kids can’t escape, and there are fewer-than-normal competing options. This is one of those tips that most parents know they should do, but it’s so easy nowadays to let technology take over. This is a reminder to set aside some protected time while in the car or on a plane without technology. For some of the time (ideally discussed ahead of time to set the expectation), turn off the DVD players, IPADs, and mobile Nintendos — and interact with the kids. Here are 4 things to do while in transit that facilitate quality interactions that result in some learning and thinking:
- TALK to your kids! Shared conversation is so critical for the development of good thinking, yet data show that most parents aren’t talking enough to their kids beyond daily demands and instructions. Talk about your upcoming vacation and what everyone wants to do. Reflect together on shared experiences. Pick a topic and share ideas and opinions. Talk about current events. Explain and discuss problems in your neighborhood, community, and the world. Encourage and celebrate your kids’ ideas too so that everyone is involved. And use sophisticated words!
- STORYTELLING is so important for the development of language, creative thinking, and even some of the skills required for good comprehension of written stories. Tell stories while you are on your way to your vacation destination. This is a great time to pass down family stories, such as how you met your spouse, how holidays were celebrated in your family, and your favorite summer time memory as a child. You can also make up stories. It can be fun to take turns telling a whole-family made-up story, and even more fun if you require that whoever’s turn it is to add to the story must use a word that they see on the road.
- Play word and language GAMES while you travel. These include many of the classics that we grew up with, such as going on a letter or number hunt in license plates and signs; playing the license plates game where you look for a certain number of states, and playing iSPY or 20 questions. Another good game is to choose a vehicle that you see on the road, and make up a story to go with it. It can also be fun to look at the state on the car’s license plate and see if you can determine whether the car is going toward or away from the state. For an extensive list, check out Dr. Trevor Cairney’s super detailed posted that describes “20 great travel games for children“.
- BRING BOOKS with you in the car or on the airplane, and devote some of the time to READING — both independent reading and family reading aloud. Audio books are a fantastic method of reading while in transit, since the whole family can enjoy the read aloud. If doing an audio book, pause it occasionally to engage in some thoughtful talk — take turns making a prediction at a part where many outcomes are possible, encourage everyone to generate some questions about the story, and make some text connections to everyone’s own life. For kids who aren’t yet reading formally, bring familiar picture books so that kids can “read” aloud the pictures to the rest of the family.
Take advantage of your captive audience while en route to your vacation spot. These kinds of interactions not only nurture good thinking, but they are the kinds of experiences that help to create family memories that last forever!
If you can set the expectation that all road trips/plane rides will include at least some “no-tech family talk time”, over time, even kids who disliked the idea will get used to it and maybe even come to enjoy it.