Riding in a car with a toddler often requires a lot of patience. Even brief trips can be full of many questions and sometimes tantrums. But with a bit of creativity, imagination, and silliness, you can turn car rides into a lot of fun and even create math learning opportunities.
Whether we’re off on a quick errand or long road trip, on-the-go math is a hit in our family. We began doing on-the-go math when our oldest daughter (now 7) was a toddler. Now her younger brother enjoys it as much as she does.
Learning opportunities and games don’t have to be complicated. You don’t always have to use a lot of materials and have a super-organized process – sometimes spontaneous fun is just what kids need. Let me share a story of a recent car ride we had and you’ll see what I mean.
How Many Trucks? An On-the-go Counting Game
As I drove down the street with my kids on a recent trip to the store, I could sense that my youngest was getting antsy. In an attempt to avoid a tantrum, I randomly shouted, “Look! A yellow truck!” He quickly turned his head in the direction I pointed and smiled with delight.
I continued, “How many more trucks can you find? Let’s count them together!” The beauty of this is that my seven-year-old happily joined the game and motivated her younger brother in finding all kinds of trucks – different types, different sizes, and of course, different colors.
With each truck we spotted, we’d state what type of truck it was (garbage, fire, etc.), what color it was, and its size. It went a little like this: “I see a big green garbage truck! That’s four trucks we’ve seen so far!” Not only were we tallying how many trucks we found, but we included another math concept, sorting, by placing them in various categories.
Create Your Own On-the-Go Fun
You can create all sorts of on-the-go math games for young kids – it doesn’t have to just be counting trucks. You can focus on counting any number of items on the road like taxis if you’re driving in the city or cows when driving through the countryside.
You can also incorporate other elements of math like finding patterns or shapes. For older kids, you can even introduce graphing concepts by letting them keep count of how many of each category of item they find – had I been prepared with a notepad and pencil, my oldest could have created a bar graph representing 1 fire truck, 2 two garbage trucks and 1 cement mixer. She could have also graphed the trucks by color.
The key to on-the-go math fun is just that, to have fun with it so your children get excited and learn at the same time.
Do you have any math tricks that keep things calm in the backseat?