Maps, Mazes, Music and Mad Libs: Learning Together on the Go, Part 4

Maps

Maps are great discussion starter for kids. In my post The Kids Are Planning Our Next Vacation, I mentioned the Dino’s Illustrated Maps that you can get from Amazon and put over your kitchen table to stimulate discussion about places. There are also many varieties of children’s maps, atlases and coloring books that are terrific for road trips. (Shop my Amazon link here;)

The possibilities for learning and discussion are endless: landmarks, mountain ranges, weather patterns, types of roads. For very little children, just understanding their directions: North, East, South, West, can be a kind of game.

Puzzles of the United States (or other countries) make a good activity to learn maps. What about putting magnetic strips on the back of the pieces (this is for parents who have a little time) and then using a small cookie sheet to stick them to in the car? This way pieces don’t get lost as easily. A good activity for children ages 4-7.

Mazes

My four year old loves the oversize maze books by Usborne (check it out at my Usborne link here;) Colorful, interesting mazes with all different characters and themes work great with my little boy. He may not get the right answers all the time, but he is using logic to get from here to there– and that’s a great skill to develop!

Here are some ways to make mazes go further with young children:

  • Interact and help them a little, but not too much. It’s fun for adults too!

  • Laminate them with the cut out the answer on the back, so they can use it over and over with a dry erase marker. Putting the answer on the back of each one lets them self-correct!

  • If you can’t laminate them, let your child use a miniature toy car or doll to travel the maze rather than using a pencil. That way mazes can be used again without being scribbled over!

Music

In a prior post I wrote about music in the car. I mentioned classical music and foreign language CDs from the library. Folk music and world music are some other options.

Folk music is great for traveling because of the stories you will hear, especially if they are stories from other cultures or very old stories. It really teaches us to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of life’s experiences. Everyone has a story to tell, so don’t be afraid to tell stories as a family. You can even make up silly stories or poems.

Likewise with world music— much more interesting than ordinary stuff on the radio. When I was growing up my Dad had a very eclectic music collection, and still does– though now it’s all digital of course. I remember one year driving to Michigan at Christmas time, we hit a blizzard and we were listening to “Sail Away’ by Enya as the snow pelted our windshield. We couldn’t see the road in front of us, and what did my Dad do? He turned the music up! It made for a very intense ride, as I thought we might “sail” right off the road into a sea of snow! It doesn’t have to be that intense, but at least make it memorable!

Mad Libs

They’re hilarious. Use them to teach language skills such as parts of speech. I’ve used these with children as young as six. Adults and children love the silly stories they can make. I’ve heard parents exclaim, “my child’s not reading yet,” or “my child doesn’t know what an adverb is yet!” Great– teach them early! What better way to remember what they are than by making silly stories out of them! Here are some Mad Libs on Amazon.

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