Whether you’re headed to the airport, or for a long car ride to grandma’s, there are some unplugged ways to entertain your child. Try these activities to target language and play skills for creative and critical thinking and enhanced vocabulary:
1). Sky Mall - We are all guilty of flipping through this catalog during take-off and landing when our own iDevices are turned off. So why not let your kids on the fun too? A great listening and attention task is asking your kids to find certain items within the magazine. For example, “Find stairs for a dog!” or “Binoculars! Travel Pillow!” These pages are loaded with random products, that is a sure way to build their vocabulary.
2). Dollar Store - If you have the time to plan ahead, make a trip to the dollar store, buy some cheap trinkets and wrap each one individually. Ask your child to guess the item before unwrapping it, identifying its characteristics: shape, weight, feel. It can be a good way to target early inferencing skills and keeps their hands busy too (great fine motor activity!).
3). Puppets - You know those tiny white bags in the seat pocket of airplanes? Create puppets using pens, crayons, scotch tape, gum wrappers, and whatever else is floating in your purse. Use each one to create a dialogue with your child about fears, anticipations, or just funny stories. Story telling skills promote academic success later on, so be sure to prompt your child and identify the main parts of a story to stay on topic (characters, setting, problem, solution).
4). Coloring or Magna-Doodle - Some children could color for hours, and others loose interest fairly easily, so this one is kid specific. Bring a pad of paper and a few crayons, or a travel magna doodle, and probe critical thinking questions about your destination, “What will the next airport look like? How did we get on this plane? Who are we going to see?” Ask your child to draw it out. For the younger child, draw shapes and ask them to identify the parts of those shapes to copy them, another great cognitive task. For example, something like this:
5). Travel Games - Magnetic travel games are easy to transport and pieces are typically tough to lose. There are plenty out there, but some favorites are magnetic dress up dolls and silly magnetic faces. Be sure to focus on vocabulary for clothing/body parts (of course!) but also adjectives that describe same/different between each piece (e.g. both dresses are purple, but this one is short and this one is long). Children should be able to identify same/different around 3-4 years old, and begin to describe them around 5 years.
6). Office Supplies - Raid your office for post-it notes prior to your travel plans. Match colors of post-it notes, stick them around your seat and teach spatial concepts (on, under, next to, above, below), which emerge around 2 years old and become mastered around 4 years old. Its a wonder how children enjoy sticky things.
So this holiday season, when the battery dies, and we’re left with our own creativity to keep our children entertained and educated... make it meaningful and allow for critical thinking with a few simple games.