Leprosy…base two number system…interstate numbering system…character training… The learning opportunities while traveling are endless.
My family loves to travel. Whether we add time onto a business trip or take a trip purely for fun, we have all learned so much on our travels. Not all of the learning has been academic. Character training and relationship building have also been a big part of our travels, too. Here are 100 ways we keep learning while we travel.
One hundred of anything can be overwhelming, so here is a breakdown of what you will find below. Click on any of these links to go directly to that section.
- 10 Life Skills Children Can Learn While Traveling
- 10 Character Traits Children Can Develop While Traveling
- 10 Math Activities that are Perfect for the Car
- 10 Math Games to Sneak in Learning While Traveling
- 10 Language Arts Games to Play While Traveling
- 10 Travel Book Printables to Encourage Learning While Traveling
- 10 Activity Books to Continue Learning While Traveling
- 10 Audio Book Suggestions to Listen to in the Car
- 10 Ways to Learn About History, Geography, Science, and Nature While Traveling
- 10 Crafts You Can Do in the Car
Traveling is a great time for children to learn important life skills. It may require a little extra planning or a little extra time to include your children in the process, but the benefits of your children learning these life skills far outweigh any inconvenience.
- How to pack a suitcase —You can see our packing list in this post.
- How to budget as you plan activities and meals for the trip
- How to improvise—Inevitably you will not have something you need to solve a situation that arrises.
- How to plan a route
- How to navigate using an atlas and a smart phone
- How to get around a city on public transportation
- How to have conversations with strangers
- How to order at a restaurant and make wise food choices
- How to block out what is going on so you can go to sleep with others in the hotel room
- How to entertain yourself while driving, flying, or waiting
We all want our children to develop character traits such as patience, courtesy, and obedience. We have found that traveling is a great time to work on a character trait that needs some shaping because my husband and I can tag team to be consistent.
- Serving others such as opening doors, cleaning up trash, and allowing others to go first
- Patience—There will inevitably be delays while traveling.
- Compromise—With a limited time and financial budget, you cannot do everything everyone will want to do.
- Observation—There will be a lot of new sights to see and experience. You need to be observant so you do not miss them.
- Attention—See #4.
- Taking turns
- Obedience—You can take advantage of your vacation time to teach your child to obey by playing these games.
- Not being offended
- Being flexible
Just because you are traveling and did not bring the math textbooks doesn’t mean you cannot continue math learning. There are lots of ways to build critical thinking and spatial skills or practice math facts while on the go. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Math games to play in the car—No supplies are needed for these games. They are great for trips across town or across the country.
- String figures—With just a length of string, your child can have fun for hours and build his spatial skills.
- Analogies—This is a great critical thinking activity that also helps your child see relationships.
- Grids for Kids—Don’t be misled because the title says these are “for kids.” As I helped my daughters with these grids I was challenged too. Start each of your children with book 1, even if your child is older and you think he should start with a higher level. The critical thinking skills he will gain by working through the problems will be invaluable.
- Hand clap games—These are fun! Not a week goes by that my daughters don’t play hand clapping games at some point.
- Practice mental math—Everyone can benefit from practicing mental math. It’s not as difficult as it sounds and is important for real life situations.
- Math spin—Here is a fun and simple way to practice math equations and inequalities.
- Number sequences—A spin on traditional patterns, this activity will provide a new perspective for your child of numbers.
- Wrap-Ups—This is a simple way to practice math facts. It is self-checking so your child can work independently.
- Rubix Cube—An oldie, but a goodie.
These math games seem like just another game to kids, but are great for building critical thinking and spatial skills. My girls often pack several of these for our trips.
- Kanoodle—This game does have pieces, but there are not too many. We have not had any problems losing pieces, but if your children tend to lose pieces in the car this may not be the game for you.
- Magnetic Travel Games—Magnetic. Enough said.
- Perplexus—Warning: Perplexus can be a little noisy. If rolling a ball in a confined space bothers you, skip this one for travels but definitely get it for home use. Even the adults get addicted!
- Gravity Maze—This is a fun game that uses lasers and mazes to build spatial skills. The lasers should not be a problem while driving.
- Quantumino—This also has pieces. See my advice above.
- Vikings—Help the Vikings cross the sea. This is a fun game that will entertain the whole family.
- Tangoes—Use the tangram pieces to replicate the designs. Younger children may have more difficulty with this game.
- Spot It—With so many options of Spot It available, you can find one to delight many different ages and interests.
- Rush Hour—There are multiple versions of this game available. You cannot go wrong with any of them. We have all of them and enjoy them a lot! They are fun and challenging at the same time.
- Lab Mice—We have enjoyed this game for years. If you pack extra dry erase markers, multiple children can play at the same time. A word of advice—use low odor dry erase markers for the car so the smell does not become overpowering.
Traveling is a great time to work on language arts skills. Whether you have a little one just learning their letters or a high school student learning to write poetry, there is something here to continue learning while traveling.
- Boggle—This is a game you can play with the whole family. If you have children with varying abilities playing at the same time, you can modify the rules so everyone has a fair chance. We have allowed our beginning readers to find three letter words and often gave her a start such as, “I see some words that end in ‘at’.” She did not have to cross out any of the words she found even if others found the same words. Her words counted for two points each because she usually did not find very many. Modifications for older children can include not having to cross off the words they find even if others find them also and increasing the point value of their words.
- Word Spin—Use this magnetic spinning word game to practice reading and spelling skills.
- Blurt!—We have enjoyed playing this game as a family. It is a great way to increase children’s vocabularies.
- ABC sign find—Find a sign with each letter of the alphabet. Begin with “A” and work your way through the alphabet.
- Mad Libs (Mad Libs Junior are great for younger ages!)
- Have a Spelling Bee
- Magnetic Poetry—There are so many ways you can use this set including practicing reading skills, learning about sentence structure, and writing poetry.
- Magnetic Hangman—What a fun way to practice spelling with a game!
- Narration—This isn’t exactly a game, but it is a great way to hear what your child is learning on the trip and practice communication skills.
- Travel Journals—Make a travel journal by folding several sheets of printer paper and one piece of cardstock in half. Use crochet thread to stitch them together. Depending on the age of your child, you could have them record one event from the day or record their narrations from the trip. This is a great way to get in some writing practice. (See a video tutorial in this post.)
Making your own travel book allows you to customize it for your child’s ability and interests. Here are ten options you can print from home before your next trip:
- Mazes—With so many options of free printable mazes and puzzles, this is a site you will want to bookmark. I visit here monthly to print new mazes and puzzles.
- Scavenger Hunt—There are so many options for a travel scavenger hunt.
- Travel Printables—With a little of everything from tic-tac-toe to hangman, this is a site you will want to visit before starting on your next trip.
- Map of the US to trace your route (or print a map from Google Maps of your route)
- License Plate Bingo—Looking for license plates from different states is a great way to practice geography. It is also fun to see the variety of plates for each state. We played this once while driving around our home town over the course of a week and found every state plus a few from Canada.
- Grid Games—Add some practice with coordinate grids and play a capture game or write messages in secret code. Use a sheet protector and low odor dry erase markers to extend the fun of this game.
- Zentangle—There are multiple options for this. You could make a travel kit, purchase a book with directions, purchase blank 3.5 x 3.5 tiles, print out these geometric shape templates, or cut square paper of any size.
- Blank paper
- KenKen—A cross between Sudoku and math facts practice, this game can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
- Pollywogs to Polygons—These math facts practice sheets provide a review of math facts as well as an introduction to geometry.
Having an activity book or two while traveling can be a life saver. Here are some of our favorites:
- Sudoku—You can find Sudoku books everywhere or you can print some free pages from KrazyDad.
- Coloring Book—This is the book we like. The lines are far enough apart that the girls can color them without frustration. There are even adult coloring books now so you can find something for all ages. Don’t forget the colored pencils and pens. If you are wondering how this continues learning, your child can improve his fine motor skills while doing something fun.
- Dot-to-Dot—There are books for all ages from just learning to count to dot-to-dot extreme.
- State Word Search—How great to learn about the U.S. while doing a word search! My daughter loves this book.
- Word Searches—There are all sorts of word searches available for different ages and interests. If you have a child just learning to read, the Beginning Reader Word Searches were designed just for them.
- Crossword Puzzles—Just like word searches, you can find one for different abilities and interests.
- 1001 Things to Spot—Don’t assume these are just for little kids. My preteen enjoys them as well.
- Maze Book—Mazes can be a fun activity that also build fine motor control and visual discrimination.
- Hidden Picture Puzzle Books—My girls have always enjoyed books where they have to find objects.
- Find and Color Book—Combining visual discrimination activities with coloring? Yes, please!
Listening to an audio book while traveling is a great way for the whole family to bond over shared experiences. These ten audio book suggestions are some of our favorites and all involve a little adventure to complement your travel adventure.
There are many options for listening to books in the car. You could read the book aloud to your children (if someone else is driving of course). You could borrow the audio book CDs from the library. Or, you could purchase the kindle book and add the audible narration from Amazon. The latter option allows you to have the book available in the future and you can use the immersion reading option if you have children needing a little help improving their reading fluency.
- Around the World in 80 Days
- Twenty-one Balloons
- A Long Way from Chicago
- A Year Down Yonder
- Chronicles of Narnia
- Green Ember and Ember Falls
- The Wind in the Willows
- Grimm’s Fairy Stories
- YWAM Christian Heroes: Then & Now and Heroes of History
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series
There is so much to learn as you travel around the country. Every state has historic sites that are amazing to visit. Different areas of the country have vastly different flora and fauna. The learning opportunities are endless. There is no way to experience everything available, but these ideas will help you get started finding things to do and learn.
- Visit a Science Center—Check to see if your local science center or museum is a member of the ASTC Travel Passport Program. If so, you can receive free or reduced admission to science centers and museums across the country with your membership card. We have so much as we travel around the country.
- Learn about local plants with a smart phone app—Take a picture of a plant or butterfly and see suggestions of what it might be. We have learned so much about nature this way.
- Learn state locations and capitols—Play what state is…(list locations such as west of the Mississippi River or east of Kentucky)
- Visit a wildlife preserve
- Learn geographical features—The Geography Field Guide is 5″x7″ or digital field guide just for learning geographical features. It has been helpful to consult when we are exploring new areas and do not remember some of the names of the landscapes before us.
- Learn and practice cardinal directions
- Visit a botanical garden
- Visit a national park or landmark
- Learn about the local economy—Is the area known for making cheese and really good ice cream (Wisconsin) or oil production (Texas)?
- Visit local historic sites
Busy hands are less likely to be bored and pester a sibling. The following crafts are ones we have enjoyed while traveling:
- Finger knitting
- Knitting—Circular needles make this a safe craft for the car.
- Paracord bracelets
- Friendship Bracelets
- Learn to Tie Knots
- Weaving—Potholder loom weaving is fun for kids of all ages. This metal loom should hold up better on a trip than a plastic one. Stick weaving would be good for the car if you use shorter sticks.
- Spool knitting
Did you like these suggestions? Pin this post to save it for when you are preparing for your next trip.
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