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How to entertain your toddler on a summer road trip (while also working on speech and language)

Ahhhhh, summer!  It's right around the corner.  If you're like us, you're extremely glad winter is seeing it's way out and signs of spring are appearing.  Less time in the house, more time outside!  It's a win-win for everyone's sanity.  

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Summer seems to be the time for road trips.  Sure, you may travel for the holidays too but summer may be when you get the in the car and drive a few hours to the mountains or the beach (we do!).  And let me tell you, there is NOTHING worse than a screaming/bored/tired toddler on a long drive.  You know what I am talking about, your child is tired of being strapped in the car seat, you've given them every pack of applesauce and fruit snacks you can find in the car and guess what?  They're still back there wriggling around and crying because they're bored.  Today we are giving recommendations on a few activities (some of which don't require a purchase!) for activities for car trips.  A bonus-none of these involve screen time!

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One-year-olds

Hide-and-seek board books/soft books

Hand your child a book with flaps and they will enjoy opening the flaps to see what is underneath (maybe keeping them entertained for a longer period of time)!  A bonus is if you sit in the back and read it to them.  As we've talked about in a previous post, books are great for receptive language (e.g. point to the dog or make it harder for an older child-point to the one that is brown).  Of course books also help a child learn new words and match those words to pictures as well.

Singing

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When my child was still under one, I downloaded a $3.99 album to my phone called '30 Toddler Songs.'  It has been a LIFESAVER.  There is not a road trip that we take that we don;t listen to songs off of this album.  Due to continued exposure, my daughter knows all the words to the songs now.  Don't forget-there are studies that state singing and language use the same brain connections.

Two-year-olds

Magna-doodle/Water Wow books

Any type of art/writing utensil that does not make a mess is ideal for the car!  A magnadoodle can be used and then erased again for continued fun.  You can work on verbs such as color, draw, and write.  You can take turns with your child requesting each other to draw things (animals, shapes, letters, etc).  

We're huge fans of Water Wow books around here.  It's another art item that DOES NOT make a mess and is reusable!  These books are like built-in speech-language pathologists.  After you use the water pen to color on the page, the opposite page shows the items the child has to find after they paint and make them appear (e.g. on the ocean scene the child has to find two sea stars, three sharks, etc).  Again, this encourages receptive language/vocabulary knowledge as the child is connecting words to pictures of items.  It also works on counting and various other verbs/spatial words (e.g. sharks are swimming near the rocks, the octopus is floating above the fish).

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What's in the bag?

Grab a non-see through bag and put random small items (think small stuffed animals, happy meal toys, safe for your child small items from the dollar store) in the bag.  Every 15 or 30 minutes, have your child pull a new item out of the bag.  The unknown aspect of items in the bag will excite your child.  Language concepts such as "finding, looking, grabbing, pulling, in the bag, out of the bag" can all be worked on with this surprise bag.  

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Window markers

All my type A mamas go ahead and cringe. Grab a pack of Crayola window markers and let your child draw on the car window (if they can reach) or a white board!  Kids will love doing something different in the car.  Their creativity can flow free and many, many language and vocabulary concepts will emerge.

Three-year-olds

Sing-a-longs with a twist

Trying singing the initial portion of a song "There was a dog who lived on a farm and ____ was his name-0, B I N _ _ and let your three-year-old fill in some of the words.  Doing this challenges your child to pay attention and retrieve the correct word to fill in the song.  Kids love a good challenge!  Also try giving them the wrong word in the song-you'll definitely get some giggles and then they have to correct you!

Name that animal/thing game

This naming task works on both comprehension and expression!  First, the adult describes something:  I am thinking of something that has four legs and says 'woof woof' then your child has to guess what you're thinking.  Switch it up and let the child be the 'teacher' and describe something for the parent.  Tasks such as these work on a child's ability to listen closely, evaluate information given and retrieve the word to describe the item!

Stickers!

Pick up some of those dollar section stickers (Thanks, Target!) and a pad of paper.  Work on verbs such as 'pull off, stick on' while your child makes choices about which ones they want.  The child can learn spatial words 'Put the sticker on the top of the paper' while playing.  As long as the stickers make it on the paper, clean up is easy!

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Happy road tripping!  We hope these tips help you to choose activities for your little one in the car.  Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for even more creative ideas on how to improve your child's speech and language.