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5 car activities for preschoolers

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Travel tips for tots

Heading out on a road trip? Keeping little kids entertained while driving long distances can be tricky. But with a few easy tricks up your sleeve, you can keep them occupied for hours -- no video game required!

Happy preschooler in a car

Some little kids are easy when it comes to car rides. They fall asleep when you leave and magically wake when you arrive or are content to look around and entertain themselves. For the rest of us, these games are sure to make the ride fun for them.

The car game

What better to do on a busy highway then to take advantage of all the cars around you. This can provide an almost-endless supply of car-game fun. Brandi Nathan, co-founder of MyWorkButterfly.com, says that her family has two variations of the car game. The first one deals in color recognition. "Each child picks a color car. Who ever spies 10 cars first in their chosen color wins," says Nathan.

For a slightly more challenging game, the family uses states. "Pick a state: Whoever finds the 5 plates from their chosen state first wins," says Nathan.

Finger plays

In preschool classrooms, one of the first storytelling mechanism that kids learn comes in the form of fingerplays. These also make great car activities, since they are a completely free activity that requires no extra pieces.

"Fingerplays are fun in the car. They keep little hands and minds busy! "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Where is Thumbkin", and "Open Shut Them" are some good ones," says Julie Bavington of Organize with Julie LLC.

Travel bingo

One of my fondest memories from childhood is taking a road trip with my best friend's grandparents to visit her in New Hampshire, where she lived. Her grandparents were so kind and generous--and literally thought of everything. They even brought car activities for me, including travel bingo. Although you can purchase sets, travel bingo is also easy to make at home.

"I make bingo cards before we leave the house by drawing or pasting pictures of things that we will see along the way. If it's a road trip I include pictures of things like stop signs, clouds, trees, etc. If it's a plane trip I might put pictures of an airplane, green suitcase, escalator, and so forth. To make it compatible for both my 3 and 5 year old I make my 5 year old find more than one or make it specific like it has to be a cloud shaped like a face," says Raquel Quaid, Co-Founder Baby Travel Pros (www.BabyTravelPros.org)

Car dance

Kids and passengers can have a blast by moving to groove -- while staying buckled in their car seat, of course. Mom of one Desiree Wolfe says that her 20-month-old daughter loves to do this. "She loves upbeat dance or rock music. When I sing along or car dance she usually goes right along with me. When it's a song she doesn't like she shouts "more music" and we change the channel. I also invested in a couple of kid-friendly CD's and she gets a kick out of those when the radio isn't good enough," says Wolfe.

I spy!

Similar to the car games, I Spy is a great way to keep kids entertained on car rides. Tanya Mitchell, VP of Research and Development for LearningRx and co-author of Unlock The Einstein Inside, Using Brain Science to Wake Up The Smart In Your Child, says that a game of I Spy can help with kids logical and reasoning skills.

So, how do you play? "The first person begins with the phrase, "I spy something that starts with the 'S' sound." The other players take turns guessing, and between each guess they get another sound clue, such as, "I see something that starts with the 'S' sound and is the color that starts with the 'R' sound." The game can also be played by looking for landmarks, signs and other common road finds.

Tell us: What car games do you play to keep your kids entertained? Comment below!

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