Back Seat Learners…Car Survival

544 Flares 544 Flares ×

There was a time during stay-at-home mom life with 3 toddlers that it was easier to just stay home. There were also many days I secretly wished I could be one of the cool moms driving around all the time sipping an iced tea with kids who could wipe their own butts. All in due time, friends. Taxi Parenting has its own ups and downs, but I want to focus on teachable moments during your chauffeur duties…not the long car rides…the 20 minutes, the 10 minutes, the puzzle piece trips that fill your day.

First, I think “the car line” gets a bad rap. I love the car line. If I am kidless, I crank up my 80s-90s tunes, flip through my smart phone, send silly texts or pictures to my husband/friends (while the car is in “park”), or just stare at the window. Pause. Breathe. Just me.  That “me” time is precious and crucial. Sneak it in when you can!

Car lines give you a chance to send silly pictures as a thank you to girlfriends who send you cool necklaces. Angie, this is a reenactment of a picture I once sent you that is now off my phone. I’m honest like that.

When you taxi around and wait in car lines, be on the lookout for teachable moments which will also pass the time, save some sanity, create some brain synapses, and keep the giggle meter higher than any monkey takeovers.

DISCLAIMER: Reality check. I don’t do this car stuff every time, every day.  I throw it in here and there. I tune my kids out too or make them sing Pump Up the Jam with me, like it or not! So, like any teaching ideas you see in cyberspace, tuck them in your brain. But never, ever, ever feel un-super. 

Here’s some hot rod learning…

Yes, I do still have a 6 CD changer in my car, but unfortunately, no tape player.

 1. Time (Insert High School Musical Song–“What time is it?”): 
  • Predict what time you will arrive somewhere, compare your answer to the real arrival. My son loves to guess when the teachers will come out to the PreK car line to retrieve him. We’ve learned 12:12 is the best guess.
  • How many minutes long is this song?
  • We’re ordering our drive-thru lunch at 11:50. What time do you think we’ll have it in our car?
  • It’s 2:30. See if you can find an animal (ball, certain numbers, letters, orange car, cow, airplane, fill your auto bingo card) by 2:45. Compare actual time to 2:30.
  • Rhyme with the Time! “It’s 9:32, let’s tie our shoe.”
2. Directions
  • My husband is really good at talking about which direction we are going and referring them to the compass in the rearview. I’m pretty sure, he’s including me in his lessons.
  • Right and left turns.
  • Hand over the GPS. Let them follow along.

3. Weather

  • There’s the obvious weather topics going on outside the car.
  • You can also give them a freeze or heat out as you talk about temperature.
  • Is it hotter/colder outside or inside? Compare the temperatures.

4. Speed (My backseat drivers love this topic)

  • Have them read the signs on the road. Point out speed changes…we were going 35, now we have to go 45. Is that faster or slower?
  • Hand over your GPS again and let them watch the car’s speed change. Be prepared for shouts of concern when you are not going exactly the speed posted.
  • Establish some “think it don’t say it rules” or a time limit or this one can get annoying.
  • Note: Watching the GPS makes some kids sick. Aka…my son.

5. Lines & Ordinal Numbers

  • Count what place you are in any car line (car wash, drive-thru, school, stoplight…)
  • How many cars are between the red and the black cars?

6.  A  few more ideas

  • Gauges: My husband loves to talk about gauges, design, horsepower, engine stuff, yada-yada-yada. Me, not so much.
  • MPG and gas prices. If you’re taking the time to figure that out, talk out loud. Get your kids involved.
  • There’s endless “I Spy” Moments driving around…get in those letters, numbers, words
  • Radio Station Numbers…More/Less/Higher/Lower
  • Here’s a few CD suggestions, beyond the obvious Debbie Gibson’s Out of the Blue and NKOTB’s Greatest Hits.
  • Amen to the Quiet Game;)
  • My kids love to play “The Opposite Bus”. I say silly things like, “I’m so glad there’s no giggles on The Opposite Bus,” to which they giggle like crazy monkeys. “There’s never any clapping/dancing/ABCs/Counting to 100/sleeping/snoring/swimming…on the opposite bus.” At some point, I assign a different bus driver to give the rules.

Finally, here’s to just talking. About life. I’ve had some of the best talks in the car. Body parts. Marriage. Love. Death. Cemeteries. God. Heaven. Family. Homelessness. Highs. Lows. Mediums. Vanilla Ice.

And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep, Shelisa

Tell me, what teachable moments do you find in the shorter car rides?

544 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 544 544 Flares ×


  1. First of all, Debbie Gibson’s “Out of the Blue” is now going to be stuck in me head all day 😀
    On to the good stuff, great post! I am always looking for things to do on car rides. Like your son, our son will definitely get sick if he’s looking at the GPS. As a matter of fact, sometimes he just gets sick. That being said we are always looking for ways to keep him occupied, talking, looking outside, etc. I Spy can only be done so many times though. I like the timing games. Guessing the times on everything, he is gonna love that! Hopefully he doesn’t join in on the game with a “How many minutes until I throw up?” theme.. ugh. Nothing fun about carsickness. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Liz, Ha, few things bring me back to my inner child like Debbie Gibson. I am really hoping there are no car sick time estimations in either of our futures, although, maybe something to consider for my son’s big sisters;) I updated the post with one more idea the kids reminded me of yesterday int he car. We made up “The Opposite Bus” one day. Check it out. Might be another fun idea for your son!

  2. This is such a great post! Love your disclaimer – really wonderful stuff. My son comes with me on 2 very long commutes each week. I’ve been looking for new games to play. We love I spy and that’s been working really well for us but we are in need of some variety. Thanks for linking up with the Weekly Kid’s Co-op!

    • Hi Ness, Thanks for the disclaimer love. I appreciate that! I updated the post with a game we made up a few weeks ago called “The Opposite Bus”. All 3 of my kids think it’s hilarious, and I can still sneak in some learning.

  3. My Mom always called time in the car captive time, because we couldn’t go anywhere and had to listen to her.

    Thanks for linking up to Science Sunday!

  4. I am totally trying these, at least just for the sake of distracting them from fighting with each other while they think about numbers on the clock. If they learn something, too, hey–bonus! Love this post. Sharing it on my facebook page.

  5. we used to play ‘Guess My Animal’ when they were younger, “I’m thinking of an animal that has stripes and eats grass.” and got progressively harder. Now we play “Stump the Speller” and have the kids spell words that we drive by. but usually we have Deep Talks about homelessness, procreation, nicotine, custody disputes, angels, other children’s eating habits, and the latest, why some words are considered profanity–lots of fun!

  6. Too cool! These are great ideas. I love the little moments in life. I also love the carpool lane. I get to sit, probably for the first time in the day. Thank so much for sharing at AfterSchool. I’m featuring your post today.

  7. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing with Tuesday Tots!

  8. cheeriosandlattes1 says:

    As a former elementary teacher, I love this post. I look for all kinds of opportunities to teach my kids. You have some great ideas for the back seat. Thanks for sharing on Saturday Show and Tell. I hope you’ll join us again this week.


  1. […] you’re looking for more ideas for younger kids, visit ThinkMagnet’s post “Back Seat Learners,” which was the inspiration for my […]

  2. […] Magnet’s post on Teachable Moments in the car was […]

  3. […] advantage of time in the car, whether it’s 5 minutes or 30!  ThinkMagnet shares some great tips for teachable moments for your littlest backseat […]

  4. […] Teachable Moments for your Backseat Drivers […]

  5. Map It Early says:

    […] Click here for ideas for your Back Seat Learners, including some tips on ways to use the GPS.  […]

  6. […] Think Magnet had some wonderful teachable moments advice while driving your kids around in the car.  You won’t want to miss this one! 😉 Carrots are Orange recommended ten great books to teach money sense to kids. And Creekside Learning had a great post about how kids can benefit from yoga. […]

I Heart Comments