How to Transform Your Road trip into an Educational Experience!

Travel Car

Now that summer is here and school is coming to an end, families are preparing themselves for a fun summer of travel! For many, this includes jumping into a car or boarding a train and embarking on a road trip full of new experiences, fun and quality time with the family!

The beauty about road trips is that there are endless ways to make use of the time that your child is sitting. Simply by planning ahead your child will be able to target skills such as following directions, listening, mathematics and even reading comprehension. As a result, the kids will remain engaged and excited throughout their time in the car.

Even though they will be on summer break they’ll still be able to keep their academic skills active, fresh and ready for the upcoming school year! Below are several activities that you can have on hand during your trip! With these activities your child will be less inclined to ask “are we there yet?” Happy travels!

I Spy

Many of us are familiar with the game “I Spy” from our own childhoods. It was always so much fun being the first one to spot the item in question. “I Spy” is an exciting activity that tests a child’s observational skills while also assessing ability to follow a specific set of criteria. Not to mention, there is a time component since the child must spot the item while the vehicle and or train is in motion. For example, you as the parent will begin by prompting the child with the phrase” I spy with my little eye…one red and blue car”. Below are a few more examples of items that you can have your child search for.

  • “I spy a red tractor with four wheels”
  • “I spy a red stop sign with white letters”
  • “I spy a blue motorcycle that is moving at a very fast pace”
  • “I spy three horses galloping in a field”
  • “I spy an 8 or a 7 in a license plate”

If there is a sibling or a friend in the car, the children can compete in order to see who spots the item first. As the game progresses, you, as the parent, can make the criteria a bit more challenging. For example, this may consist of adding more details to the item descriptions or asking the child to find two objects. The Following directions skills is especially pertinent to tests such as the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test® (OLSAT) where the child must dissect a set of directions to solve a problem.

Turn on an Audio Book!

Listening Audio Book

There is nothing better than getting lost in a book over the course of a long trip but, unfortunately, many children find focusing on written text in a car difficult. Audio books can be an incredible resource for building vocabulary, listening, and aural comprehension skills, which are essential for achievement tests like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills ®.

Great sources include audio book sites such as Audible, and audiobooks on the iTunes app store. Before you leave for your trip, ask your child which books they would like to download! This way they can begin to get excited about the books that they select. Not to mention, audiobooks are a great discussion starter! It will give the family the opportunity to discuss the story’s plot or characters. Happy Listening!

Count Those Cars!

Even though you are on the road, it is still possible to help your child practice their quantitative skills! Start by using your surroundings. If you are sitting in a car, begin by asking your child to count the number of red cars that he or she passes in the next five minutes. If you have a younger child, this is a great way to have them practice their counting skills, as well as their number retention. If you have an older child, have them take out a piece of paper and tally the number of items that they see. Quantitative reasoning is essential for tests like the CogAT ®, which are often used to gauge cognitive abilities.

You may even want to go a step further and ask them to count the (red) cars along with the number of passengers in each car. When the time is up they can add up the total number of items, which in this case is the red cars. The child can also practice their multiplication skills by multiplying the number of passengers by each car. You can use just about any object you see out the window in order to complete this activity. Ask your child what they would like to count! Maybe its trees, mountains, farm animals or large trucks.

Happy Travels

Happy Travels

My dream is that your child will be excited for long trips after doing these activities a few times! Please let me know in the comments if you have any fun variations for these activities or other family favorite for road trips.

Karen Quinn is a best-selling author and co-founder of, the leading resource for prep materials for gifted and talented tests.