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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[JULY 20, 2006]  Q: With school out for the summer, we are planning a family car trip to visit relatives. Do you have any suggestions on how to make many hours on the road fun for all?

A: "Are we there yet?" It's a question nearly every child has asked -- usually over and over -- unless everyone is occupied with fun activities. You can turn your vacation trip into a learning opportunity. Here are some ideas:

Make the planning fun!

  • Learn about the places you're going to visit. Find a good travel guide. Use the encyclopedia and the almanac. Go online to do more research (you can even read the newspaper from the places you'll visit). Send away for brochures.

  • Assign your children to research the things they might see along your way. If you will be passing historic sites, check out some library books before you leave. What's the history of the places you'll pass? Did famous battles occur nearby? What famous people came from this state or city?

  • Learn about geography. What's the population of the places you'll visit? What is the most important industry? What is the state bird and flower? What is the state motto and what does it mean?

  • Get a map for each child. Give each one a marker to highlight the route you will be traveling. Have them keep math facts fresh by calculating distance and mileage.

Have fun on the road.

  • Listen to audio books. They can build interest in reading, and they're available for almost all ages. Ask your librarian or bookseller for suggestions.

  • Learn a language. Find tapes that teach the whole family a foreign language. One series, for example, is called "Learn in your Car."

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  • Play games. Count state license plates, play word games or give your children puzzles to solve.

  • Teach your children songs you loved as a child. Or have your children sing their favorite songs and teach you the words. See if you can make up new lyrics for familiar tunes.

  • Plan rest stops. Take a ball to toss. Many children can handle no more than two hours in the car at a time. Getting out for just a few minutes can make a big difference.

Write about your travels.

  • Keep a travel journal. Have everyone contribute pictures and thoughts about what you see and do. It's a great way keep memories fresh. And it's a great way to read and write together.

  • Use postcards. Bring a supply of postcard stamps and a list of addresses. Allow each child to purchase, write and send postcards along the way.

Doing a little research and planning before you leave will make the trip more interesting and pleasant for your family. And, when school starts again, if classes study the places you visit, your children will be proud to be the "experts."

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2006, The Parent Institute

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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