Learning in the Car

Driving in the car is a chore we do every day. ¬†It’s a great time to interact with your kiddo since they are a captive audience. ūüôā ¬†Of course, there is a lot to be said for a few minutes of silence. ¬†But if you get bored of the quiet (or it is not quiet at all because the natives are getting restless), here are a few ideas…


  • Talk out loud about….anything! ¬†Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Sing familiar songs: Mary Had a Little Lamb, ABCs, etc.
  • Talk out loud about….anything! ¬†Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Call attention to when the car stops and when it moves. ¬†Talk about red and green lights.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Talk about….anything! ¬†Ask them questions about their day or where you are going. ¬†Try to ask them questions that will start a conversation and not just a “no” or “yes.”
  • Sing familiar songs, but change some words and see if they notice. ¬†Mary Had a Little Lion. ¬†Kids think this is hilarious!
  • Talk about driving rules and signs. ¬†What does a yellow light mean? ¬†Why are their lines on the road? ¬†What does a red sign mean?
  • Play “I Spy a Color.” ¬†See if they can find something red out the window or in the car. ¬†Once they find something, change the color.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal.” ¬†Traditionally you ask yes or no questions to figure out the animal. ¬†(Does the animal live on a farm? ¬†Does the animal fly?) ¬†For this age, giving those clues first and then allowing guessing works best. (I’m thinking of an animal that has wings and lives on a farm. ¬†Can you guess what it is?)
  • Ask some simple addition and subtraction math problems related to driving. ¬†(There are 3 people in the car now. ¬†After we pick up brother from school, how many will be in the car then?)
  • Count something together for the length of the (short) trip: the number of trucks you see, how many times you have to stop at a red light, the number of bicyclists on the road
  • Come up with as many rhymes as you can for a given word. ¬†Teach them how to go through the alphabet and rhyme: at, bat, cat, dat (no, that’s not a word)


  • Talk about…anything! ¬†Driving is a great time to catch up and ask them about school, friends, sports, or hobbies.
  • Talk about driving. ¬†Why are steering wheels on the left side of the car? ¬†What does “miles per hour” mean? ¬†Why are speed limits important?
  • Ask “If you could be a _____________ what would you be and why?” ¬†Fill in the blank with animal, item in your classroom, food, plant, etc. ¬†Make sure you play, too!
  • Create an addition and subtraction game related to driving. ¬†Let the kids come up with rules. ¬†Maybe for every truck you get 2 points for every green light you pass and subtract a point for every red light. ¬†This is great mental math practice! ¬†You can always make the game easier or more difficult by changing the objects or point values.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal” the traditional way by asking yes or no questions to figure out the animal. ¬†Vary the game by playing “I’m Thinking of a Sport” or “I’m Thinking of a Number between 1 and 100” or “I’m Thinking of a Book.”
  • Play “I Spy something that starts with the letter _____”
  • Practice spelling words by taking turns saying the letters.
  • Take turns thinking of as many things that starts with a certain letter.
  • Choose a category of things (for example: food). ¬†Name something in that category (pizza). ¬†Then the next person has to name something that starts with the last letter of the item (a- apple…and then e- enchilada)

Before You Read

Pre-reading activities help kids better understand their reading.  Model how good readers make predictions, connections, and ask questions even before opening the book.  As your child gets older, do less talking and more asking.  Choose one or two of these ideas to try the next time you are reading a book together.

(Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Read the title, author, and illustrator out loud. ¬† Talk about the jobs of author and illustrator. ¬†(kindergarten-¬†With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the stor.)
  • Make connections to other stories by the same author or illustrator- “Oh, Eric Carle. ¬†I remember he wrote and illustrated The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
  • Titles written in large fonts are perfect for pointing out letters. ¬†Go on a letter hunt for a few letters before you begin reading. ¬†(kindergarten-¬†Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet )
  • Take a close look at the pictures on the cover. ¬†Make predictions by thinking out loud- “I see a picture of a car. ¬†Maybe this book is about a car race. ¬†What do you think?” ¬†(kindergarten-¬†With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear)
  • Compare the title and the pictures. ¬†Think out loud- “The title is Freddy is Lost and there is a picture of a dog. ¬†I think the dog is named Freddy.”
  • Make a connection between the book and your child- “This book is about airplanes. ¬†Remember when we rode on an airplane ride to visit Grandma?”


  • Talk about the parts of a book and see if your child can identify the title page, dedication, and even copyright information. ¬†(kindergarten-¬†Identify the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book)
  • See if your child can read the title by himself. ¬†(grades K-5-¬†Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words)
  • Ask if she remembers any other books by the same author/illustrator.
  • Ask him if the book is a fiction or non-fiction book. ¬†How can he tell? ¬†(grade 1- Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types)
  • It if is a non-fiction book, ask “What do you already know about (insert subject matter here)?
  • Ask your child to write down a prediction about the book based on the cover. ¬† What is it about? ¬†Where does it take place? ¬†What characters will be in it? ¬†When you are finished reading see if the predictions were right!

Have fun reading together!

Five Free (Fall) Field Trips

Like that alliteration? ¬†I should write tongue twisters. ¬†Five free fall field trips to see ferocious pheasants and fat furry farm animals. ¬†No good? ¬†Anywhoo……

Your toddler is starting to say “Bust my buffers” because he has watched too much Thomas the Train, and you are getting stressed out looking at all the dishes and laundry you need to do. ¬†Time to pack the kids up and go on a little adventure! ¬†A change of scenery will put everyone in a better mood and they might learn something, too! ¬†Don’t worry about planning a big outing, even little field trips are exciting for kids. ¬†Afterall, my idea of a good time isn’t going up and down the escalator 20 times, but my daughter loves it. ¬†Okay. ¬†Maybe I like it a little, too. ¬†Here are a little more (ahem) educational ideas than escalator riding….

1. ¬†Farmer’s Market- ¬†Yeah, you could buy things. ¬†Or you could just take in all the sights, smells, and sounds for free. ¬†It’s great place for learning the names of new foods and even tasting a few samples. ¬†KC Locals: Check out this farmer’s market list from KC Parent.

2. ¬†Fall Festivals- This is my hands-down favorite thing to do with my family. ¬†You can watch artists at work, listen to live music, and maybe even jump in a bouncy house or two. ¬†What is not to love? ¬†KC Locals: Here is KC Parent’s Fall Festival List.

3. ¬†Nature Walk- ¬†Walk on a bike path or just around your neighborhood. ¬†Talk about what animals you could see. ¬†Compare the colors of trees. ¬†Bring along a bag to collect acorns, leaves, and other “treasures.”

4.  Story times-  With school starting, library (or book store) story times are in full-swing.  Listen to some good books, and then you can do some related crafts or activities back at home.

5. ¬†Picnic in the Park- ¬†Soak up the last of the nice days in the great outdoors. ¬†Pick out a park you have never been to before, pack some snacks (or go grab some fast food on the way…nobody’s judging!) and a blanket, and spend the day in the sunshine!

This One Goes Out to All the New Mothers Out There

It doesn‚Äôt seem that long ago that I was watching moms push strollers with their cute little babies and I would think ‚Äúsomeday.‚Ä̬† Now with a four-year-old and two-year-old my stroller days are almost behind me.¬† But I still remember what is was like to be a new mother.¬† Well, to be honest, I don‚Äôt remember that much.¬† As with any catastrophic event, your brain doesn‚Äôt let you remember all the gory details.

Legend has it that sometime after giving birth to my first little miracle I called a fellow mother friend and shouted, ‚ÄúYou didn‚Äôt tell me it was going to be like this!‚ÄĚ as soon as she picked up the phone.¬† I say it is a legend because as I mentioned before‚ĶI have no memory of this but it has been told to me.¬†¬† That statement pretty much sums up what I felt about the first few months of motherhood.¬† Yeah, I knew what moms do- feeding, changing diapers, and cuddling.¬† But I didn‚Äôt know that feeding really meant latching issues, sore breasts, and lots of crying in frustration (from both of us).¬†¬† Changing diapers meant poop blow ups that soaked through the onesie, your clothes, and maybe the couch.¬† My daughter probably went through five outfits a day.¬† And there was lots of cuddling because she decided the next best thing to being inside her mama was being on top of her mama ALL DAY AND NIGHT.¬† I learned to sleep, cook, eat, and yes, even shower with a newborn in my arms.¬† All of this is to say:¬† those first few months were not the blissful maternity leave I was expecting. ¬†¬†Nobody told me what it was really going to be like.

My daughter nursed 12 times a day‚Ķand that was when she was over two months old.¬† When she wasn‚Äôt nursing or being held by me she was crying.¬† I slept in 2-3 hour increments at the most.¬† My brain felt like those ‚Äúthis is your brain on drugs‚ÄĚ commercials with the fried egg.¬† Remember those?¬† I had fights with my husband because he just couldn‚Äôt understand how nothing got done during the day.¬† I began to doubt if things would ever get better.¬† Would there be a time in the future when she slept through the night?¬† Could we ever eat in a restaurant again?¬† Will she ever stop CRYING?!¬† It didn‚Äôt seem very likely.

After a particularly difficult night, I took my crying daughter to her well-check at the pediatrician.¬† With dark circles under my eyes, I watched another mother play with her older baby while she giggled and cooed.¬† She must have seen my desperation because she said, ‚ÄúIt will get better.‚Ä̬† And she told me how the first 3 months are the worst, then it starts to get better.¬† Then at 6 months it gets easier again, then at 9, then by one year you will hardly believe it is the same baby.¬† It gave me hope.¬† Although when you are in the thick of it, a month seems like an eternity.¬† Even a day seems unbearable.

Am I overplaying this?  Okay.  I don’t want to scare anyone into not having children.  I like to think that I’m doing a public service and telling other women what it is like to be in the motherhood trenches.  I would have liked someone to tell me (although of course I could have never believed such horrors).  Isn’t it better to be fully prepared with the worst case scenario?

So if you are a new mom, hang in there.  Even if you have to dig out poop under your fingernails (I’ll plead the 5th), or walk around like the living dead with 2 hours of sleep, or (gasp) bottle feed because breastfeeding just isn’t working.  Motherhood might not be what you thought it would be, but it will get better and then it will get amazing.  Yes, you did give up your former care-free life to be a slave to an angry little person who can’t even say thank you.  But it is totally worth it.  You’ll see.  Just wait a few months.  And while you are waiting, call your mom and tell her thank you.