Learning Is Everywhere
We’re learning in the car or on the bus!
Lots of fun ideas and activities for families!
Each month offers activities families can do together in a variety of settings. The activities within the Learning is Everywhere Calendar and on the website are aligned with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards (ELS).
These guidelines can be used to determine what infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners may know or be able to do within specific age ranges.
The Pennsylvania Early Learning Standard is referenced after each activity.
Activities for Infants
- While traveling, take advantage of those who enjoying interacting with babies. Encourage your baby to look at those who greet her and return their smiles. (Social & Emotional Development)
- Using a rubber “punch ball balloons” (easily found at the Dollar Stores), blow up the ball to approximately 2-3 inches (about the size of a grapefruit). Using a safety pin, attach the rubber string to the top of the back seat (facing the infant). Encourage her to kick at the ball while in her car seat, or simply watch it as it moves with the motion of the car. (Health, Wellness & Physical Development)
- Attach plastic decals to the side windows (both sides), so when the light comes through the windows, he can see the different shapes and colors. Talk to him and tell him about the colors, naming the ones he might see. (Language & Literacy)
Activities for Toddlers
- Take a travel break. In a park, rest stop, or even the less populated corner of a parking lot, get out of the car and encourage your toddler to move. He can pretend he’s a little bird and flap his fingers, then a bigger bird (flap his hands), and then an even bigger bird (flap his arms). (Health, Wellness & Physical Development)
- Have your toddler use a puppet to narrate the drive. You can ask the puppet questions to get the game going. Who is in the car? Where is everyone going? What will they do when they get there? What does the puppet see when it looks out the window? (Social & Emotional Development)
- Provide a musical toy (harmonica, flute, or kazoo) for her to play while traveling. What songs can she play? Can she play a song while you sing (such as Happy Birthday or Old McDonald Had a Farm)? (Creative Thinking & Expression)
Activities for Preschoolers
- Before your trip, help your preschooler cut out pictures from a magazine of things she might see while in the car, such as a stop sign, a bicycle, a bus, etc. and store in an envelope or plastic zip-top bag. Once in the car, have her search outside her window for items that match her cut-outs. (Language & Literacy)
- Give you preschooler a puppet while traveling. Ask the puppet to sing a song, or have the puppet tell you a story, or what it sees when it looks out the window. Play “I Spy”—can it see the clouds? Can it see trees, or the big truck? (Creative Thinking & Expression) Using a book, have the puppet “read” the story. (Language & Literacy)
Activities for Kindergartners
- Using the peanut butter jar project (under the activities for Toddlers), have your kindergartner search for items. Which items are the easiest to find? Why? Which items are the most difficult to find? Why? How many different colored items can she find? (Scientific Thinking)
- For vacations or distance trips, have your kindergartner create his own scrapbook of the trip. What types of items does he think should be included? Items such as ticket stubs, toll receipts, brochures, maps and photos can be included. Even items such as rocks, flowers or leaves can be added. Too much stuff for a scrapbook? Try a “treasure chest” by using a shoebox he can decorate. (Creative Thinking & Expression)
- Give your child a puppet while traveling. Have the puppet tell you the alphabet and to count to 10. Ask the puppet to name as many colors as it can. Using a book, have the puppet “read” the story. (Language & Literacy)
Keep Them Safe!
Pennsylvania law states that children under 4 years of age should be securely fastened in a safety seat belt and a child passenger restraint system (Child Safety Seat) appropriate for their height and weight. Children between the ages of 4 and 7 years of age should be securely fastened in a safety seat belt and an appropriately fitting child booster seat.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that all infants and toddlers should always ride rear-facing until they are at least 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. They also recommend that children not ride in the front seat of a vehicle.
If you’re traveling out of state, other states may have similar or more strict child restraint laws. Check with your pediatrician or visit the website for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website.
Is your child safety seat installed correctly? Visit a Child Safety Seat Inspection Station for a free car seat check!
Are We There Yet?
Traveling with children—around the block or across the state—can be challenging, especially if you’re not prepared to deal with the boredom or restlessness. Try some helpful tips to keep your child (and yourself!) occupied!
- Stock Supplies. A small pad of paper and pencil/crayons can be thrown into a purse, diaper bag or backpack. Use these to draw pictures, create origami (fold into the shape of a square!), practice letter & number writing, creating a story, or playing a game (like tic-tac- toe).
- For Trips Only. Set aside specific toys and books for use only while in the car. Keep them in a small basket beside your child’s car seat for easy access.
- Create a Play Zone. Use a metal cookie tray for magnetic letters & numbers, or for coloring & drawing–the edge of the tray keeps crayons from rolling away. For smaller laps, consider using smaller pan or tray.
- Plan for Breaks. Too long in a vehicle makes everyone restless and grumpy. On the grassy areas of rest stops, bring out a ball or jump rope. (Even smaller children may be able to “walk the line” of a jump rope.) Explore the rest area by taking a walk around the area.
- Play “I Spy”. How many big trucks can you spot? Red cars? Check your surroundings for grazing cows, houses with chimneys, bridges that pass over the road, gas stations, etc. (Just remember that your child’s view from the back seat may be very limited to what is outside.)
- Pack an “Adventure Bag!” In a bag or backpack, pack “binoculars” (two toilet paper rolls, taped together) or a “telescope” (a paper towel roll) and a map with landmarks along the way. Your child can pretend he or she is a pirate or explorer, searching for treasure.
- Sing the Miles. A CD or streaming music that everyone can sing along to can help pass the miles. Try music by Raffi, Dean Jones, Fred Penner, Joe McDermott, Bob McGrath, Charlotte Diamond, Judy Caplan Ginsberg, and Sharon, Lois & Bram. Check with your library to borrow tunes to keep your child entertained during a drive.
- Eat, Drink and Be Merry. Travel can be dehydrating, and empty tummies can be grumpy tummies. Take foods which travels well, like dry cereal, cheese sticks, and fruit. Pack juice boxes or take water.
- Plan Ahead. If your trip is delayed due to weather, traffic or cancellations, you don’t want to be stuck unprepared. Make sure you have enough diapers, drinks and snacks.
- Be Reasonable. Have reasonable expectations of yourself and your child. Take breaks when needed.
Curbing the Gimmes’
Turn on the television or radio, or open the newspaper, and see that you’re surrounded by advertisements aimed at catching your attention. During the holidays, this can increase to the point when it’s overwhelming. What’s a family to do?
- Ssshhhh! Plan for quiet times at home with your children when everyone can be together and enjoy the quiet time. Read a favorite book, create a special meal, or listen to a favorite song.
- Make a list! Forget the gift list, the Holiday Card mailing list and the grocery list! With your child, create a list of your favorite things. Limit it to items which cannot be bought in a store, like watching the snow fall, laughing at a joke, the smell of cookies, or snuggling under a warm blanket.
- Think outside the box. Instead of scrambling around to find the “perfect” gift, start at home by making a gift for friends or family members. Bake a batch of cookies, create a “what I like about you” book, string a beaded necklace, or create a work of art (finger) painting. The recipient will receive a gift that was created just for them!
- Plan your schedule and schedule your plans. What is the most important part of the holiday season to you and your family? Is it spending time with family and friends? Connecting with others? Making sure everyone feels valued? Plan for activities or opportunities that will be important to you. Take a walk in the park, see the holiday lights, decorate for the holidays, bake cookies, or read a favorite holiday book.
- Tell a story. Share your experiences as a child. Tell you child a story about a special holiday memory or another special event you remember when you were a child. If you have a difficult time recalling an event, ask a friend or family member to share their memories.
- Create a new tradition. If you’d like a new way to celebrate the holidays, start by considering things your family likes to do. Maybe it’s watching a favorite movie, or reading a favorite book. It could be taking a walk around the neighborhood to see neighbor’s holiday lights, or attending a holiday event at the library or within the community.
December Songs and Rhymes
You don’t have to audition for American Idol to sing with your child! Many children love being engaged through music and songs. They may love hearing the repeated sounds and words as you sing a song together. Although some nursery rhymes may have planned movements that go along with the song, don’t be afraid to make up your own movements that fits best with your child’s development.
The words to the songs can be printed, or you can visit your local library for CDs with the music.
Songs and nursery rhymes to celebrate being in the car or on the bus:
- I’m So Carsick
- I’m not a Chevy, I’m not a Ford
- The Ants go Marching
- 100 Bottles of Milk
- Monkeys in a Tree
Special Holiday themed songs:
- Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
- Hurry Christmas
- Kwanzaa Candles
- Auld Lang Syne
What’s YOUR Story?
You know you have a story to tell about what quality education has done for your child, your family or your community–We want to hear it!
Tell about your child’s favorite PA Pre-K Counts, Head Start or Keystone STAR teacher, administrator, or classroom. Share all the great things your child has learned by participating in a quality early learning classroom. Let everyone know how important it is for your family to have access to quality early learning!