kids_in_car_320x243_photolibrarycomGuest post by Rhonda Lucas Donald

Car travel remains a big part of American family life, but looking out the car window has become rarer and rarer. It’s hard to compete with in-car DVD players, smart phones, and portable video games. But you can keep your young passengers entertained by the outside, non-digital world! Try some of these fun in-car activities to get them moving, singing, and playing a nature bingo game.

Then park the car and play outside!

Move Like the Animals

Kids love to pretend they are animals. Even in their car seats, they can move and stretch, which will help keep them from becoming antsy on a long drive. Here are some “wild” in-car movements to try:

  • Monkey climb: Alternately, stretch arms high and “pull” up.
  • Seagull sway: Hold arms out as if flying and flap and glide.
  • Chimp hug: Extend arms and legs straight out and then hug yourself.
  • Hedgehog curl-up: Tuck head, arms, and legs into a ball.
  • Cat stretch: Stretch arms and legs out and arch back.

When you take a rest stop, why not choose a park or nature trail? You can keep a map in your car with parks and trails highlighted or visit NatureFind. Wherever you stop your child can try out some more wild movements outside the car:

  • Bunny hop: Jump with feet together and hold your hands in front like paws.
  • Penguin waddle: Hold arms straight and close to sides with feet close together. Take small, alternating steps, bobbing from side to side.
  • Butterfly flutter: Gracefully flap arms as if they were wings and flit from place to place.
  • Monkey moves: Hop along and swing arms as if moving through the treetops.
  • Shark swim: Point arms in front, one hand on top of the other. Sway as if swimming from side to side. Open arms wide to show off the teeth. Chomp!

Sing Along

AmericanRedstart_ScottEvans_219x219Singing in the car is a fun tradition. So turn off the radio or MP3 player and sing this song when you spybirds, squirrels, or flowers out the car window. Then make up your own verses about other things outside the window to keep the song going.

See the Birdy? (Sing to the tune of “Frère Jacques.”)

See the birdy? See the birdy?
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
Birdy is a-singing! Birdy is a-singing!
Chirp, chirp, chirp. Chirp, chirp, chirp.

See the squirrel? See the squirrel?
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
What is that he’s hiding? What is that he’s hiding?
Nuts, nuts, nuts. Nuts, nuts, nuts.

See the flower? See the flower?
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
Flowers are so pretty. Flowers are so pretty.
Just for you. Just for you.

Play Car Window Bingo (No Batteries Required!)

RR-FamFunCarBingo1Playing nature-themed bingo is one way to encourage your kids to unplug, look outside, and put their observational skills to work. Here’s how:

  1. Print out the bingo cards. (We have four versions, in case kids want to compete!)

Having trouble downloading the cards? Open them using Adobe Reader (free download).

  1. Keep the cards handy in your car.
  2. Play one of two ways:
    • Fill in a row of four that goes up, down, or diagonally.
    • Fill the entire card.
  3. Use markers or stickers to mark off the things seen.
  4. Keep the game in your glove box; kids can work on it over time.
  5. These objects are easy to see from a car, but you can play this anywhere!

Stuck indoors? Have your kids visit Amtrak’s KidsDepot. Click on “Parks” or “Playground” and find fun online games that teach about nature and the outdoors.

Rhonda Lucas Donald is an award-winning freelance writer living in Petersburg, Va. She has contributed stories, crafts, and poems to Ranger Rick andYour Big Backyard magazines and is the author of more than 12 books for children and teachers. Look for her latest picture book, Deep in the Desert, in spring 2011, and visit her website at