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Car Journey Tips

1. Plan your journeys strategically. For the long journey - if your children are younger than two years then try to travel when they are likely to sleep. This gives parents time to focus on the older children during the journey. If your infant is comfortable and warm in their car seat then there is no reason why they shouldn't sleep for a long period. However do take some toys for when the younger child wakes up. Vtech's On the Go Mobile is ideal for the small infant and Vtech's Pushchair Pal can be attached to a car seat so that baby can pretend to drive. For the younger child, make sure that you take along toys that they can hold easily; Vtech's babble phone can also attach to the car seat so that there is less likelihood of baby dropping it.

2. Play games. Children can enjoy long journeys when they realise that they have, at least one of, their parent's undivided attention. Remember that young children learn a great deal from their parents. This is the time when parents can use their imagination to invent games or play some of the traditional ones. Again, think strategically and plan ahead. Have more activities than you would expect to be able to use.

3. Take photographs. Encourage your children to keep a record of their journey by taking photographs with Vtech's Kidizoom camera. Between the ages of two to four years, children show a dramatic increase in their general understanding of symbol (e.g. drawing of a cat) and real world (e.g. cat) relations. This is a good time to help children to use their Kidizoom camera in lots of enjoyable ways. A car journey is the ideal opportunity for the adult who isn't driving to have fun helping their children to create pictures and movies. The children can then print out their photographs when they get home and put them into a photograph album. It is fascinating to see what children want to photograph. Letting children take the pictures that they choose enables us to gain insight into how children see the world. For the slightly older child, make up your own treasure hunt where each item on a list has to be spotted and then photographed. Remember not to make it too difficult for the younger child. Make sure that they are given the opportunity to spot and photograph the item when the car is stationery. They can then review their photographs with Kidizoom's slide show while they are travelling in the car.

4. Play with numbers and observation. You can help your children to practice their number and observational skills with games. Motorway journeys are an ideal opportunity to reinforce your children's learning in a fun way. The non-driving parent can keep the children entertained for hours with numbers and counting. You can play car bingo where the parent reads the last (1 or 2) letters of the number plates of passing cars. The children cross them off a prepared sheet with numbers. Another version of car bingo is when everyone in the car picks a colour and then counts each car with that colour until they get to ten. Then they shout 'bingo'! You can also reinforce your children's number skills by encouraging them to play some of the games on Vtech's Mobigo. When the children engage in this activity the parent gets a chance to relax.

5. Play with the letters. The simplest and most traditional game when travelling is 'I spy', where everyone has to guess what someone is looking at after hearing the first letter of the word. This is a fun game for all ages and encourages the younger children to enter into the social world of games and also learn from their older siblings. Children between the ages of three and seven years can also enjoy the interactive fun of Vtech's Storio e-reading system. With lots of reading cartridges to choose from they can watch the story and read the words or play the reading games.

6. Be creative with colours. Increase your child's observational abilities by asking them to look for a sequence of car colours. Grouping cars into categories e.g. black car, red car, enhances a two to four year olds developing skill in categorisation. These skills can be further reinforced with Vtech games with colours. Even young infants can hear the names of colours as they watch the Vtech's colourful mobile.

7. Encourage your child's spatial awareness. It is good to encourage older children to read maps. When children ask 'Are we there yet?' tell them how much further that they have to travel and let them look at the map. Give them an example of how far the car can travel in an hour and then let them see if they can work out how long it will take, with your help. Reading maps and being able to give directions is an ability that is developing throughout childhood. Children around the age of three realise that simple maps represent things in the real world. Even younger children take an interest in direction when they ask 'which way is home?' and want the adult to point out the direction. Research has shown that children's spatial awareness can be further enhanced by playing games on a computer. There are plenty of games on Vtech's Mobigo that allow children to practice their spatial abilities.

8. Play with music. Singalong CDs are useful on a long journey and can be fun for both parent and child. We can all rediscover the joy of singing. Games with music include, singing the first word of a nursery rhyme, then the next person sings the next, and then your child can sing the next word. You can help and encourage your child to guess the next word in a song and to sing along. Vtech's singalong microphone includes 15 melodies to sing along with. Encourage your child to sing along by singing the tunes yourself. Children learn a lot by copying what their parents do.

9. Be creative with materials. Take along a roll of masking tape. Children of all ages love stickers. Young children will love sticking masking tape onto anything that they can reach, while the older child can be more creative, using crayons and stickers to decorate the tape. Modelling with aluminium foil is also a great way to keep older children happy for a long time. However it is important that this activity is kept out of reach of the younger child. I spent hours helping my grandson make silver coins out of foil to put in his play treasure chest. It is always good to have more than one adult on a long car journey to keep the children occupied; grandparents can be great playmates on car journeys.

10. Managing the school run. For the short journey you want to make sure that you have a variety of toys available. If you have both school-age children and infants in the car let the older children play with the younger children's toys. There are lots of Vtech toys that are aimed at the younger child (12 - 36 months) which can sometimes provide a great deal of enjoyment for older children. The school run can be a stressful affair with the older children perhaps feeling a little apprehensive about their school day. The opportunity to play with the younger child's toy can help your school-age child to relax and also keep your infant amused.
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