You can learn to love car travel with kids

Whoever said getting there is half the fun obviously wasn't traveling in a car with elementary-school-aged children.

Car rides with kids usually mean lots of potty breaks, snacks and backseat squabbles. It's enough to make a grown-up ask, "Are we there yet?"

Stacy and Aaron Went have mastered the art of traveling with kids because of their monthly trips to visit out-of-town grandparents. The Dublin family has a no-video policy during car rides, so 7-year-old Olivia and 5-year-old Avery have found other ways to amuse themselves.

The girls always bring their Magna Doodles - a type of magnetic, easy-erase drawing board - when they road trip to their grandparents' house. The youngsters spend lots of time drawing and erasing pictures, Mrs. Went said.

"They're the best thing ever," she added.

The girls also sing songs, draw pictures and watch out the window.

There are a lot of fun alternatives to watching videos in the car, said Valerie Hofmann, a second-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Gahanna.

Some advance planning can make a car trip with kids more tolerable, Hofmann said.

She encourages the parents of her students to play learning games in the car even during short rides to help reiterate some of her classroom lessons (see her suggestions below). Many of the games would help pass the time on longer car trips, she said.

License-Plate Games

Number Strings: Have children use their addition skills to add up all of the numbers on one license plate. For example, if the plate number is 3J7821, have the child look for combinations that equal 10 like 3 + 7 = 10, then 8 + 2 = 10, then add the 1 to get the license-plate total of 21.

Race to 20: Set a goal number, such as 20, and challenge your child to reach the goal number by adding the first number of each license plate they see. The first person to reach the goal number wins.

Largest and Smallest: Have your child look at all the numbers on a license plate and rearrange them to make the largest number he can or the smallest number he can.

Sign Games

Road-Sign Math: Each time you see a speed-limit sign, have your child come up with equations that equal that number. For example, if the speed-limit sign is 60, your child might say 40 + 20, 65 - 5 or 6 x 10.

Speed-Limit Money: Each time you see a speed-limit sign, have your child tell you how to make the amount in coins.

Travel Tickets

Help your child conceptualize how long the trip is by making "tickets" out of colored paper. Give your child a bag full of tickets, making sure he or she has one ticket for every 30 miles or minutes of the trip. Every 30 minutes or miles, have your child turn in one ticket. When the tickets are gone, you will be at your destination.