Menu

15 Montessori-inspired road trip games to play with your kids

Try these activities as an alternative to handing over the iPad to make the long car ride a meaningful part of your vacation.

15 Montessori-inspired road trip games to play with your kids

One of the things that set the Montessori approach apart is its focus on engagement, rather than simply entertaining children. All Montessori classroom work is designed to be child-led. After being shown how to use something, the kids are the ones completing the work on their own, which encourages active, not passive, participation. They are active, rather than passive participants.

While there's no need to turn your car into a classroom, the Montessori principle of engaging children with purposeful, hands-on activities can be applied to your summer road trip to keep everyone learning and having fun on the go.

Try these activities as an alternative to handing over the iPad to make the long car ride a meaningful part of your vacation.

1. I spy

This classic game is a great one for road trips because it requires no materials and can be adapted for children of all ages. Keep it simple ("I spy something red") for your youngest and make it more challenging ("I spy something shaped like an octagon") for older children.

If your child is enjoying learning their letter sounds, the car is also a great place to practice I spy with sounds ("I spy something that starts with b").

2. Lacing Cards

Lacing cards are a pre-sewing work included in many Montessori classes for 3-6-year-olds. They are great for building fine motor skills and concentration. Young children often concentrate on this activity for long periods of time, but it has very few pieces, making it a good one for long car trips. There are many fun options, making it easy to find one that matches your child's interests.

3. Read out loud from a book about your destination

Books are always a great road trip option, but it's even more special if you can find a book about the place you're visiting.

  • Going to the beach? Try this one.
  • Traveling to a forest? one is great
  • Traveling to a big city? We love this.

4. Etch a sketch

Art supplies are great to bring for the hotel room but can be a bit messy in the car. Try giving your child an Etch a Sketch for the backseat instead. This will allow them to unleash their creativity without filling your car with melted crayons and paper scraps.

It is also great for practicing control of the hand. Alternatively, try this Magnatab magnetic drawing toy.

5. Meaningful music

Try giving everyone in the car a turn to choose the music selection. Both Frank Leto and Growing Sound make wonderful Montessori-friendly children's music.

6. Audiobooks

Audiobooks are another great way to keep children happy and engaged in the car and many are available through the public library for free.

7. Tell me a story

Tell your child you're going to make up your very own story together. You say the first couple of lines of the story and then ask someone else in the car to continue it. Keep taking turns, letting everyone in the car participate in the game until the story comes to a conclusion. Try setting the story in a car or in your destination help get your child excited about the trip.

8. Scavenger hunt

Before your trip, ask your child to help you make a list of all of the interesting things they'd like to see along the way. This might include certain animals, a fancy car they like, or different types of trees or flowers.

Make a list with little checkboxes and ask them to keep a lookout and check off what they find on your journey. Don't feel like making a list? Try this one.

9. Make a map

Draw or print a simple map of your travel route. Let your child draw or write things they see or things that happen along the route. This makes a great free souvenir of your journey!

10. Road trip bingo

If your child already knows their letters and numbers, try license plate bingo or another travel bingo game. This is not only entertaining, but it's also great for visual depiction and practicing reading as your child tries to decipher the different license plates.

Activities for rest stops

Try to view rest stops as more than a quick potty break, especially on a longer trip. While it's tempting to push through and get where you're going, doing so can often backfire with young children. Allot just 15 to 20 minutes for one of these easy activities, or some simple free play time.

11. Nature hunt

Set a time limit of five minutes and task everyone with finding the most interesting nature item they can. Ask everyone to place their item on a small blanket and share what they liked about it.

12. Sidewalk chalk

Bring a small container of sidewalk chalk and tell your children they have 15 minutes to decorate the rest stop sidewalk and make it beautiful for all of the travelers coming through.

13. Bubbles

Bring a small bottle of bubbles for your child to blow and chase while they stretches their legs.

14. Bucket and shovel

A bucket is multi-purpose so it's a great item to bring on any road trip. If the rest stop is rocky, they can collect their favorite rocks to sort or show you before putting them back. If it's sandy, they can dig in the sand a bit before hopping back in the car

15. Bird watching

Bring some child-sized binoculars and see how many types of birds your little one can spot. These can be great to use at your destination as well.

While all of these activities are fun and engaging for children, a Montessori road trip is more about attitude than any one activity. Be open to exploration, focus on the experience, and find little ways for your child to be independent and active along the way.

You might also like:

Nuna

New mama life is often fraught with decision fatigue. From choosing a pediatrician to choosing a baby monitor, it can be difficult to know which solutions are made to last. Fortunately, Nuna just made one very important decision a lot easier. That's because their new MIXX Next Stroller has everything a new parent needs to get out, get around and get everything done.

An upgraded version of their popular MIXX stroller, the MIXX Next features a more compact fold (shaving 6.5 inches off the folded size, down to 27.5 inches long and 23.6 inches wide) thanks to a compact fold-away axle where the rear wheels tuck under the frame when it folds. Plus, the new model also stays standing when folded—meaning no more back-straining as you bend to pick up your folded stroller and heave it into the trunk. Instead, the MIXX Next can be tucked more easily into storage whenever your ride comes to an end.


Nuna Mixx Next Stroller


Speaking of the ride, your little one will love the new rear-wheel Free Flex suspension™ and front-wheel progression suspension technology that absorbs more shock as you roll over uneven terrain. The wheels have also been updated to tough, rubber foam-filled tires for a smoother, more durable ride and the no re-thread harness makes it easy to clip your baby in securely and quickly. And when all those gentle bumps lull your baby to sleep? The seat features a five-position recline that adjusts quickly with one-hand—all the way down to a true-flat sleeper recline—just don't forget to move them to their crib when you arrive home. (Don't forget to extend the water repellent, UPF 50+ canopy to keep those sleepy eyes shaded.) Even better, the all-season seat keeps baby cozy in winter and unsnaps to mesh for a cooler ride in the summer.

Perhaps most importantly, though, this stroller is made to last. (After all, what's the point of solving a mama dilemma if it creates another one a few months down the road?) The MIXX Next pairs perfectly with all Nuna PIPA™ series infant car seats using the included car seat ring adapter, and then adapts to a child seat that can face toward you (for a little face time) or forward for when your little one is ready to take on the world. All in all, this stroller gets you where you need to go with a child up to 50 pounds, meaning it's the only one you'll ever need.

The MIXX Next is available in three colors and retails for $749.95.

This article was sponsored by Nuna. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

Gracious Gobbler

I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Do you need a family emergency kit? (Hint: Yes, you totally do)

It only takes a few minutes to be better prepared for emergencies.

Right now is understandably a time for concern, but the same message applies: Prepare, don't panic. We parents have a responsibility to care and provide for our children, ensuring their well-being before and after any disruptive event, whether it's a natural disaster or an outbreak that forces temporary shutdowns and closures in our community. When it comes to emergency preparation, I always tell parents one thing: You want to have a plan just in case the worst really does happen.

As a mom of three young kids with a firefighter husband, I'm constantly anticipating potential problems—and thinking ahead about how to cope. Thinking ahead and planning has saved me many nights of pacing the floor, and has made me feel more confident as a parent.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play