Week 51: Learning To Navigate With Driving Directions
This activity was a surprise hit with my kids. Sometimes the amount of time my kids spend in the car just driving around town to do errands is over the top. I discovered that one way to make the number of places we had to stop more palatable was to give them driving directions and then let them direct the car. This also works great on longer road trips to help set milestones along the way.
There are a number of great things about doing this activity with my kids:
- It helped teach them the difference between right and left
- It gave them a sense of progress through our errands so it didn’t just feel never-ending to them.
- It kept them looking out the window and noticing the world around them.
- It taught them about the geography of our neighborhood so they could recognize frequent landmarks and routes.
- They learned about road signs and driving rules that were new to them.
- By using the compass images they started to internalize north/south/east/west.
Make It Harder
After using this for a while, we moved onto advanced mode which my kids LOVE. When we have spare time, and we are done with errands, I tell them they have to find our way home again without any help. This has never failed to result in hysterics from all of us. To do this right, though, you really need spare time – you have to be willing to let them get really lost! Agree ahead of time on the parameters for when you will correct them/re-direct them. And agree on what the default behavior should be if they don’t give you any instructions. We defaulted to going straight, because otherwise I was always tempted to ask at an intersection which way to go, which was a prompt to them that they should change direction.
The thing I didn’t expect to teach them was how hard it is to keep paying attention. Some of the worst mistakes were when they DID know the way, but they would getting chatting, or thinking about something else, and they would forget that they were supposed to keep giving me directions. Keeping their presence of mind to remember their responsibility the entire way home was surprisingly challenging for them. And it always brought about squeals of laughter when they realized they’d forgotten their job and we were headed in the wrong direction AGAIN!
They periodically ask for this game even now. My oldest is 13, and will be driving in the next few years, so I like to give him a chance to learn the streets and how to get around our town. When someone else is in charge it’s easy not to pay attention, but this game really helps him learn his way around.