Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Road Trip: Learning about the Journey Notebooks

Road Trips with Preschoolers is all about being prepared, with lots and lots of distractions. We made the decision to purchase a portable Dual Monitor DVD system for the trip, but I don't want to just pop in a DVD every time the kids get a little bit cranky. I want to do the work involved in engaging their minds educationally. I want them to learn something.

Step one was outlining the educational goals for my preschoolers. I wanted them to:
1.) Be able to recognize and identify a map of The United States;
2.) Be able to recognize the shapes of the states we were traveling through;
3.) Be able to name the state bird and flowers of the states were traveling through;
4.) Learn three or four interesting fact about each of the states we were traveling through;
5.) Be able to track our route on the maps;
6.) Be able to identify the state capitals of the states we were traveling through

Step two was making three identical Learning Notebooks, one for each of my older kids and a Mommy's Guide for myself, since I would be too far away in the car to look at theirs. This would be filled with fun hands-on tools to help achieve our educational goals.

Map of the United States
Designed in black and white, this map of The United States of America would give context for our trip. I wanted the kids to visually see how we would move through states, one by one, charting our progress. So I also had laminated pieces of each state that we moved through that they would be able to stick onto the state as we traveled through it.
State Maps
Next I got full page maps of each state we were driving through. We placed our planned route on this map so that the kids could watch our progress. I had star stickers for them along the route.

State Information and Extra Sheets
Then for each state we drove through I made some learning sheets. Each included an interesting facts sheet. Then I had several coloring sheets, including one of the state flower and bird. Then, I tried to have one or two activity sheets for each state, including a connect-the-dots sheet of the state map.

Note: We took this road trip in June. These posts were prepared in advance and scheduled to post after our return. Check back tomorrow and subsequent days for more tips and printable PDF files for planning a road trip with preschoolers.

Post Trip Update: In theory this was a great idea. Practically, it didn't end up working for our situation. With three kids, we chose to have Gracie (age 2) in the middle where I could reach her easily. The older two were all the way in the back. It just didn't work to send stuff back to work on independently. The second day on the road I sat in the back with them. That helped somewhat. However, they really were only interested in putting the stars on the cities we drove through. If I were to do it again, I would do it very differently. I would have ONE large color map of The United States (maybe even use one one of those maps you can find on a laminated kids place mat). I would draw (with a sharpie) our route. Then I would still do the individual state maps with stickers. But I think I would leave it at that. Coloring sheets were strewn across the back seat of the van within minutes and it was a mess. Too much mess. If your kids are older than mine, the Learning Notebooks might work great. The other thing I might do differently is have them learn about each state BEFORE we went on the road trip. Then we would just review what we had learned on the road.


  1. What a great idea! I was about ready to try it until I read your update, so thanks for that, too. We'll alter it slightly to make it work better. (Not that we have any road trips but will be flying across the country in Dec).

  2. I think with one little one, Alisha, it might work fine. I just couldn't juggle all three kids and keep them entertained that way.