15 car games to get your child classroom ready

Games that develop your child’s awareness of sounds (phonological awareness), listening and memory skills are essential to prepare them for learning in the classroom, and are a great way to beat car time boredom. These games are especially helpful if you suspect your child may have a specific learning difficulty. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Play I spy – this develops the child’s ability to isolate the initial sound in a word.
  2. Play a variation – I spy something that is… give a colour – this game teaches colour names, attention and listening skills.
  3. Play I can hear with my little ear – participants name as many different sounds as possible, until they’re out of suggestions. This teaches listening and concentration skills.
  4. Sing nursery rhymes – nursery rhymes teach children about rhyming patterns in words, an essential skill for learning to read.
  5. Play I went to market – Each player says “I went to the market and bought a…”. Every subsequent player must recall the list already named, then add their own. This game develops attention and memory skills. You can play lots of variations to make it harder or easier, such as making each item start with the next letter of the alphabet
  6. Play first letter, last letter. Pick a category of the child’s interest, say racing. Each person has to think of a word starting with the last letter of the previous player’s word. For example, car, road, driver.
  7. Clap along to music – this activity teaches children about rhythm.
  8. Listen to audio books. Pause occasionally to discuss what’s happening – teaches vocabulary, written sentence structure and listening skills, which are underlying language skills used for reading comprehension.
  9. Speak like a robot, and count the syllables – see who can find the most words with a given number of syllables – learning to detect syllables in spoken words is an underlying skill for learning to read and spell.
  10. Play Simon says – Simon says develops attention and listening skills.
  11. Odd one out – give a list of items (start with 3) that belong to a category, and ask your child to say which is the odd one out. Have them explain their choice.
  12. Guess what it is – give a list of clues about a particular item, animal etc. For example, it’s got spots, it can run fast, it lives in Africa. The first person to guess what it is gets to give the next set of clues.
  13. Describe a simple picture to your child, one line at a time, without letting them see it. For example, put a large, upside down, half circle at the top of the page. From the left side, draw a line going straight down to the bottom of the page. When done, see if the drawing resembles the original picture. This game can be quite funny as each participant’s drawings are often very different. This teaches directional language, attention and listening skills, and develops working memory, which is needed to follow multistep instructions. If they’re able, allow your child to give the instructions while you draw.
  14. Practice and create tongue twisters. This teaches alliteration, a very helpful phonological awareness skill
  15. Create rhyming chains – start with a one syllable word, then take it in turns to name as many words as possible that rhyme with it. For very young children, you may choose to allow nonsense words. Once the chain is broken, start a new rhyme chain.

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