Sneaky Teacher: Bust Kids' Brain Drain While Running Errands, Driving in the Car

Tricks to sneak in learning to everyday activities, errands.

July 20, 2011— -- intro: Worried about your kid's brain melting in the summer heat? A day of running errands can be a great opportunity for parents to sneak in summer learning for kids. shares a few fun ideas for making the most out of your next trip to the grocery store, bank, bookstore and more -- plus, things you can do at home and great games to help keep kids' minds sharp in the car as you go from place to place.

quicklist: 1 title: At the Grocery Store or Farmers' Market text: Sounds Fishy: At the fish counter or deli department, ask the clerk if your child can help with the weighing and measuring. If you order half a pound of turkey breast, have your child tell you if you need more or less on the scale to meet that quantity. (MATH)

Ready, Set ... Shop: Divvy up your grocery list, and give each child his or her own specific products to track down. That will test their knowledge of the store's layout, their reading and math skills (reading the list, the labels and quantities). Plus, kids love knowing that they're a help in getting mom's and dad's errands done. (READING, MATH)

Observation Scavenger Hunt: Before your next trip to the farmers' market, plan a scavenger hunt for kids that requires specific observations. For example: Find a tomato that has the vine or a leaf attached, fruits or veggies in unusual colors, etc. (LANGUAGE ARTS, SCIENCE)

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quicklist: 2 title: At the Bookstore text: The Play's the Thing: Being able to retell a story is an essential reading comprehension skill, so encourage kids to act out a story they've recently read. Many bookstores offer seating and play areas. After you purchase your books, take a few extra minutes to read, and use the ride home to develop ideas for the play. (READING)

Family Affairs: Interview relatives about family history, then plot dates on a timeline of world history printed from the Internet. What was happening when your relatives first came to the U.S., got married, had kids and so forth? Look for scrapbooks designed for creating a family tree, or look for age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction books from your family's native country, the year in which grandparents were married, etc. (READING, HISTORY)

'Your Total Comes to ... : If using a gift card or their own money, have kids calculate if they'll have enough to buy the books they want. Bring along a calculator or a small notebook and have kids calculate how much change they'll receive or how much extra money he'll need. (MATH)

quicklist: 3 title: At the Bank text: How Would You Like That? Let's say you're withdrawing $50. Ask kids to determine all the different ways the teller could give you the money -- five $10 bills, 50 singles and so on. (MATH)

We're Rolling!: Roll spare change from around the house before heading to the bank, and have kids calculate the total. Have them come up with a few different ways the teller could distribute the bills.

quicklist: 4 title: At Home, Before You Go text: Make a Shopping List: Siblings can work together on this -- one can look through the fridge and pantry with mom to identify what needs to go on the list while the other writes them down.

Develop a Budget: Read through the weekly circular from the grocery store together to find good deals, and calculate how much certain purchases will come to (cherries are $3.99 a pound this week, and we need a half pound -- how much will the cherries cost?) (MATH, READING)

Draw a Map: Help familiarize kids with their town by identifying where each store is on the map. Have them plot a course for running the errands (grocery store should be last so the food stays fresh, so we can do the bank and the spice shop first) and have them calculate the distance from home to each store, between stores, and the total number of miles the trip should take. Can also use mom's smart phone for this. (GEOGRAPHY)

quicklist: 5 title: In the Car text:


Simon Says: Ask your child to touch his nose, kick up his leg, put his hands in the air and so on.

Look for...: Challenge your kids to find (with a little help from you) something in the car or outside the window that's in the shape of a square. Then try a circle, a triangle and so forth. Look for colors next, then sizes.


Scribble Art: Give all passengers a washable marker, paper and a hard surface to write on (use a book or lap tray). Have everyone draw one squiggly line on the paper, then trade with someone else. Now try to make a picture out of what's there. Can each of you guess what the other's drawing shows?

Twisty Creations: Pack a bag of pipe cleaners. What contraptions can your child invent?


You Don't Say ...: Make a list of words that no one's allowed to say, such as "car," "tree" and "dad." When someone utters a forbidden word, she has to entertain everyone else with a silly song or story tied into the day's errands (or some other "punishment" of your family's devising).

Repeat After Me: Have the youngest child in the car start by saying, "I have something in my pocket, and it's a _________" (she should fill in whatever object she wants). Each subsequent player repeats that sentence and adds an item to the list. The trick: You have to name every object in the correct order or you're out.

Dig for Digits: Pick a number -- as simple as 4 or as hard as 102 -- and see who can be the first to find it on a street sign, billboard, or license plate.

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