Like many families, we enjoy a good road trip. And more often than not, we do not bring along any digital support. That’s right, no portable DVD players, handheld video games or the like are found on our road trips. Instead, we rely on each other and the world outside the car window for entertainment.
If you need a little inspiration to get on board with this idea, you’re not alone. Which is why I came up with these simple ways to make long drives feel short with nature connections:
Watch for wildlife.
We routinely drive what we lovingly call “one of the longest stretches of nothingness” in California (Interstate 5 for those in the know) to visit family in the Bay area. On our last visit, we decided to pay attention to wildlife. In addition to a ton of cows, we also spotted horses, sheep and numerous different kinds of birds – all animals we don’t get to see at home.
Look for new-to-you flowers and trees.
This works well along Interstate 5, which is covered with roadside crops. We try to guess what’s growing on the ground and on the trees. Who can find the tallest, or fullest, tree? The most flowers?
Play car window nature bingo.
Thanks to the folks at National Wildlife Federation for creating this nature-themed bingo game. Kids are inspired to look for birds, butterflies, bridges, flowers and more. There are four different cards, just in case the kids (or you) want to compete.
Make handprints on the window.
This is a special treat for the kids because it’s something they don’t normally get to do. They especially like making handprints, sticks (to count with), cars and even words or names.Take in nature during rest stops.
Little legs need stretching, so rest stops are a given. Use the opportunity to take a look around, or a listen, to see what nature you can discover. We’ve seen bunnies, heard owls – even spotted lightening in the far-off distance.
Do some cloud watching.
Look for animals, shapes, objects and whatever else your imagination can dream up. And ask questions: How fast are the clouds moving? Are they white, gray or black? Do they look heavy with rain or puffy like cotton?
Experience a sunset.
Sunset is a peaceful time – a time to slow down for the several minutes it takes to watch the sky go from day to evening. The last time we tried this, we all guessed how long it would take for the sky to go completely dark after the sun went down.
Gaze at the moon & stars.
With few stars usually visible in the night sky from our backyard, this is one of our favorite road trip activities. We stare out the sky and try to name the constellations. We count the number of stars we see and pick out the biggest and brightest.
For more on family travel, there are lots of helpful tips in my post on nature travel advice for families. I also regularly update my family travel board on Pinterest with all the best on traveling with kids from around the web.
* This post originally appeared on GoExploreNature.com.