As this posts this morning, my family is on our way home from our annual trek to Denver to visit my husband's dad. We are traveling across the great state of Kansas on our way home. If you've never traveled by car across the Kansas plains, let me fill you in on a little secret -- you're not missing much. The land is flat and dotted with farms pretty much from the time you leave Denver until you reach Salina. There's really not much to see.
Let me tell you another secret -- I hate riding in the car. I'm worse than the kids. I grew up in New England where you could cross six states in about three hours. It just didn't take that long to get anywhere, so I never learned to sit in the car for endless hours. My dad traveled a lot, so if we were going someplace outside New England, we flew on his frequent flier miles. My philosophy on taking a trip is "Why drive when you can fly?"
However, neither my husband nor I currently possess jobs that provide us with frequent flier miles or enough money to fly everywhere we want to go, so we drive. So far this summer, we've been through portions of seven states on our two vacations. We've spent about 50 hours traveling in the car. As you can guess from what I've just told you, I can't wait to get home.
When we were traveling out to Denver, God prodded me to realize that I'm not taking advantage of the time I have in the car with my family to point out the great variety in God's creation. A car trip is a great opportunity to not only share the beauty of God's creation with your family but is also a great time to connect with your kids. After all, you're all pretty much trapped together in the car. You might as well use the time wisely. So, the next time you're on a car trip, try some of these ideas to pass the time. You might learn something about your kids and you just might have a great time.
- Don't miss out on the scenery. Even in the plains of Kansas, there's something to point out about God's creation. Genesis 1:31 tells us "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." That means that even the flat land of Kansas that I find so uninteresting is part of God's good plan. On the way home, I plan to point out to my kids that even though the land may not seem exciting, Kansas provides us all with wheat, which makes our bread. Cows and pigs are also part of the Kansas landscape that help to feed us. God knew that we would need large plots of flat land on which to grow our food, so He provided it. It's all part of how He cares for us.
- Play the alphabet game -- with a twist. In the alphabet game, everyone tries to find the letters of the alphabet in order on the highway signs you pass. As you find a letter, you call it out. In this game, you still try to find the letters of the alphabet, but each person is assigned another person in the car. As you call out the letters, you have to yell out the letter and an attribute that starts with that letter that applies to the person you've been assigned. For example, "A is for amazing at math." Set the rules so each attribute has to be a good one. Remind your kids that Ephesians 4:29 tells us that we want our words to build each other up, and this is one way to do that.
- Play 20 Questions. This is another familiar game but one that will let you focus on learning a little bit about your kids and what they think is important. Start with a topic, say favorite breakfast cereals, and have the person who is going to answer the questions think of their favorite breakfast cereal. Everyone else asks yes or no questions about the cereal to try to figure out the answer. Continue the round until everyone has gone. For the next round, choose a different topic that will delve into learning more about your kids. Question categories could include favorite school subjects, things they don't like to do, things that we struggle with or don't think we're good at. If your child is having a tough time with a certain issue but doesn't like to open up about it, work it into the game and see if a discussion doesn't develop. Take the time to query your kids about the things they chose as answers to the questions and offer some godly advice if the situation warrants.
- Have a "Great Things God Put in (whatever state you're traveling through)" scavenger hunt. Before you leave home, think about the things you think you will see on your trip. Create a basic scavenger hunt list (words or pictures) for each child. Give it to them at the beginning of the trip and see who can find the most things on the list while on your trip. Talk about the things on the list and what makes them special and why God might have put those things in that state.
- Read a great book together. Time in the car is a great time for a read-aloud. Choose a book that will foster some discussion within your family. Maybe you are working on a particular character quality or behavior this summer. Find a book that deals with that issue and read it in the car. Talk about the book. Before you leave home, find some scriptures that deal with the topic and work them into the conversation.
With a little planning and a better attitude than I usually take on my car trips, you can have a pleasant ride, good conversation and everyone might learn a little something about God and each other. Have a great trip.