Car rides. Have you ever thought about how many hours, days, weeks, and months of your kids’ childhoods you spend driving them places? Of course you’ve thought about it – and complained about it! Well, here are the hard numbers just in case you haven’t gone through the calculations. If you’re in the car with them 45 minutes each day, that’s a full 24-hour day (or 3 full 8-hour workdays) every month spent commuting with your kids! The soon-to-be released book, No Regrets Parenting – Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012) has many, many creative and fulfilling ways to spend those precious hours you have with your kids while you and they are captive audiences, strapped into your seat belts, with no escape. One that I particularly like is the “License Plate Game.”

There are many variations on this game. Here are a few:

  1. Give your kids a notepad and pen, and have them “collect” license plate numbers. The goal is to find the highest number (or lowest number), the first letters in the alphabet (or the last letters) during each trip. They read the license plates of passing cars and call out the numbers and letters to you as they write them down, keeping you posted on how well they are doing towards finding “AA 1” (the holy grail of license plate gets during my own childhood days of playing the game; my brother and I never found that plate, but got close with “AA 12”). You can play too, but only when paused at a stoplight – keep your eyes on the road while driving! Extend the game beyond each separate commute by “carrying over” the best license number from this trip to the next, trying to get ever closer to the elusive goal you and your kids set. Make sure you report the success of your hunt at dinner.
  2. License plate poker – collect (or compete for) “best hands” for each trip. AJP 224 would be a pair of 2s an ace and a jack.
  3. License plate birthdays – find the numeric combination, in the right sequence, for your own birthdays or those of people you know. The numbers 223 appearing on a plate would be February 23. Who do you know that was born on February 23?
  4. Collect people’s initials – WBP is William Bradley Pitt (yes, that Brad Pitt).
  5. Combine #3 and #4 above – find a person’s initials matched with their birthday on the same plate! Brad’s birthday is December 18, 1963, so you’d need to find WBP 121863 – most plates don’t have that many letters and numbers. So settle for BP 1218, or BP 1263).

The time you spend with the kids in the car (Remember, 3 full workdays every month!) can be intimate minutes and hours of joking, learning, and gentle competing. Don’t waste that time.

Add your suggestions for creative car trips. How do you make driving with the kids a memorable experience? Share your suggestions  by clicking on the title of this post and adding your thoughts  in the comments box that appears below the post.

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