Travel Talk: Maximizing Listening and Language in the Car and Beyond!

Time spent traveling provides the perfect opportunity to expand your child’s vocabulary.

Many of us spend a lot of time on the move with our little ones, whether sitting in traffic or commuting to work, day care, audiology appointments, speech therapy sessions or other activities. Some families spend as much as two-to-three hours in the car, or on the bus or train a day! Use the language in these routines you do every day with your child such as preparing your bag to go and loading it into your vehicle.

Here are a few ideas to enrich your travel-time language routine:

Before you go:

  1. We’re going on an adventure! Before you go, tell your child where you’re going and list three or more memorable landmarks you’ll see on the way or once you arrive there. 
  2. Bring a laminated mini-experience book for your child to explore or talk about during the drive (your experience book could include pictures vehicles, animals, landmarks, signs or stores).
  3. Include siblings! Plan with everyone what you’ll do on your outing. Give older siblings a “job” to point out all the animals or vehicles seen on the way.

In the car/on your outing: 

  1. Sing songs! Have a familiar song inventory that you use at home and in the car (vehicle songs may include: “The Wheels on the Bus”, the airplane song, driving in our car). Make it easier for your child to sing along by practicing auditory closure for your child to fill in the blanks with keywords or phrasesThe Wheels on the Bus go ___ ___ ___”).
  2. What’s that sound? Point out audible sounds and name them.  “Listen! I hear a _____.” (motorcycles, sirens, beeps and construction tools/vehicles).
  3. I see a______! Talk about favorite signs, billboards and landmarks using lots of descriptive words (tall, skinny, huge or long).
  4. Red means STOP! Green means GO! Describe what traffic signs and signals mean.
  5. Link life with learning to listen sounds (“There is a bus! Bu bu bu. There goes the school bus. It’s a yellow bus.”) You could use the “auditory sandwich.”

When you get home:

If you see something new or exciting, relate it to other aspects of your child’s life when you get home. For example, if you got behind a school bus dropping kids off, look at your bus book that evening and talk about what you saw earlier that day.

Every second of listening counts, so make sure you are taking advantage of language opportunities while on the move with your child. Travel time presents new vocabulary and language that you don’t use at home. Learn how to think about and use language in your travel routines. See the LSL Day by Day: Travel Talk handout to help you start your trip.