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Science in the Car or on the Bus: Babies & Toddlers

carseatCar or bus rides provide some of the best opportunities for engaging your child in conversation about both the natural and man-made world. As you look out the window there is so much to see and wonder about! You and your child can discuss the weather, the moon, rock formations and rivers; and man-made features such as tunnels, roads and buildings. Next time you take a drive, expose even the littlest passengers to scientific concepts and go far with car science!

Time to talk: When you are focused on driving, it isn’t easy to know what your child is looking at from his car seat in the back. But, driving still presents a good time for building language. Don’t hesitate to talk to your child about the things you see outside the window even if you can’t tell what he’s looking at. If sitting together on a bus you can point things out to him as you talk. Describe the weather, interesting shapes of things like buildings and other structures and landforms that are easily visible, with comments such as “Look at those dark clouds; it looks like it might rain,” or “This is a wide river that we’re crossing on this bridge.”

Describing motion: The time in a vehicle is also an opportunity to support the language of motion, such as going up and down hills, feeling pushed to one side or another as you go around a curve, driving faster or slower, and describing road surfaces based on how they feel, such as bumpy or smooth. Describe what the child may feel with statements like “I feel like I’m leaning backwards as we are going up this steep hill!” Or, as the car is turning, “I feel like I’m leaning way to the side!”

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