Since I became a mother I’ve read a few articles on how to connect with your teenager. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s a little ways away, but with every year that goes by it feels oh so much closer. The one thing I always see over and over in these articles is that the car can be a “safe” place to have conversations with your kid, mainly because they aren’t being forced to engage in face-to-face conversation.
Emily has never been much of a voluntary talker in the car. So it got me wondering – how do I encourage Emily to talk more now so that when she grows we can converse more easily? How can I show her that we can have interesting and fun conversations without pressure, without fear of being laughed at or judged?
The answer: Car Games. Silly little random games that Emily and I make up together that get us laughing and talking together. I started when she was about 4 years old, and we’ve gone through a few different games, typically phasing out an old game and inventing a new one with each new school year.
- At 4 years old, Emily was in LOVE with school buses. So we started yelling, “SCHOOL BUS!” anytime we saw one while driving. During the school year the game evolved into yelling out the size, shape, type, and color. By the end of the year we began counting them.
- In Kindergarten when she was 5 she was learning about titles, main characters, setting, villains, problems, and solutions. So we took turns giving any or all of these components, and the other would have to create a story using the given details. For example, I might tell Emily that the main character was a bee, the villain was a flower, and the title was The Sun was SO Hot, and she would create a story using those details.
- Last year when she was 6 we expanded on Banana Wagon, a game we learned from her friend Ashley. Basically, whenever you see a yellow car you yell out, “Banana Wagon!” One day Emily saw a purple car and called it a Purple Dragon. This is how Banana Wagon, Purple Dragon was born. We now have a long list of funny names or words we yell out for all the different colors. Some of our favorites are Aqua Auto, Orange Juice, and Bubblegum. We’ve even come up with names for 2-color cars (green + black = Poison Dart Frog, and white + pink = Cute Little Bunny).
- This year, we’ve just started a new game, Would You Rather….? This one is her new favorite, and it definitely requires creative thinking. We ask each other questions like: Would you rather pick one hundred tiny flowers or chop down one enormous flower? The catch is that you have to explain your answer. I’m eager to see where this one goes, since I think it could eventually lead to some moral-based questions (what would you do if someone asked you to steal for them?).
The games have really helped us to have fun in the car while running errands and going on trips, and I love that it gives us something to talk about. Sometimes seeing a funny-shaped bus or knowing that Mommy would rather eat 50 ants than one grasshopper leg smothered in chocolate can break the ice for more interesting conversations.
Here’s hoping these conversations continue to those teen years!