Child Development Via a Road Trip

Occasional long family road trip vacations are essential to proper child development. And parental development. I’m convinced, even more so after returning from a 2500-mile and 8-day car trip.

A Sense of Space and Time. Every child needs to see the country from the back seat of the car and travel for hours over vast open spaces to visually understand the size of the United States. The scale is just not the same from an airplane as it is from a car. We’re such old-school parents that we load up on library books or audio books instead of DVDs. That gives our children an even better grasp of the time it takes to travel across just one or two states. They actually have to look out the window once in a while. And we have to practice parental humility with our responses to the question, “How much longer?” when our guesstimate is wrong.

Lessons in Advertising. Every billboard on the trip out west seemed to alert my son to a new museum or amazing attraction. “We need to stop,” he would say. “We’ll see it on the way back,” we would answer. Can you guess that our trip home took longer than anticipated? Not that I begrudge the small towns along the interstate their 15 minutes of fame in my child’s mind or our gas dollars. Besides, they served an unintended purpose. The inevitable let-down when we did choose to stop at a tourist draw explained what we meant by “oversold” better than we ever could.

The Wildlife at Large. Just like the animals we viewed from the safety of our car or the spying we did on tourists around us, every angle of the road-tripping family is on display through the windows of an overstuffed vacation vehicle. How is that good, you may ask?  Let go of the boundaries of decorum, allow the lowest common manners to become the norm and everyone—including the worst perpetrators—will beg for their privacy and more readily respect ours when we finally return home again.


  1. Rebecca
    Aug 7, 2009

    Where did you go?

    Our family road tripped a lot when I was growing up. I actually now like driving for long stretches with nothing to do but think, sing, and talk.

  2. Terresa Wellborn
    Aug 7, 2009

    The first picture is a beauty, did you take it yourself? I expresses the vastness of open space and fields. Lovely.

  3. ph
    Aug 24, 2009

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