Planning a family road trip this month? When you want your child to take a tech break, here are some engaging language activities that require little preparation and are sure to bring out the giggles:

Tell Me a Word That Rhymes With…

Phonological skills—rhyming, syllabication, blending, and segmenting—are vital “playing with sound” skills for reading and spelling success. Try some summer theme words to practice rhyming skills. See how many rhyming words your child can generate for your target word. Nonsense words are allowed! For example:

Pool: stool, rule, fool, school, spool

Ice: mice, twice, rice, price, slice

Sunny: bunny, honey, money, funny, runny

Sandy:  Andy, handy, Mandy, candy

Ocean: potion, lotion, commotion, emotion, locomotion

We’re Going on a Vacation….

This classic working memory game practices initial letter sounds. Take turns naming an object for each letter of the alphabet to put in the imaginary suitcase. The challenge is that you have to remember all the objects from the players ahead of you—in alphabetical order—before adding your object with the next letter. Some children may need a sound prompt or an alphabet chart for sequencing. Hint: the more outlandish the word, the easier it is to remember! An example:

I’m going on a vacation and I packed….an apple.

I’m going on a vacation and I packed…an apple and a beach ball.

I’m going on a vacation and I packed… an apple, a beach ball, and a caterpillar.

I’m going on a vacation and I packed… an apple, a beach ball, a caterpillar, and a donut.

I’m going on a vacation and I packed…an apple, a beach ball, a caterpillar, a donut, and an eggplant….


This is a high-spirited game for practicing word retrieval and letter sounds. Choose a category and a letter sound and have your child name as many words for the criteria as he or she can in a given time limit. Or, make teams so kids can double or triple their points in a collaborative manner. They can shout out the words or write them down. You can even add in a time limit for some extra excitement! In keeping with the summer theme, here are some examples:

Things you find on the beach that begin with “s”: sand, shell, surfers, sandcastle, seagulls, sunglasses…

Picnic foods that begin with “p”: pickle, pretzels, peach, plum, papaya, popcorn…

Action words that begin with “s”: swim, sip, slide, skate, sail, surf…

Places to go that begin with “c”: campground, coast, Cape Cod, Camden, carnival, cookout…

Ice cream flavors that begin with “r”: raspberry swirl, rocky road, red velvet, rum raisin, rainbow…

Word Jumble

Practice spelling skills with this oldie but goodie. Select a long word or phrase, and have a contest to see how many smaller words you can make using the letters. The words must be real! Kids (and adults) of all levels can play this game; it’s a great one to try when you are waiting in a restaurant. Expand it by having kids use the challenging words in a sentence, or ask them to name a synonym or antonym for one of their words. Some examples:

Vacation: tin, vain, coin, into, tonic, vacant

Humidity: hit, yum, thud, tidy, duty, timid

Sailing: gal, nag, ail, sling, nail, signal

Lobster: belt, rest, rose, store, sorbet, bolster

Summertime: must, meet, strum, timer, tiers, emeritus

Of course, reading aloud to your child—in the car, before bedtime, at the beach, anywhere and everywhere—is the best way to build vocabulary and a love of reading. Happy trails!


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