From the pages of I RVing: Fall 2022

Little Navigators

The open road is a natural training ground for kids to learn how to find their way.


Among a generation of tiny faces glued to tiny screens, they grow up with the wind in their hair and new horizons dancing across the dash. And the more time they spend traveling with you, the more interested they get in the journey itself. (You should count that as a huge parenting victory.) To make the most of that enthusiasm, introduce them to the responsibility of riding shotgun: navigation. Helping develop their orientation skills on and off the road will give them lots of confidence—and extend their attention spans down the road.


Our world has mostly moved past paper maps, but it’s a very useful skill to have in the passenger seat. (Not all mountains come with Wi-Fi!) An easy place to start teaching kids is with Rand McNally’s Easy To Fold maps. Heavy lamination keeps them from tearing—and you can even draw out your route with a marker. Let your kids track interstates, highways, and directions of travel. As you drive, ask them, “What’s next?” so that they watch for road signs and upcoming exits on the map.


Whether they’re in the RV or camping under the night sky, your kids will have great fun spotting constellations. Off-grid, it’s teaching them a survival skill. And you don’t have to be Uncle Walt’s learned astronomer to teach the kids to find Orion (a man), Cassiopeia (a big W), or the Big and Little Dippers (the latter with its ever-helpful North Star). Once the kids get comfortable finding the North Star, ask them, “So which direction are we going?” or “Which way is camp?”


Kids are great at noticing stuff … but not always the important stuff. They are kings of and queens of distraction. (Which is awesome for some really weird convos.) But kids also love discovery. Like a lot. So when you’re hiking give them some markers to look for that will help them take better note of their surroundings. Point out different terrain features and distinct markers along the path. As you go, ask the kids, “How did we get here?” and see what they remember.


Letting a little one take the lead on the trail can be a lot of fun, and the AllTrails app is a perfect place to start. It has access to over 100,000 trails, and it’s easy enough for a kid to use. Simply search the trail you want, check the stats (difficulty, length, elevation gain, route type, and user rating), and then let your little explorer run point as you play follow the tiny leader. With the
AllTrails app, you can go full Peter Pan without becoming a Lost Boy.


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