There’s nothing better than sharing the things you love with your kids, but if you’re anything like me, your hobbies might not appeal to the younger generation. Why would your kids want to get their hands dirty pulling apart an engine when they can spend all day playing video games, right? Luckily, I can tell you from experience that it’s not impossible to get your kids interested in cars. Here are a few tricks I’ve used to engage my own kids and help make them more interested in getting under the hood in the future.
Start With Toys
Toys can be the best way to introduce kids to a new subject, especially for younger kids who might not enjoy it any other way. Cars are one of the most popular toys, so it’s easy to find everything from $0.98 Hot Wheels cars to a full toy engine for your kids to rebuild. While Hot Wheels cars might not teach them how to change their oil or switch out a flat tire, they’re still a great way to foster a kid’s love for cars.
Just make sure you get a good way to store or organize smaller cars or car parts. Stepping on a Hot Wheels car in the middle of the night is almost as bad as stepping on a Lego!
Make It a Game
Every car on the road has its own unique logo. Why not turn them into a game the next time you’re on a road trip? Spend a little bit of time memorizing the logos with your kids, and make a game of naming them off when you’re out on the road. Not only is it a great tool to keep your kids entertained on long trips — which is worth its weight in gold by itself — but it also shows them how the various models on the road are different. Seeing them out on the road seems to have more of an impact than just looking them up on the computer.
If memorizing car logos seems like a chore, you could always play other games like “That’s My Car.” Basically, during your drive you claim the coolest car you see. The rules are simple — you can only claim one car during the drive, and the car has to be in sight when you claim it. Then, once you reach your destination, your group gets to decide whose car is coolest. Whoever claimed the coolest car is the winner and gets bragging rights until the next car trip.
Get Them Involved
My own kids love to help out when I’m working on the car. The youngest handles little stuff like pulling the valve caps off the tires when we need to air them up, while the oldest is learning to identify the tools I need to hand them to me. They also love to help with simple stuff like oil changes and air filters. What kid doesn’t love to get dirty?
If you’ve gotten to a point where your car has to go to the shop, take them along! While your car is up on the lifts, stand in a safe area and point out what the mechanics are doing to your car.
If you’ve got older kids who are reaching that point where they’re going to be getting their driving permit, a crash course in basic car maintenance is a must. Personally, I don’t think anyone should get behind the wheel of the car without knowing how to check the oil and change the air filter, no matter how old they are. According to a parental survey, two out of three teen drivers wouldn’t know how to change a tire if you smacked them with a lug wrench.
Go to Auto Museums
If you live in the US, chances are you’re close to an auto museum. Michigan alone has 18 of them! If you haven’t been to a museum in awhile, don’t worry, many of them have kept up with technology and have several exhibits that both kids and adults will enjoy. You’ll like reading the history, and they’ll like playing the games and seeing the animated videos. Be on the lookout for family-friendly events, too. For example, the auto museum in Hershey, PA has a night where you can build your own Hershey Kissmobile.
If you travel, check ahead of time to see what’s around you. Going abroad? You’ll find even more, including the Audi Museum, Porsche Museum, and Mercedes Museum, all in Germany. Your kids will get a kick out it all, and start to get an appreciation for all the cars that were around before they were born.
Enjoy the Entertainment
Car shows, games and movies are an awesome way to get kids involved, no matter how old they are. For smaller kids, Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” series is a great way to introduce them to the world of car racing and cars in general. You can’t go wrong with talking cars, after all. For older kids and teens, the “Fast & Furious” series is a fast-paced, car-centric series that spends as much time focusing on the amazing top-of-the-line engines as it does the actual plot.
Racing games are also a great way to get a feel for some of the more exotic cars and foster a love of racing culture. Just make sure you’re checking the ESRB rating for your younger kids — even if they’re car related, M-rated games are a bit excessive for younger audiences. Looking at you, Grand Theft Auto. I know I have very fond memories of Crusin’ USA and Midtown Madness.
If you can make it interesting, kids will get excited about just about anything. Even if all they’re learning is basic car maintenance, it is a skill that will serve them throughout their lives. Let them get involved with your next project or repair, and you might find they take to being a grease-monkey even faster than you could imagine.