11 Screen Free Activities For The Car

screen free raod trip activities My son loves baseball and my daughter loves ballet so what that means is that after you add in school, speech therapy, the gym, and errands some days we spend more time in the car than I ever dreamed I’d suffer through. Most days are not like this but when they are I don’t just want to grab the iPad and hand it back to my 4 year old. Sometimes she gets to use it in the car but it’s a rare treat. Instead I stick to these screen free activities and try to make being in the car on busy days low stress for everyone.

1. Talk.

I know this will seem obvious to some but sometimes parents and other caregivers aren’t sure what to talk to their kids about. We like to play a few different conversation starter games to keep things going. My favorite is ” Top 5! ” I will ask my kids to name their top five colors, top five books, top five silly words… you can narrow it down to top 2 for younger kids too. My daughter’s favorite is a word association game we named This & That. It’s a game where I say one thing and she says the first thing that pops in her mind. It often ends with super silly words but it keeps us all giggling and I use it to slip in new vocabulary words. Remember children that have rich vocabularies often face fewer hurdles when it comes time to learn to read.

2. Tell A Story.

I go back and forth sometimes I am into telling stories and sometimes I just want to focus on the road and sort through my day. If you are going to tell stories only do it when you are really engaged. We have many on going stories about a Prince and Princess who are siblings and often go one grand adventures. Sometimes I tell stories about my own life and my children adore hearing stories about me when I was their age. Have fun with this and don’t worry about not being “good” at it. Whatever you share they will love.

learning in the car on busy days

3. Books.

Can you see how dog eared that book is? It’s time for me to get a few new books in the car. I try to keep 3 for each child in the car and switch them out rotating new more exciting ones in when the novelty of the previous titles have worn off. My favorite books for the car are ones that kids can really dive into and for pre readers books like In The Town All Year Round is perfect because there are no words and so so much to look at.

4. Mini Chalk Boards

My daughter loves this for the car and not only do we use it to color on the chalkboard we also use it as a clip board for coloring. We made ours for a few bucks. Here is the tutorial.

5. SING!

I love to sing but I am terrible. I love musicals and spent many summers at drama camp as a teen and have dozens of songs memorized. I sing like I am on stage with adoring fans. My son will normally ask me when I will be done but my daughter listens like I am Patty Lupone singing Evita on stage. Singing boosts your mood so even if you sound like a tone deaf mule ( and I do!) take some requests from your kids and belt it out! If they want to join in the fun more the merrier!

learning in the car for preschoolers

6.  Coloring Sheets.

I have never been a huge fan of coloring sheets but after my daughter did some at the gym I printed some out for her. She loves them and unlike a plain piece of paper the novelty of the character she is coloring hooks her ! I have never used coloring sheets in a classroom and don’t imagine I ever would but for the car they are great tools!

7. Practice Letter sounds, spelling, math…

My daughter is just at the stage of literacy learning where she can segment and sound out simple words and is SUPER proud of herself when she does. So I will call out a word like cat or jar or fan and then together we try to figure out what sounds are in the word and what letters we will need to spell it. With my son I will call out math problems or words for him to spell.

8. Play 20 questions.

Do you remember this game? I love it and we play it all the time. With young children I have found that only using family members or good friends as the secret thing you are thinking about works great. So with my daughter we use family members and use yes or no questions to guess who she is thinking about or for her to guess who we are thinking about. Oh and even though the name of the game is 20 questions I don’t think I have ever bothered counting or restricting it to only 20.

9. Count Cars

Maybe my childhood was just a simple Canadian one or maybe I was a typical 2nd child dragged out in the car to go to all my older sister’s and my own activities. I used to count cars all the time. I’d make a bet with my mom or dad something like ” I bet I will see 4 yellow cars before we get to Main street!” after that was done I’d move on to another.

10. Have a compliment circle in the car.

This is something my son brought home from school this year. We all sit together and share the things we love and appreciate about each other. Each person says one thing about everyone else.This is a great way to re-group on a busy day. It’s much easier to crank up the music and ignore the whining than it is to reign it in and turn it into something positive but if you have the energy try this and don’t sweat the days when the best thing for everyone is to crank the music and rock out for some much needed sanity!

learning and having fun on busy days

11. Get some fresh air between stops!

Is there a small park between preschool and the grocery store? Can you hang out at preschool on the playground before you hit the next stop on your to do list? Even 5 minutes of climbing and zooming down slides will make a huge difference in your child’s mood. I know that for my kids the more fresh air they get the easier bedtime is so even if it slows down your must do list it’s worth it. Above is my daughter balancing in the gym parking lot yesterday which was a busy day of must do things I wish I could have put off but couldn’t. Still taking an extra 2 minutes to let her show me how well she could balance and to challenge herself to go further than she ever had before helped the day feel less about being dragged around and more about play.

I use technology with my kids too. Just today my daughter played a Daniel Tiger App on the iPad while I had a conference call. My hope isn’t that posts like this make anyone feel guilty about using technology but that they remind parents ( and yes I am reminding myself too) that there are lots of low tech ways to engage your kids even on those high stress stuck in the car days. Hopefully this helps all of us find a balance that works for our kids.

Help Manage Separation Anxiety with a Simple DIY Photo Book

separation anxiety tools for kidsWhen I stared this blog I never dreamed it would become my job or that I would go to conferences and speak about blogging to other bloggers. This week I am heading to BlogHer in San Jose to lead a writing lab about brainstorming. As I prepare I can see that my daughter is getting a little anxious. Over the years I have made different little activities for my children when I go away like this Kissing Hand Necklace and Mailbox Activity. I decided to make a little photo book because my daughter has always found peace in photos. When  she gets upset looking at photos of family has always helped her calm down. You can use this same tutorial for any kind of book not just one for when you are separated from your children.

Gather your materials. You will need some self laminating sheets ( or a laminator), photos or print outs of photo collages ( I used picmonkey.com to make mine) , a hole punch, scissors, and a small binder ring.separation anxiety

Start by making collages in a 4×6 size. As I said above I used picmonkey.com to make these because I like how easy it is to add text to the collages. When we are apart page layoutThis is the text I added :

Even if you aren’t tight in my arms, you are snug in my heart. My love for you is just the same when we are apart.

When I am gone build with cars and Lego, say hi to the deer, take care of your babies, and get some fro-yo.

When I am gone I am going to ride in a taxi, wait at the airport, fly on a plane, listen to speakers, teach some other bloggers, and see Ms. Maya.

If you miss me while I am gone look at all these photos and know that love can stretch all the way across the world.

My heart is always filled with you and I will hold your hand again in a few days.

Mama loves you no matter how far apart we are.

Create a cover page.

when we cover

Print them out and trim to a 4×6 sizephoto book tutorial

Use the self laminating sheets and laminate the photos. This step was SUPER easy and I picked up these sheets at RiteAid.photo book for kids

Time to punch the holes!photo book for children

Add the ring.when we are apart photo book for kids

Read the book.when we are part book for anxious kids I had my husband read the book to my daughter and I will read it to her many many times before I leave so that it’s familiar. We will talk about each photo and tell stories about them as well. I find it really helpful to tell my children what I will be doing while I am away as well. I never say I won’t miss them, instead I always say I will and then tell them how I handle the emotions and ask them how they do. Giving them control and not telling them what to do has always helped my children feel empowered with hard emotions. I love when they explain to me how they conquered something hard.  I also find the following books very helpful when dealing with any sort of separation anxiety.

Books For Separation Anxiety

All book lists include affiliate links.


The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.

Owl Babies

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is perfectly written for toddlers who are eager to “do it myself” but still need a loving parent safely within view.  Three baby owls wake to find their mom away and as time passes the three all get more anxious in their own ways. My daughter loves this book and completely related to poor little Bill who repeats ” I want my mommy!” over and over.  At night she is very much like little Bill, but during the day she is braver like the other two owls Sarah and Percy. No matter what level of separation anxiety your child may have at times they will relate to one or all of the little owls. Of course the story ends with mama coming back and reassuring her little owl babies that she always will.

mama always comes home

Mama Always Comes Home by Karma Wilson was a last minute grab at the library that I am so thankful I saw. It starts off with animal mother’s leaving their babies, for all different reasons . A bird gathering food, a dog greeting his master and more. The animal mothers leave, but they also always return to their babies. Then it switches to a child and mother. She reassures the child that she will be back and we watch her leave, and return . I loved this book because my son isn’t the best when I leave him, he related to this book immediately and was repeating ” Mama always comes home!” half way through. { I originally reviewed this in 2009 and have since read it many times to my daughter who also needed those gentle reminders that I would always return. }

10 Things To Pack In Your Carry On If You Have Little Kids.


carry on must haves for family travelLike many of you we are preparing for holiday travel and when our good friends at Little Pim asked us to share with you why we like their products so much one of the first things that came to mind for me was how awesome they are for travel.  We restrict screen time at home but when we are on a plane for hours our goal is everyone arrives happy and hopefully in the same clothes they left in. Little Pim and other must have carry- on items help us achieve that goal. So here is my list of 10 things to make a plane ride more peaceful with your preschooler.

1. Snacks. I pack a big bag of snacks with varying degrees of interest for my kids. There are protein bars , crackers, squishers, and more treats like fruit snacks. I am not opposed to bribery if the situation calls for it. I am opposed to spending three times the amount I would at the grocery store at an airport shop. Even if bribery isn’t normally your thing kids can be unpredictable when under stress and traveling is stressful for a lot of kids, so being ready for anything isn’t a bad idea.

2. Good books that let fidgety kids move – lift the flap books for young preschoolers, coloring books , or choose your own adventure ones. Books that have just a titch of extra novelty can be the tipping point to sitting still and getting engaged while they are stuck in a seat. If you normally read to your kids before bed/ nap and you want them to sleep on the plane going through their regular routine on the plane is super helpful.

3.A tablet or iPod.  For our family the rule is read first then screen. On the plane this isn’t just my tactic for less screen time it’s a battery saving tactic too.  Before getting on board clear off any apps you don’t want your kids using ( pop them into the cloud) and have only educational ones like Little Pim’s Spanish App for iPad , Kindle or NOOK or their Word Bag App for iPhone/iPod .

4. Headphones made for kids to listen to music or use with devices like a tablet or iPod.

5. A buddy to snuggle with. I know it’s scary to think of losing your child’s lovey but if they nap or sleep with it usually take the risk and bring it along it can help your child feel secure and calm.

 6. Extra undies, and pants, and shirts, and tights… you get my point. I usually pack PJs because they are all in one and easy to squish into a side pocket.

 7.  A plain notebook and writing instruments washable markers and crayons are our favorite. Drawing to music is fun and quiet. If you are nervous about letting your kids color on the plane you could use a coloring book app like this one instead.

8. Stickers. They are cheap , promote fine motor skills and you can use them to make up stories, make pictures for whoever is at the arrival gate picking you and your tired kids up, or just free art time.

9. Extra plastic bags. I usually stick 8 Ziplocs in various sizes in my bag. They hold wet/soiled clothes, half eaten snacks, my hand sanitizer after someone broke the lid off… the uses are endless just trust me when you need one and it’s handy you’ll thank me.

10. Wipes. I know wipes are terrible for the environment but they are so great for travel. They can wipe faces, bums, are gentle on a raw runny nose ,and if the flight is terrible and you end up in tears you can use them to take off your mascara before it runs to your chin.


BONUS- A good night’s sleep. For days before you go even if you are scrambling to get ready while maintaining your already busy schedule, make sure your little ones are getting enough rest.


What is in your carry-on when you travel with your kids?


As stated above this post has been sponsored by Little Pim but the research was done by me on many flights with my two kids!


Make Family Road Trips Educational

road trip tipsWe are preparing to head off on our annual trip to the Oregon Coast in a few weeks and I have been filling up my Pinterest boards with ideas. It got me thinking about how parents can make family road trips educational at the same time as making them more fun for everyone in the car.  Do not miss the awesome sweepstakes below – Little Pim language learning for kids has sponsored this post as well as the sweepstakes.


1. A sense of humor. I have to make this number one because no one can have fun or learn a thing if everyone in the car is at each others’ throats. So pack an extra helping of patience and lots of laughs because unless you really want to stop at every exit to carry out the empty threats you are throwing into the back seat, it’s more productive to let the little things slide.


2. Books about where you are going. Before you leave, head to the library and search for books about where you are going. Don’t limit yourself to the children’s section either; you might find some wonderful books with great images in the adult section too.


3. Apps. I am not a huge fan of too much screen time, but while traveling I loosen that considerably. What I don’t loosen up on is the quality. I would much rather have my kids learn a new language, read a book on a tablet, or work on math skills.


4. Travel chalkboards. Use them to play hangman, practice drawing road signs, play tic tac toe and more. Bring a plastic cup full of chalk to put in your cup holder. Here’s a tutorial for making your own.


5. Counting games. Count red cars, count Starbucks, count construction zones…the sky is the limit, and this requires absolutely nothing extra in your car.


6. Stop and read the historical markers. If there are more questions after reading them, use your smart phone to find out more as you continue on your way.


7. Audio books. Local libraries have fantastic collections of audio books. To take the learning even further, hand your kids copies of the book to follow along.


8. Foreign language music CDs. My kids have been specifically asking for the Little Pim Spanish CD even though I am trying to get them to listen to the French one. They love it. Music is a great way to learn languages, and a long road trip is a perfect time to listen.


9. Play alphabet games. If you need a new variation of the old classic check out my post on Scholastic Parents with some fun new twists.


10. Tell stories. In our family we have a whole slew of ongoing made up stories. We all take turns, and to listen to your child make up stories is not only educational but entertaining too!


What is your best road trip tip? Add it in comments and we will keep this list growing. You can see great travel, parenting and of course language learning tips on Little Pim’s Pinterest boards.

NOW CLOSED Now for the Sweepstakes!

little pim giveaway

My friends at Little Pim love travel as much as I do and are partnering with me to giveaway one of their Deluxe Language Gift Sets in the language of the winner’s choice ( The Spanish set is shown above) . You can check out all the languages here. Click the link below to enter.


Enter For A Chance To Win


Official Rules
This sweepstakes is open to American residents 18 years or older. To be eligible for the sweepstakes you must enter your name,  and email address in this Google document .  1 winning entry will be drawn at random, using Random.org, after the sweepstakes closes on July 27th at 8:00pm PST. The winner will receive one Deluxe Gift Set from Little Pim valued at approx. $85 After the winner is notified he or she has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address for shipping their prize or another winner will be chosen at random. No purchase necessary.The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Any information gathered through the sweepstakes including email and postal addresses will not be used in anyway other than contacting winners and shipment of winnings.   VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
This post was sponsored by Little Pim.

{Travel Solutions}Lego Crazy Action Contraptions

We live a few hours and a sometimes long border wait away from my parents and while they have picked up a toy here and there they don’t have a lot for my kids to do other than TV. My kids always want to pack a million of their toys and I end up saying no to nearly every request ( there is only so much room for toys) and not packing enough. Most of the day it’s OK , we bake cookies with my mom, garden and then the ” I’m bored , can I play on your phone?” starts. This time though I was smarter.

As a member of Klutz Crew I got to choose a few fun titles to check out and I have been saving this Lego Crazy Action Contraptions book for this trip. Before we packed up the car I slipped it in my son’s suitcase.Oh and I suggested he wear his Klutz Crew tee-shirt too and he still had no clue I had something in store for him later today! 

This book/ kit is perfect because everything you need to build 16 different projects neatly fits in this one easy to hide in a suitcase package. The instructions are bound and have great detailed instructions with easy to follow pictures for readers and non readers. Let’s face it as excited to see the kids as grandparents are they aren’t 25, heck I am not 25 anymore and I am exhausted after a trip. Having something new, easy to travel with and so easy to follow that it requires next to no help is nothing short of a blessing.

So how did it go when I did give it to him? I told him I needed something from his suitcase.

Think he was excited?

Check it out for yourself.

He chose to make a Wall Rocket Racer and it took only a few minutes to make , required one bit of help from me and then he was shooting it off the walls in my parents house and having a ball. He has already chosen which project he’s going to build next!

What toys do you pack for your kids when traveling to see family or friends that don’t have kids?


Follow Klutz Books on Facebook and browse all their titles on their website.

I am a Klutz  Crew brand ambassador and am compensated for my work with the company. All opinions are mine. As always I only work with companies professionally that I would recommend personally.