Make Family Road Trips Educational { sweepstakes }

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 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.

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Enter For A Chance To Win

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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.

Geography Game For Kids

geography lesson

My husband and I traveled a lot internationally before kids and we want to share our love and curiosity for other countries with our kids. Like many with young kids we aren’t up to taking them to all these places just yet. Instead we read lots of books , look at lots of pictures ( our own and others) and play games like this one that GASP uses flash cards . This geography game for kids is so simple and will spark your child’s wanderlust!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a globe or map, and some fun geography flash cards.
  2. Start by having your child pick a card. Ask them by looking at the picture where they think it might be. Wild guesses or close calculations are wqually good, this is all about exploring from your own playroom, not getting facts “right”.
  3. Flip it over and find out where it is.
  4. Next find it on the map.
  5. Keep going as long as it’s fun.
  6. Beware for wee sisters who swipe the landmarks.

Silhoutte Map

We love maps and we need wall art for the playroom in our new house. So we made some. I would love to say this project is easy but that would be a big fat lie. The painting is easy but the cutting is not.  As you may notice  below our contact paper on our Canadian one wasn’t pressed down perfectly and now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are  islands . Ooops.  It was still a chance to talk about geography , look at maps and cover the poor beaten up kitchen table with paint .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some pre prepared canvases ( we got ours at Walmart), some paint, dishes for the paint, sponges or bath poofs for painting, sharp fine scissors, painters tape, vinyl letters , contact paper, print outs of maps and patience if you are the one cutting.
  2. Start by talking about borders and why countries have them. For really young kids use your yard as an example of borders, for older ones try adding in how each country has it’s own government who governs only within those borders. If you have ever crossed a border with your kids talk about that. Choose which country to turn into art ,and print out an outline .
  3. Cut your contact paper So it’s slightly larger than your map. Tape your map to the paper on the backing side.  I the taped it to my table with painters tape so it was stable when I cut it. I left one side not taped and rotated as I cut.
  4. When it’s all taped I peeled and stuck it to to canvas. Press hard.
  5. Add the vinyl letters. I asked my son “How do you spell USA?” and I got the sassiest teen eye roll as he pointed out the letters on the sheet. Not sure if I am proud or appalled.
  6. Add paint to a dish or dishes if you are using multiple colors.
  7. Start painting.  I have discovered that when painting a resist painting like these with stickers, contact paper and vinyl you want to use sponges, bath poofs or other painting tools that are soft and unable to get under the stencil and lift it like a brush could. I use washable paint for this because I have kids doing it, but to make the finished product last longer you could use less kid friendly paints too.
  8. We made Canada too – although the cutting was harder and I took some unintentional creative license with the borders , especially in the Maritimes. I turned it into a lesson as we compared our finished product with a real map. It ended up being a fun compare activity.
  9. Let dry, peel and reveal! 
  10. These will be fantastic in the new playroom! 

Books About Travel


Rooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle was reviewed by my son tonight as ” That’s a really nice book mama.” When I asked him what he liked he said ” The rooster was lonely, I only like trips with you and daddy too.” See Rooster has a grand plan to see the world, only he didn’t really plan it at all. Along the way friends join him but when night falls and they are cold and have no place to stay they all head home, and so does Rooster. I love that my son explained why Rooster went home and that he felt the same way not wanting to venture out to see the world alone… yet. Great book for kids learning to add and subtrack as well, as each page adds animals, then after the night falls each subtracts.

Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan was a random book grab at the library and now we can’t wait to read the other books in the series because we loved it so much. The book is an easy reader chapter book but unlike so many of the leveled readers that I am reading with my son right now this one had depth, great characters and a hilarious sense of humor too. The story is about a guy named Dodsworth who decides to go on an adventure stopping first in New York. Things don’t exactly go as planned when the annoying duck from his favorite diner back home stows away in Dodsworth’s luggage.  Dodsworth sees the sights in New York nonetheless. You will laugh a long with your child ( maybe even a little more). I can’t wait to read the next installment – Dodsworth in Paris!

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman cost me a total of 15 cents at a thrift store. It is worth so much more than that. This book is a gem! Perfect for older preschoolers who are getting a sense of the world beyond their own home and city, this book takes you on a ride around the world! You follow the little girl to Italy, France , Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica and back to Vermont! As soon as I read this my mind was racing with classroom activities ! I will be posting some soon. I LOVE this book, I just wish I had read it when I was still teaching it would have been so much fun to teach geography with!

Famous Landmark Blocks

landmark blocks

Taking your kids to Paris, London or Pisa might not be in the budget but you can turn their building blocks into the city’s most famous landmarks. What a great way to introduce learning about far away places by using your kid’s own blocks. This was so simple and can be redone with so many different themes like these animal ones ,or faces you don’t even need a printer if you want to hand draw the pictures. My son didn’t participate in making the blocks ( I think he gets enough crafts, what do you think?)  but from toddler to school age kids can color or draw the buildings too.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some building blocks. Any will do but here is my opinion- we used Fisher-Price Little People Builders Blocks, they are big, snap together but not too tightly. They let me be sorta sloppy with the contact paper. If there was some bunched up I could still snap them together. Duplo is less forgiving so you will need to only get contact paper on the side none on the top where the blocks come together.  Wood blocks would work well but might frustrate younger ones who want them to stay together. You will also need  pictures of whatever buildings you want to use, scissors, contact paper and clear tape.
  2. Start by laying out what blocks you will need for each building.
  3. Now here I did it two ways. I first cut the image into the pieces for the blocks, then cut the contact paper and put it on. It was tedious.
  4. The other way was to use one large piece of contact paper place the image on it face down, lay the blocks on it, make snips where you need to cut.
  5. Cut and apply to the blocks. This worked WAY better. I am not the most patient or careful because my window for doing anything without kids interrupting is tiny these days but as you can see even not too careful turned out great.
  6. Put them together!
  7. Time to play – he may not have participated in the making but he sure did with the playing.
  8. It’s mega-landmark!

Books To Check On A Map

I recently got an email from Jane asking if I had any suggestions for books that mention cities, regions or countries that could be used as a launching pad for some geography lessons. These books are some of my favorites, they can be the start of a live long interest in other cultures, countries and travel.

Madeline in London by Ludwig Bemelmans . Let me just start by saying that like Babar and Barbapapa I have fond childhood memories of Madeline. So this review may be a little biased. The rhyming text is fast to read and fun too, I would warn parents that they allude to making glue out of dead horses, little guys won’t pick up on it but it may horrify a sharp 3 year old. So pre read it if you want to omit anything. Also a horse is thought dead, for a brief moment before it’s revealed to just be sleeping. It sounds much worse than it really is. I love that it includes real London sights in it’s illustrations, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey , the Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square. After reading this to my Pre K class ( omitting the horses and glue reference) we got down a globe and found where Paris and London were. For weeks 2 little girls played airplane and their destination was always London. A single book can really open doors!

My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone is a book I got to know very well when writing lessons for Itty Bitty Bookworm preschool curriculum using it. This a a really fantastic book that is filled with language arts, geography and math lessons. Granny is a traveler and everywhere she goes she picks up a number of souvenirs. Not only are a number of countries like Switzerland, Mexico and Peru visited, but the souvenirs she buys relate to the country’s culture and offer even more learning opportunities for interested kids.  The rhyming text will enchant even the youngest world traveler , this is a must for any jet setting family!

D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet by Carol Crane is a in valuable book when teaching about China and Chinese New Year, it is more than a simple alphabet book, going into detail about lanterns, chopsticks, panda bears and so much more. What I love about these books is that younger children can be shown the pictures and given a easy to digest synopsis of the text, while older children can read the whole book. The illustrations by Zong-Zhou Wang will make the most reluctant traveler want to get on a plane to china, they are simply spectacular!

Hugo and Miles In I’ve Painted Everything by Scott Magoon is going on my Christmas list. I have renewed this book for months from my local library. I finally have to return this book and I just don’t want to! The book is all about Hugo a painter who has painter’s block. He goes to Paris with his best friend Miles for inspiration, and among the sites, the masterpieces and thanks to the Eiffel tower he finds it! I love this book and my son just eats it up. He wants to go to Paris to the “Moosay Dor-see” to see Van Gogh and climb the Eiffel tower thanks to Hugo!

There’s a Dolphin in the Grand Canal by John Bemelmans Marciano was a book I grabbed knowing i was going to write this post but the first time I read it I fell in love. It’s all about a little boy stuck helping out in his families cafe in Venice wishing he was somewhere more exciting than Venice. Then something very exciting happens but no one believes him!  What I love so much about this book is that it gets to the heart of why people travel , to see things that they have never seen before. If you live in Venice St.Marks Square and The Rialto Bridge are ho hum but if you are from Winnipeg they rock!  I also love that there are tourists in this book using all different languages that are explained in an appendix at the back of the book. Very cool find!

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman cost me a total of 15 cents at a thrift store. It is worth so much more than that. This book is a gem! Perfect for older preschoolers who are getting a sense of the world beyond their own home and city, this book takes you on a ride around the world! You follow the little girl to Italy, France , Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica and back to Vermont! As soon as I read this my mind was racing with classroom activities ! I will be posting some soon. I LOVE this book, I just wish I had read it when I was still teaching it would have been so much fun to teach geography with!

The Falling Flowers by Jennifer B. Reed is the perfect book for this craft ! I was a little too loud when I found it at the library, my son told me to shhh! The story is very sweet, it’s about a grandmother taking her young granddaughter on a surprise outing in Tokyo. It turns out that she is taking her to see the cherry trees in full bloom just as her grandmother had done with her. It’s a nice look at the softer side of Tokyo , a city I know I always imagine as only steal, cement and neon lights!