Family Movie Night for Wimps

For years, already, I’ve seen friends’ cute Movie Night pics posted on Facebook–kids lined up in their sleeping bags with bowls of popcorn, eager for Mom to hit “play”.  Captions noted the movie du jour; at each, I imagined my kids’ response and winced.

You see, I am somewhat of…well, ‘Love would call me a movie wimp.  Let’s put it this way: when I went to see one of the Harry Potter movies in college with my roommate, she had to pry me off her arm in the middle of the movie because she had lost all feeling in that limb.

I’ve always been this way.  As a kid, my Grandpa had to take me out of the theater during Bambi because I just couldn’t take it.  I never did find out what happened in The Wizard of Oz because I couldn’t get past that terrifying tornado.

It didn’t have to be a movie, even.  I remember hiding under the cedar chest when my mom was reading Little House on the Prairie aloud to me and the Indians came when Pa wasn’t home.  Even when I read books on my own, I’d often stuff a bookmark in and flee the room for a few minutes during an intense part, returning a few minutes later to read another paragraph or two before dashing away from my book for another break.

So we’ve established that I’m a little odd.  Well, apparently my kids have inherited this craziness–the older two, in particular–but each in their own way.

My oldest, Peatie, has always been easily upset by any bad behavior, whether real or imagined.  ‘Love had to ease him into the old Donald Duck cartoon shorts because he was distressed by the rivalry between Donald and those lovable chipmunks, Chip and Dale.

Goobie Girl, by contrast, isn’t distressed by bad behavior or even especially by danger–it’s the relational things that get her.  In one episode of the Backyardigans, the characters are planning a surprise party–but for most of the episode all you know is that there’s a message that one of the kids isn’t allowed to know about.  She was so upset by the apparent social exclusion in that episode that she insisted that we turn it off; we didn’t see the happy ending until nearly two years later.

Between the two of them (and me!), we’ve had a doozy of a time figuring out what movies they could handle, so for a long time we simply didn’t watch movies; we stuck to Backyardigans videos passed down from cousins or Magic School Bus episodes checked out from the library–and even those seemed a stretch at times.  But this year we decided to give Movie Night a go, and the kids were so excited that it inspired us to try a few repeats.  Here are the movies we’ve tried and any trouble we faced, for those who might find it helpful.

  • Cinderella – This one seemed like an easy start, since it was a story we had already read.  Sure, the stepsisters and stepmother are mean, but when you know to expect it, it’s not so awful.  The kids were charmed by the mice and enchanted by the fairy godmother, and it was a win for all.
  • Sleeping Beauty – ‘Love absolutely adored this movie as a kid because of the prince fighting the dragon at the end.  Peatie and I found Maleficent to be utterly terrifying, but we managed to survive.
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie – This seemed like a no-brainer, since we own two DVDs of short episodes that the kids love.  Unfortunately, the plot line with the farmer’s amnesia–in which he doesn’t recognize Shaun and shoos him away–was super upsetting to Goober, who burst into tears during the movie and then awoke three times that night with nightmares.  Didn’t see that one coming…
  • The Sword in the Stone – This was another favorite of ‘Love’s from childhood.  Though Peatie was distressed by the treatment of Wart at the beginning of the movie, Merlin’s magic saved the day, and the kids enjoyed it overall.
  • Mary Poppins – This one is super long, so we divided it into a couple showings over the course of a weekend.  There were some short sections that caused distress (the kids getting chased for not wanting to deposit their coins, for one), but the kids LOVED the musical numbers.  In fact, this inspired some choreographed performances at our house for the next week or two, and they asked to repeatedly re-watch favorite songs (“Chim-Chimney” being at the top of that list).  I have to say that I don’t love the plot of this one, but the songs are certainly fun, and it’s a classic.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – The plot of this one is certainly crazy, but I vaguely remembered it from childhood and thought it would be worth a try.  Once again, the magic and the songs saved the day. Peatie was distressed by the baron chasing them and by the Kid-Catcher (who is, in all honesty, terrifying); the hilarious defeat of the bad guys–mostly by a group of kids–redeemed it in the end, though this one was not as beloved as Mary Poppins.
  • Wall-E – We weren’t sure if this one would give Goober nightmares or not, but our first choice from the library was so badly scratched that we popped this one in.  Thankfully, having robots and a cockroach as main characters with a futuristic setting and a happy ending must have made any emotional distress abstract enough that it worked out for her (though she did hop on my lap a few times when Eve was being taken away).  And while Peatie was disturbed by the conflict with the Co-Pilot, that one resolved soon enough that it wasn’t too intense.  Phew.

Earth’s Layers Cake: The Low-Tech, DIY Version

cakeMy kids wanted to study volcanoes.  I was totally uninspired by volcanoes, but I thought I’d run with it, perhaps expanding the study to include plate tectonics and the rock cycle so we’d have a bit more to talk about.  While I was searching for inspiration, I ran across the idea of having a cake to show Earth’s layers.  “Great!” thought I.  “Sign me up and show me how!”  (I’m a sucker for anything edible–particularly if it’s sweet!)  Unfortunately, everyone doing this project seemed to have round bakeware–cake pop molds of varying sizes, round-bottomed oven-safe mixing bowls.  Not I.  And, since I am disinclined to shell out that kind of money for the props to make one cool snack, I thought I’d look for my own way.

My creation doesn’t have perfectly-nested spheres (in fact, the outer core seems to spike into the mantle in a couple of places!), but it definitely has the layers, and–most important of all–it got the point across and thrilled my kids.  In case you want to try it, here’s what I did:

Supplies: White or yellow cake mix/recipe, chocolate frosting, white frosting, food coloring, multiple bowls for separating/mixing colors, two 8″ or 9″ round cake pans, large spoons, two cookie cutters (round is ideal–I didn’t have round), cake decorating set

1. I used a generic white cake mix (yellow would be fine, too–I use the yolks, so mine isn’t truly white).  After mixing the ingredients, I separated the mix into three bowls: a small one that I colored yellow, a medium one that I colored orange, and a large one that I colored reddish.  Make sure the mix is pretty colorful, since the color will be less concentrated once the cake poofs up during baking.  (Too much food coloring tastes bitter, though, so don’t go overboard.)

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2. First, I placed a cookie cutter in the center of each pan.  The first one I filled with a dollop of yellow (inner core).  I spooned pink (mantle) around the edges of that pan and filled the space between with orange (outer core).  In the second pan, I filled the cookie cutter with orange (outer core–to cover the inner core from the first pan) and poured pink (mantle) all around it, reserving a small amount of the pink for the next step.

 

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3. Then I removed the cookie cutters, covered the dollop of outer core in the second pan with a layer of mantle, and popped both pans in the oven.  (The first pan–with all three layers–had less batter, but both seemed to cook fine.)

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4. When the cake was out of the oven and cool, I used a small amount of runny white frosting (I warmed mine to make it thinner) to glue the layers together.  The three-colored layer went on the bottom, capped by the layer that’s mostly mantle.  Make sure the little bit of outer core is on the bottom of the top layer–you wouldn’t want to have your mantle and outer core reversed!  Next, I used a very thin layer of chocolate frosting to represent the lithosphere.

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5. This gray represented the solid rock of the crust.  I wanted to make it clear that even the oceans have crust beneath them.  Yes, I know the crust is included in the lithosphere, but the Red Cross/PBS material (more on that later) we’re using talks of them separately, so I just followed their lead.  I used really runny frosting so I could make a very thin layer.  (After all, this is already the second frosting layer, and I still had more to go!)  The generic brand frosting I use wins for runniness!  My gray, FYI, is made from a red/green mixture.  If I remember right, it was two red drops and three green.

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6. Time to add the thicker continental crust parts and fill the oceans!  This time I thickened the frosting slightly with about a cup of confectioner’s sugar to the tub.  I wanted it just stiff enough to hold some texture, but still soft enough to spread in a thin layer.  Since we’re also studying the Middle Ages right now, I decided to do a rough map of Europe.  (Very rough.)  I rarely use the frosting tips as intended; I used the star tip loosely for a textured water look, but for the land I just did a rough outline with a tip and then spread the green around with my knife.)

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The finished product!  Of course, you can’t really tell how many layers of frosting went into this (except when eating it!), but if the kids watch or help, they’ll get every detail of the process.  And the finished result was enough to spark their glee, so I’d consider this one a win!

 

the most wonderful time of the year?

I know the song talks about Christmas, but sometimes I feel like the end of summer is the most wonderful time of the year.

Summer is lovely and all–the pools are open, there’s the excitement of a vacation, and the days stretch open and free.  But after vacation is over, that “open and free” really starts to stretch.  No one plans anything, because they’re all busy managing their own vacation plans or are trying to avoid any and all public spaces because they are currently overrun with kids who aren’t in school because it’s summer.  You didn’t join any summer-long activities because of that pesky two weeks you’d miss while you were visiting relatives on vacation.  You (or at least I) can only afford to sign up for one week-long summer activity per kid lest you go broke.  So by the time August rolls around, everyone is getting pretty sick of everyone else in the house and is starting to look forward to going places and doing things again.

In a few months I may be lamenting the dreadful hamster wheel of Fall–always running to get everything done and get everywhere we need to be–but at the moment, the dawn of a new school year is looking glorious.  In the spirit of new school years, I was busy pondering our homeschool space, and that had me thinking about all the many changes it has undergone.  (After all, it’s been eight months since my last major furniture/location switch, and that may be the longest I’ve ever gone before changing things up!)  At any rate, since I love seeing people’s homeschool spaces, I thought I’d post some pictures of our workspace through the years on a page of their own.  Enjoy!

perspective

Kids’ emotional development, like their growth, is generally so gradual that you don’t notice it happening.  It takes a comment from friends you haven’t seen for a while–“Whoa!  Peatie sure has shot up, hasn’t he!”–to surprise you into realizing that the change has, indeed, been occurring under your very nose.

This month’s vacation created that needed perspective.  We took a 20-hour drive back to ‘Love’s family cottage, which we’ve visited every summer Pookie has been alive.  Every summer, the story has been the same: he’s perfectly okay if we’re at the cottage and he might have a few moments of happiness when we’re enjoying the beach out front, but he’s an utter beast on any day-trips, completely stressed and cranky and clingy and begging to leave.  It doesn’t matter if we’re visiting the petting farm or the ice cream stand or the lighthouse, he’s equally miserable for all of them.  It’s hard for the rest of us to enjoy excursions with his anxiety level so high.

CottageAnd then there was this year.  When we arrived at the cottage, it was nearly bedtime, and he flipped out over a stain on the ceiling.  I thought, “Here we go again…”  But that was pretty much the end of his freak-outs.  He relished each day at the beach.  He ASKED to climb the lighthouse again this year and bravely strolled around once we reached the top, even smiling for a picture, this child of mine who HATES being photographed.  He had a blast at the petting farm, admiring the animals and bouncing like crazy on the jumping pillow and even going down an enormous tube slide all on his own.  He placed an ice cream order–and then ate the ice cream.

Looking back at the pictures, I think, “Who IS this kid?”  And then I hear him falling apart over the way the peanut butter looks on his toast and I am recalled to reality–but with a flavor of hope.

Sometimes when you have your nose to the grindstone and you’re around your kids day in and day out, it’s hard to see their progress.  You begin to wonder if they’ll ever outgrow their quirks or difficult phases, if they’ll ever gain self-control and turn into mature, empathetic human beings.  It’s so nice to have reassuring moments like these when the progress is apparent and you can convince yourself that this, too, shall pass.

experiential science: the chemistry of cooking

For whatever reason, for the past six months my kids have been utterly intrigued by baking.  Not only do they want to help bake, but they want to create their own recipes, as well.  Of course, their recipes always generate wet, gloppy, unappetizing messes.  So when I asked what they’d like to learn about, I was not especially surprised to hear “how to make a recipe” as a top choice.

While we could have merely gone the direction of baking lots of things and memorizing the types and proportions of ingredients, I thought I’d take a more scientific angle and come at the topic from the perspective of chemistry.  Because it’s alliterative, I liked calling this study The Chemistry of Cooking.

chemistryWe began at the very beginning, which has always been a notoriously good place to start.  In chemistry, the rational beginning place was the Periodic Table.  From Ellen McHenry’s The Elements, we learned about the elements, how they were discovered, how they are arranged on the Table, and what different element types are like.  Thrown in with this were some fun activities to help us learn the abbreviations for common elements, among other topics.

While we were learning about the Periodic Table, we thought it would be fun to memorize it.  This YouTube video from AsapSCIENCE helped us learn all of the elements in order–with the added benefit of including informational tidbits about the uses of many more common elements.  (We can sing the whole thing except a section at the very end–from Berkelium to Copernicium is so fast we haven’t yet managed to keep up without mumbling!)

If you want do dig deeper into studying the Periodic Table and the elements, consider The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker, which provides a more in-depth history of the development of the Periodic Table related in a conversational tone.  In addition–especially for kids old enough to understand the humor–Basher Science The Complete Periodic Table personifies each element to make it more memorable.  I put both of these aside until later, deciding that my kids would get more out of them in a few years.

chemistry2With a little bit of basic chemical understanding under our belts, we were ready to delve into the world of cooking.  For this portion of our endeavor, we used Edible Science: Experiments You Can Eat from National Geographic Kids, the American Chemical Society’s free Get Cooking with Chemistry PDF online, and  the downloadable manual for the Thames and Kosmos Candy Chemistry kit.  (We used our own supplies and thus didn’t need to buy the kit, but if you don’t have candy-making supplies, the kit may be handy.)  The kids loved making ricotta cheese, fizzy orange juice, ice cream, and various candies, among other things.  And with a newfound understanding of chemistry, much of what was happening made sense to them.

For older kids, Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Science of Cooking by Simon Quellen Field or What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained by Robert L. Wolke were recommended to me (the second one several times).  I looked them over but decided to hold those until we come back for a second round of chemistry in some future year.

Now that we’ve wrapped up our chemistry unit, we need to figure out what we’re going to study next!

printable activity pages for kids

If you’re headed on vacation and need something to fill the hours spent traveling–or if you’re merely trying to find something to fill a rainy day–there’s a wealth of fun to be had just a printer away.  Here are some of the options I found in a quick search.  (As of my search, these sites were functional and safe.)

Sudoku

  • Activity Village offers number or word sudoku at various levels of difficulty.
  • Science Kids has a page with a selection of sudoku puzzles from easy to hard.

Logic Puzzles

  • LoveToKnow has a page with a few different puzzle types: traditional logic puzzles, nonograms, and sudoku puzzles.
  • Printable Puzzles has free samples of their logic puzzles at four levels of difficulty.  You can access four of the easier types and two of the harder types for free; if you find yourself addicted, you can always pay a few dollars to access a few dozen more.

Connect-the-Dots

  • Coloring.ws has connect-the-dots sheets organized by theme or by difficulty.  You can connect the letters of the alphabet or numbers, and they range from 9 dots to 45.  You can even choose to increase the challenge by counting by twos, fives, or tens!
  • Raising Our Kids offers sixty free connect-the-dot pages.  The easiest have ten dots, while the hardest ones have more than one hundred.

Coloring Pages–for all ages!

  • Step ColorinG provides a searchable database of images, from very simple pictures for little ones to complex geometric designs for older kids (or adults!).
  • Super Coloring has images organized by theme.  Each animal kingdom is represented (plus dinosaurs), and there are also categories for flowers, fruit, and cartoons.

Hidden Pictures, Crossword Puzzles, Color-by-Number, Mazes

  • All Kids Network has all of the above and then some.  Drop in to find the right activity and difficulty level for your kid!
  • Raising Our Kids also features a wide variety of activity options, particularly if you have a preschooler (though they also have puzzles that are better suited to older kids).  Several of these activity pages are ones I’ve seen in the generic coloring books you can buy in most stores.

 

road trip tips: a survival guide for parents

Four years ago (!) I posted some of my road-trip tips for traveling with young kids. While some of those tips and tricks are ones I still use, I thought it was about time for an updated version including suggestions for older kids, especially since we’re anticipating a 20-hour drive back “home” to see ‘Love’s family again in a few weeks.

Goober has NEVER been a good car rider.  As an infant, she couldn’t even make it the five minutes to Grandma’s without screaming.  Last year we made it 30 minutes into our first day of driving when she announced, “I’m done sitting in the car.  How much longer until we get to the hotel?”  Knowing her personality, I always make extensive preparations for car entertainment.

Let me say right from the start that I have the world’s only children who do not sleep in the car.  Since that’s the #1 road-trip tip I hear, I figured I’d best include that one up front. If your kids are car sleepers, consider yourself lucky and take full advantage. For anyone whose children are odd like mine, here are some alternative suggestions.

There are some items no child-carrying car should be without on long trips.

  • Baby wipes.  No baby, you say?  No matter–take them anyway.  They come in handy if the gas station restroom is out of soap, if someone has greasy or sticky hands after a snack, if someone pukes in their lap…
  • Gallon Ziploc bags.  An odd one, perhaps, but handy.  Kid feeling queasy after eight hours in the car?  Hand him a bag.  If he uses it, you can conveniently seal the bag and contain the smell.  Toss his shorts in a second bag if his aim was off.  The bags are also handy for transporting wet swimsuits, containing opened snack packages, keeping the twelve hair-ties your daughter HAD to have in when you left and can no longer stand an hour later, and more!
  • Sunglasses for all!  You’d hate to get to a rest stop only to have the blinding sun prevent anyone from running off some energy.  Toss these in a Ziploc and keep them at-hand just in case.  Toss in sunscreen and hats if your skin is sensitive enough to burn in 15 minutes.  No one wants sunburn!
  • BandAids.  Hopefully you’ve got a stash of these in your car already, but if not, toss them in.  A reckless kid at a rest stop will often find a way to make them necessary.  Pull out the baby wipes to clean off the dirt, and slap a BandAid on top.
  • Your favorite pain reliever–for yourself and the kids.  What could be worse than driving through rush-hour traffic in the blinding sun at the end of a long day while your kids argue in the back seat?  Doing the above with an aching back or a searing headache.  And you know how cranky your kids get when they’re feverish or headachey?  Better throw in something for them, too.
  • Food, water, and entertainment–but you knew that.  See below for more tips on this particular category.
Road Trip

A good road-tripper is well-prepared.

Use rest stops to play, NOT to eat.  I start feeding my kids about 45 min-1 hour before we plan to stop.  (I bring sandwich fixings or crackers, fruit, veggies, cheese sticks, or even Lunchables for meals.  Snacks consist of non-crumbly granola bars, Teddy Grahams, mini pretzel twists, Nilla Wafers, Goldfish–anything that can’t melt and either doesn’t crumble or can be eaten in one bite.)  A small cooler crowded by my feet in the front comes in handy, or I’ve used the cooler as a footrest for someone sitting in the center of the row behind me.)  Usually this is the point at which the kids are getting restless and food helps stretch their “sit” by a little.  By the time we stop, liquids have made their way through the kids’ systems (or will before the stop is over).

We try to find rest stations with lots of open space or a playground or a fast food joint with a play area (and the adults have a snack).  I even research rest stops along the route to find out which ones are closed for renovations, which have a reputation for cleanliness, which have space for kids to roam.  I often list several top choices so we can shorten or lengthen our time between stops as needed.  We spend 15-20 minutes playing hard (with adults chasing kids if necessary to make sure kids use maximum energy) and using the bathroom.

On a related note…non-melting candies (especially things that go slowly, like DumDums) are good distractions between snack and meal times.  I’m not usually one to load my kids up on junk food and candy, but road trips are my once-a-year exception.

Stop as few times as possible. We fill up on gas each time we stop–whether we need it or not–so we don’t have to make an extra stop for gas later.  Even a quick gas stop or potty break will likely add at least 15 minutes to your trip, and on a long trip, no one wants extra time in the car.  Remind those with suspiciously wimpy bladders that every stop will take away from evening pool time (see below) or at the very least add to the length of the drive time.  If nothing else, maybe the groans of their siblings will help to delay their demands to stop RIGHT NOW.  If you do stop, require everyone to try using the bathroom lest you get back on the road and have someone else claim a bathroom emergency twenty minutes later.

Make sure each day ends with a pool.  I reserve a hotel with an indoor pool because I remember as a kid being heartbroken when we drove all day and then it was too cold or stormy to swim.  Swimming even for an hour uses tons of energy and helps everyone sleep better, as well as giving everyone something to look forward to all day long.  On the plus side, most hotels with indoor pools also include a hot breakfast, so while you may be paying more for the night, considering that extra $25 bought everyone some pool time and as much breakfast food as they can fit (not to mention something to look forward to all day and enough exercise to sleep well), it’s not a bad deal.

Long car trips are a time to make exceptions about tech use.  We have a tablet that we let everyone have a 20-minute turn on–sometimes once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  Last year I also played a DVD on my laptop toward the end of each afternoon when everyone was getting really restless. (Sadly, my DVD-ROM drive seems to have died.)  Those prolonged distractions were lifesavers!

Contain your paper clutter while providing ample activity options.  I make each kid a binder (built-in hard writing surface) with coloring pages (cool geometric designs for older kids), mazes, blank paper, logic puzzles, sudoku, crosswords, dot-to-dots (everything from simple to extreme)–anything I can find that they might like–and include colored pencils plus a little sharpener (with a securely-attached case to catch shavings) in a zipper pencil pouch at the front.  (Why colored pencils?  Crayons melt in a hot car and markers tend to accidentally bleed or have their caps left off or get dropped and leave marks or “accidentally” form designs on children’s skin.)  Though I looked at various books available for purchase, I ultimately searched online for free sample pages and was able to print off and put together a book with more variety than I could have purchased.  I put together a list of activities and where I found them, if you want me to save you some legwork.

Magnetic trays work well for lots of activities.  We have jelly roll pans (cookie sheets with a lip around) that are magnetic (not all are–test before buying!).

  • When my kids were little, I printed a picture of one of those rugs with the roads on it (sized to fit my tray) and laminated it for the kids to use while playing with cars. I even hot-glued magnets to the bottom of the cars so they would stay where they were driven. My 4-year-old still loves this, and even the older two will play around with it for a while.
  • I take a baggie of magnetic letters for the little guy and a baggie of magnetic poetry for the older two.  They enjoy trying to outdo each other by making ridiculous, nonsensical stories or sentences.
  • Have some tangrams or magnetic puzzles?  The tray is handy for spreading out pieces and keeping spare parts from getting lost between the seats.
  • I pack each kid a small container of Lego pieces (with a base piece hot-glued to the lid).  The tray offers plenty of space to place the small tote on one side and use the remaining space to build.

Ponder favorite game options that would work well for travel.  Many games offer specific travel versions, but games like Guess Who?, Rush Hour, Rory’s Story Cubes, Mad Libs, and others can easily be enjoyed on the go.  And don’t forget the classic Road-Trip Bingo cards!  I picked up a few in Target’s dollar section recently.

Use your ever-changing location to spark interest!

  • As soon as my kids started reading, I always printed a map of where we were going and highlighted our route.  Now my kids have their own atlases, and Peatie spends most of the trip simply looking for each town as we go and telling us how far away things are and what we’re passing.
  • Having the kids look for needed signs (exits, interchanges) is great even for littles who just know a few letters (“We’re looking for a sign with a word that starts with S!”)–except if they get too competitive.
  • If you’re driving past or stopping at any points of interest, part of each day could be spent talking or reading aloud about what you’re going to see and why it’s important/exciting.  My kids always enjoy destinations more when they’re primed.
  • Classic activities like the alphabet game (you know–where you find your ABCs in order as you drive) are always good bets.
  • When I was a kid, my siblings and I would keep statistics on various things.  We’d note which state license plates we’d seen and how many of each, or we’d track vehicle types or colors throughout the day.  I suspect my kids may be old enough to start enjoying this now.

Use your stereo system to the fullest. 

  • Audiobooks can entertain many a child for hours at a time, whether they’re following along in a book or simply enjoying the story.
  • My kids don’t like audiobooks, but they do like to sing along to favorite songs.  If I can get them doing motions, they work off some energy at the same time.
  • I’m hoping to snag some good educational songs on CD or MP3.  If we can memorize the state capitols, books of the Bible, elements of the Periodic Table, multiplication tables, or some other glorious facts whilst we pass the miles, all the better.
  • Classical music can work magic.  When everyone is angsty from too long in the car, someone is always unhappy about the CD we’re listening to.  For some reason, no one complains when I pop in classical music.  The kids talk about the instruments they hear, what the music makes them think of, which songs are their favorites, or simply sit and mellow out while looking out the window.  Daddy sighs with relief that he doesn’t have to listen to kid-safe, peppy music.  I love it!

Books hold a multitude of possibilities.

  • While my kids balk at audiobooks, they love to listen to me read aloud for long stretches of time.  (Go figure!)
  • A few new books can be special treats.  Especially engaging are books with detailed pictures (anyone’s littles LOVE Richard Scarry?) or new books from a favorite series.
  • Search-and-find books are good for whiling away the hours.  ‘Love still had his old Where’s Waldo? books and we’ve picked up a few I Spy books, as well.  Even if they’re not searching for the items, the kids enjoy looking at all the details in the pictures.

Sometimes they just need to fidget.

  • Our pin art toy is a perpetual favorite for car trips–though my sister-in-law tells me that her plastic version is quieter and thus less irritating to fellow passengers.
  • I keep a couple squishy balls or animals from the dollar store on hand for trips.  Even if you can’t really DO anything with them, they’re fun to squish through your fingers while looking out the window.
  • My cousin said for road trips she always buys each of her kids a roll of masking tape.  Apparently it keeps everyone busy for quite a long time, from the preschooler sticking it all over himself to the older kids attempting to create clothing, jewelry, or other items by sticking pieces together.  I may try this!