Resources for a Roadtrip

Our family is planning a major road trip this summer: 19 states plus Ontario in 15 days! To keep everyone happy, I have been collecting ideas and activities from all over the web. You can check out my Road Trip Pinterest board here. Here is what I have planned and organized so far. These are all ideas that I am using for my children ages 6, 8, and 11. My 14 month-old is a whole different story, but my plans for him will be saved for another day.

National Geographic Kids United States Atlas: I purchased this a month ago to help us get to know the states that we will be visiting. It will come in the car as a reference guide to help the children answer their state activity worksheets (see below).

Each child picked out a new coloring/activity book. These Extreme Dot-to-Dot books are a great challenge for my 11-year-old. We have been a fan of the Color Counts Color by Number books for years, and my 8-year-old picked this one. We are trying something new for my 6-year-old, the Usborne Big Maze Book. It looks really cool. I will use a clear laminate sheet to put over the mazes, then Zach can use a dry erase marker to do the mazes multiple times.

Each child gets a 1″ binder to keep all of their activities. The binder can function as a hard writing surface. Binder coversheets (to make it pretty and fun) can be found here (let’s go on an adventure) and here (travel kit with cute cars on a road).

Things to include in the binder:

  • A blank map of the USA. Children can color each state as we drive through it.
  • 100 Would You Rather Questions: I will keep this in my binder, to use as conversation starters.
  • State Activity worksheets: We will be traveling through states that we have never been to before, so we are going to spend some time learning about them. I am putting together a basic worksheet for each state. The children can log the date that we visit the state, and how many miles we travel. Each page also includes a place to fill in basic state facts (capital city, flower, tree, animal, etc), some fun facts, the state flag, and something to color from these cute state doodles.
  • Blank Looseleaf pages: I will encourage my children to keep a daily journal. They can write, or draw pictures of our adventures.
  • Hole punch a manilla envelope or use a sheet protector: it will be a place to keep attraction brochures and ticket stubs.
  • Maps: print a map (or a few) showing your route. Children can trace along it and know how far without asking “Are we there yet?”
  • A pencil pouch: keep writing and coloring supplies contained. We prefer to use twistable color pencils so we don’t have to bother with sharpening pencils.

Games and Activities: insert these pages in a sheet protector, and use with dry erase markers. Then they can be used over and over again.

Other ways to pass the time:

  • Handheld devices/Movies. Use them when you need to. Enough said.
  • Audiobooks: check them out from the library, or try Audible. First up on our list to try is The Hobbit.
  • Good music: We created a road trip playlist for our iPod. Each person in the family gets to pick 10 songs to include.
  • Ribbon mileage tracker. Pin a ribbon along the inside of the van, with mileage increments pre-marked. Use a clothespin to move along a car marker to mark your accomplishments. Another 100 miles finished!
  • Celebrate a mileage marker with a joke. Put a stash of jokes in an envelope and let each child pick one to read aloud.
  • Small toys: Shop the house or visit the dollar store. I will try to have one small item for each day. Stickers, small animals, squishy balls, silly putty, etc.
  • Pipe cleaners: string cheerios or froot loops on them for a snack. Bend them into creations.
  • Sticky note pads: draw on them, stick them on the windows, etc.
  • Squiggle drawings on index cards: add a line, circle, or loop to a white index card and let the kids come up with what it might become.
  • Reusable sticker books/Window clings: we already have these books that haven’t been used for awhile, but they are great fun.
  • Mileage tracker: keep track of how many miles we drive in each day, and how many miles we drive in each state.
  • Conduct an experiment: what is the most common vehicle color? Make a hypothesis, collect data, report results.

Souvenir ideas:

  • Find a rock in each state. Use a sharpie to write the state abbreviation and the year on it.
  • Pressed pennies: My kids have been collecting these for years, they are inexpensive and make a great souvenir. Do a google search for “pressed penny” and the name of the state you are a visiting to see a listing of locations.

Encouraging good behavior:

  • Each child will have a clothespin clip, decorated with their initial. The clips go on the front visor and stay up for good behavior. Whiny, complaining, disagreeable behavior brings the clip down, and they miss the next fun activity.  We went to the craft store and each child chose a pack of stickers. Good behavior will be rewarded with a sticker at regular increments (every hour or 60 miles or 100 miles, etc).

Other sites with great ideas:

Road trip Boredom Busters for Kids on Good Things Realized

26 of the best car games and activities from Cool Mom Picks

Whew! That is a big list. What are your best tips for road trips?

By the Numbers: A Look Back at Summer 2015

95, 95, and 67: morning miles completed by my three older children (some on foot, mostly by bike). My mileage on foot was somewhere in that range.

16 trips to the neighborhood swimming pool

14 movies watched as a family: Willow, Book of Life, Anastasia, Eight Below, American Tail, Incredible Journey, 17 miracles, Harry Potter #1-6 (Anwyn, mom, and dad), Brother Bear… plus Hidden Kingdom (3 episodes), ? episodes of the Cosby Show (seasons 1-2) and Clone Wars (season 2)

11 Family Home Evening lessons taught

11 trips to the library

4 Donuts from Krispy Kreme for National Donut Day

2 trips to the beach (Butler and Crescent)

2 movies that $1 theatre (Cinderella and Home)

1 week spent bird-sitting for friends

1 field trip to Poe Springs

87 books read by 10 year old Anwyn

100 books read by 7 year old Lily

countless picture books read by 5 year old Zach (some on his own, many as read alouds)

15 books read by me (mostly novels)

immeasurable joy from snuggles with our sweet baby Adam

And a great number of Enriching Activities including:

Fireworks in a jar

Pick blueberries at the farm

Visit the farmers market

Magic show at the library

Coin collecting and sorting

Balance Robots

decorating bikes for the 4th of July bike parade

Cow appreciation at Chick-fil-a

Created Kandinsky art, inspired by reading The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock

Day trip to Jacksonville: free books from Barnes & Noble and a new mini-van purchase

Juggler show at the library

Make oobleck (and read Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss)

Harry Potter day at the library

Florida Museum of Natural History

Splash Park in Alachua

3D hand drawing

Unbirthday Party complete with a scavenger hunt, Texas Sheet Cake, 8 kids, and 1 baby

Tye Dye t-shirt making with friends

Harn Museum of Art

Piano Group Lesson: piano performances, review games, learning about Beethoven

You can see photos of some of these activities here.

Learn Something Everyday: Links to online video learning for kids

One of my personal goals is to be a person who keeps learning. Being married to a psychologist who has experience with dementia has made me especially aware of how important it is to use our brains! So this summer we are striving to learn something everyday!

One way to do that is to use the internet as a resource. Here are links to a number of sites that offer educational programs for kids, so proceed with your own common sense.  I actually haven’t reviewed these yet personally, these are sites that were recommended by others. I will let you know what our favorites are!

The Kid Should See This: smart videos for curious minds of all ages

9 Fun Math YouTube Channels for Kids

9 Math YouTube Channels for Preschool Kids

15 YouTube Channels of Fun Science for Kids

Cool Science Experiments for Kids on YouTube

TED Talks to Watch with Kids

Entertaining and Education YouTube Channels for Kids from Live Renewed

Please share in the comments if you know of any other great sites! 

The Basics of our Summer Daily Plan

The summer season is a good time: sleeping in, swimming at the pool, reading books, and lots of uninterrupted time with my children…wait a second…the thought of lots of uninterrupted time with my children every summer can sometimes be a cause for panic! So I’ve done some thinking and some online research and discussing with other moms, and this is the plan that I have come up with for our family this summer. Our goal is to keep our brains and bodies active and our house clean!

6:45    Mom wakes up

7:00  Morning Mile Run (for mom and sometimes Anwyn, and sometimes Lily and Zach on their bikes)

7:45  Family Prayer, Read 5 verses in the Book of Mormon, Breakfast

Morning Fit: If we don’t get out and play first thing in the morning, the Florida heat and humidity will keep us inside the rest of the day. So right after breakfast we head outdoors for some physical fitness. The children take turns picking the activity: bike ride, playground at a park, tennis, soccer/balls. Basically any activity that gets us outdoors and moving.

Morning Things: Daily personal care habits: get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, make beds, put away clothes.

Morning Work: Since I have three children, I divided our house into three cleaning zones: kitchen, living room, and bathrooms. The children rotate weekly being in charge of one zone. I work  with the children to teach them how to clean their zone. For example, depending on the age of the child, the kitchen zone involves emptying and loading the dishwasher, clearing the breakfast table, sweeping the floor, etc. The living room needs to be picked up, and sometimes dusted and sometimes vacuumed.

Once the three morning things are done, the children have earned 30 minutes of  “learning screen time”: a show on PBS, learning apps on the iPad, or websites like starfall, pbskids,, or brainpop. Sometimes they do a screen together, but we usually end up with 1 child on the computer, 1 on the iPad, and 1 watching the TV.

Practice Time: to keep our brains active, the children are encouraged to practice something for at least 15 minutes. My 4-year-old reviews his activities from his speech therapy. My 6-year-old does reading lessons or practices sight words (I am trying to come up with fun ways to practice these and have a list of ideas). My 9-year-old is currently practicing  typing at the keyboard. Once they have completed practice time (and done some other activities) they have earned 30 minutes of free choice screen time.

Reading between the lines here, and you can probably see that screen time is the best motivator I have to encourage my children to get things done!

The rest of the day is a little less structured. I try to plan an activity for each day: playdates with friends, library trips, swimming at our neighborhood pool, etc. We usually swim at least 3 days a week, sometimes more (in my effort to tire my children out so they will go to sleep at night!). And we read books-picture books, chapter books, or individual reading (the Ant Bug read the first four Harry Potter books in four days this week).

I am hoping to work in more creative time and science experiments and hands on activities, but in the first two weeks of summer we have stayed pretty busy so far!

What are you doing to survive the summer?

Rainy Preschool Theme

We have had a lot of cloudy rainy days recently. What better way to celebrate the weather than with a rainy preschool lesson theme?!

Introduce the theme by putting together the rain/number puzzle from the Rain preschool packet by 2 Teaching Mommies.

Read I love the Rain by Margaret Park Bridges.i_love_the_rain1

Make it rain! Follow the directions from Preschool Alphabet to conduct this science experiment. All you need is a pot of boiling water and a tin pie pan filled with ice cubes. The kids thought it was pretty cool when the droplets started forming, and I was able to throw in the words evaporation and condensation in our conversation.DSC08449_thumb

While we were waiting for the water to boil, we did some worksheets from the the Rain preschool packet by 2 Teaching Mommies. We especially liked the lightning letter match: matching uppercase letter clouds to lowercase letter lightning bolts.

Read Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld. This was a really cute story about a little cloud who dreams of doing great big things.9780805087765

Talk about the water cycle using this image from Deceptively Educational.WaterCycle_PrintablesCollage

Sing a few rain songs: Rain is Falling All Around or The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (from the Children’s Songbook).

Create an umbrella/rainy day picture from No Time for Flashcards. (Our craft didn’t actually turn out this cute. At this point the children were more interested in playing with ice cubes in a bowl, but oh well).


We didn’t have time for Disappearing Clouds by Teach Preschool, but will hopefully get to it later this week (draw clouds with chalk on black paper, then make the clouds “disappear” by painting over them with water).

You can find more great ideas at this Preschool Rain/Clouds/Water Cycle Pinterest board.

Further Reading

Rain Makes Applesauce by Julianne Scheer


Raindrop, Plop! by Wendy Cheyette Lewisonraindrop

Blue Sky by Audrey Wood


Little Cloud by Eric Carle443_MD

Split! Splat! by Amy Gibsongibson splat

Clouds by Anne Rockwellclouds-anne-rockwell

The noisy eggs game

We have been having lots of fun with plastic eggs this month–the fun didn’t end for us on Easter!

Today we played the noisy eggs game, inspired by Preschool Alphabet. First we sorted through our eggs and we each found six of one color (or at least a similar shade).IMG_0409

Then we searched around the house for items to hide inside that would make a variety of noises. We used a battery, cereal, glass gems, pennies, a chocolate egg, and another small candy (use your imagination here–there are lots of things around the house you could include). We made sure that we each had the same items in our eggs.

Then we took turns shaking the eggs and finding the matching noise. The kids thought this was great fun!

To finish it off, we read Bunny’s Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown.


Preschool Theme: Rainbows and Color

As I mentioned yesterday, this week we are having fun with rainbows and colors. Visit this post for a list of books to go along with a Rainbow and Color theme. Here are some of the activities we have done.

Make a cloud rainbow using pom poms and strips of paper (more details here from Live Learn Love)


Rainbow Letter R (more details here from No Time for Flashcards).


Sort pony beads into rainbow colors then string on pipe cleaners. Stick the chenille stems in an egg carton to make a rainbow.


Zach had a great time stringing the beads. We used a flower foam base I had on hand as a stand. 


Lily made her rainbow, then turned it into a garden complete with flowers, a sun, and clouds.

Play a matching game with paint chip samples. Make a color book using paint chip samples and ribbon (more details here from Nothing But Country).

 Rainbow number assessment (free printable here)

Roll and color a rainbow (printable from Criss Cross Applesauce here)

Sort fuzzy pom poms by color (use clothespins for grasping as an added challenge).


 Read My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. Draw faces with different emotions (more details here ). Make a suncatcher with tissue paper (template available here).


Science experiment: colored water mixing (more details here from Make and Takes).


 Build a rainbow out of felt (more details here).


Additional Ideas

Play a matching game with the felt shapes.

 Play musical chairs-in color (using colored felt squares).

Make a Rainbow Fish (using colored tissue paper)

String colored froot loops and make a rainbow

Make marshmallow rainbows

Creative colors: make a rainbow using colored craft supplies (feathers, buttons, beads, etc)

End of the Rainbow game with Skittles

Pretty Rainbow Prints (fold in half and paint one side)

Make a rainbow bracelet using foam or beads

Popsicle Rainbow

Assorted Rainbow activities available here

Books about Rainbows and Color

This week we are having fun with rainbows and color. Here are the picture books we are reading:


Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd

A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman

IMG_0056My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Thanks to No Time for Flashcards for her great color book suggestions!

Bubble Painted Shamrocks and other fun for St. Patrick’s Day

Today the kids and I made bubbles and called it art. It was great fun!

IMG_0020We were inspired by this Lucky Clover Bubble Painting post. The instructions are simple. Draw a clover on a piece of construction paper, place in a pan with raised edges. Put a squirt of dish soap in a small cup, then fill 1/3 of the way with water. Add a few drops of food coloring, stir. Then arm your children with straw and let them blow away until the bubbles overflow the cup. The kids loved this and happily blew bubbles and played for over 30 minutes.

*Note of caution: Be sure that your child knows to blow and not suck on the straw! My five year old had no issues with this, and my three year old started out okay. But by the end in his excitement he forgot and ended up with a mouthful of soap a few times. The soap isn’t toxic of course, but it didn’t taste too good!

We are having some fun with other St. Patrick’s themed activities this week. Check out the links below if you are looking for some inspiration for the 17th of March.

St. Patrick’s Day lunchbox notes

Handprint leprechauns

St. Patrick’s Day Printable Playset

Leprechaun and Rainbow Magnet page

Pot of Gold Letter Assessment

Color and cut-out leprechaun

I like to keep things simple for the holidays, but my kids will have this little cereal gift waiting for them on St. Patrick’s Day. Holidays are a sweet time to remind them how much I love them. Don’t forget something for the husband too!

001Printable available from Blue Skies Ahead.

Days with Dr. Seuss: Bartholomew, Yertle, and The Lorax

March is the month of Dr. Seuss, and we have been having a lot of fun reading his books and doing related activities. Some of his books are great fun, like “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?“, but I have to admit that some of his books get a little long in the telling (we gave up halfway through “If I Ran the Circus“). Here are a few highlights of our preschool Dr. Seuss theme.

Note: These activities were done with my two youngest children, ages five and almost three.

Read Bartholomew and the Oobleck and make gloop.

IMG_9948This was an understandably messy activity, but the kids loved it. After a little while they added a few of their small plastic animals and had fun hiding and finding them. The recipe for the gloop can be found here.

Read Yertle the Turtle and make turtles that stack


IMG_9961Inspiration for the turtles came from Happy Birthday Author.

Here is a close-up of Zach’s turtles before we cut them out. Look closely and you can see the little turtle faces he drew (circle-ish with two dots for eyes) and the legs and tails. He has just started drawing people this week and I love it! The purple squiggles in the middle he said are slides.


Read The Lorax and make Truffala Trees

IMG_0011Inspiration for the Truffula trees came from I Can Teach My Child.

I gave the instructions on the trees to my husband on a Saturday afternoon, and he got busy with the kids and made quite a few trees. Once the trees were made they stuck them in some homemade playdough for more imaginative play.

The next day Lily wanted to do another craft, but we were getting ready for church and I told her no. She grabbed the Lorax book and started making her own book. She did four or five pages and it was so fun to see her drawings.



According to Lily, the Lorax is saying “Hey, who chopped down the tree I came out of?”