Are Dietary Hangups Eating Away Your Travel Plans?

Perhaps for me– and maybe you too– travel and being “on-the-go” seem like an accomplishment! In my case this is primarily because of the way diet affected me, ever since childhood.

My parents liked to get out and take me places, but I was sluggish, depressed, got car sick easily and complained a lot. The high carb diet of the 70s and 80s took its toll on me early. If your daughter is “sleeping beauty”, or your son seems overly tired, its important to look into the causes. In my early twenties, I finally figured out I had hypoglycemia, or blood sugar imbalance. Cereal and fruit for breakfast, sugary snacks, peanut butter and jelly on white bread for lunch, juice… At dinner, meat and potatoes finally balanced out my system, so that I felt like staying up late at night because I could finally concentrate on homework and reading. But during school, I simply could not make it through the day. I craved lunch meat and McDonald’s hamburgers– and although those aren’t the healthiest foods, my body felt it had a right to some protein and fat.

Some questions to ask ourselves:

  • Are we relying on high carbohydrate, sugary foods as snacks or meals?
  • In spite of the organic or gluten-free label, is it going to raise our children’s insulin level, leading to sluggishness, poor concentration and future diabetes?
  • Is there any real nutritional content to the food, or is it just filler?
  • Do we view the foods we feed our kids as being “fun” or the better choice– “nourishing?”
  • Are we giving in to peer pressure to feed our kids what other kids are eating?
  • Do we pay attention to our kid’s behavior based on what they’ve been eating?

Our bodies do need fat for energy, and for proper hormonal balance. When I found out about the Weston A. Price Foundation in my late twenties, I was ecstatic! Finally, free health information from a non-profit group equipped with research and advice for healthy eating! In spite of the plethora of health information reaching us over the internet, I have always come back to this group as the voice of reason, and the true meaning of “balanced diet” and “whole foods.” Although critics may say that too much emphasis is placed on animal products, the truth is that http://www.westonaprice.org is a non-profit group providing research about the quality of our food, how the nutrients work in our bodies, and where to find good quality, wholesome foods. As far as the ratio of meat, milk, vegetables and carbs– that is up to you and your doctor or natural health guru. The information you will find is not a diet plan, nor does it restrict any group of nutrients in favor of another.

In spite of the wonderful resources I have been privileged to find over the years, I feel that there are seasons where I’ve been overly busy in the kitchen, and this has prevented me from doing what I really love– getting out there and experiencing life! Especially when I found that my children had allergies and intolerances. When my daughter began developing severe rashes all over her body due to eating certain things, it was time to stay home and make everything from scratch. Fortunately, acting on what we knew, we were able to get her gut and her body stabilized within about six months.

While traveling and being on-the-go may seem like an accomplishment, if we are coming home from it all feeling wiped out and miserable, it may require taking a fresh look at the health equation. If we are obsessing  over the health equation, it may be time to get back to the basics so that we can actually get out and enjoy life!

 

 

 

Travel, Zika Virus, and Cedar Oil

The most important thing for travelers to know about Zika is that though it is not a serious health condition for most people, they still need to take precaution not to spread it.

This implies not getting bitten by mosquitos in the first place.

Secondly, if you have been bitten, you may or may not become infected. If you have become infected, you may or may not know it, because only one in five people will show symptoms. Still, being bitten repeatedly can spread the disease to other mosquitos, who in turn can spread it to other people.

Here is the product I highly recommend, and I’ll explain why in a minute: Cedarcide

Here are some facts from the WHO and the CDC:

On February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that Zika is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, similar to last year’s Ebola virus outbreak. Though the spread of the disease (especially to pregnant women) is of concern, the average traveler does not have much reason to fear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that, “People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.” (CDC website)

The risk factors are highest for unborn babies, as the CDC states, “Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby.” The rise of microcephaly (or small brain), a defect associated with the rise of Zika, has not entirely been confirmed by scientists, but is suspected. The CDC advises caution for pregnant women, and recommends avoiding areas with Zika, if possible.

For the average person, Zika lasts about a week, and causes some discomfort, such as rashes, pink eye, and joint pain. In rare cases, it can cause a sort of paralysis. (CDC website).

There are many other diseases in the tropics that come from mosquitos, such as dengue and malaria.

Cedarcide products use cedar oil, which has been used as an insecticide for thousands of years without insects developing any sign of resistance. My husband and I have experience with cedarcide. The year that we had our first baby, the cats decided to bring in fleas. A flea infestation developed rapidly that fall, and because of the baby, my husband and I wanted something natural. After doing some research, we ordered large containers of cedarcide and fumigated our house with it. Although we did have to leave the house for a few hours, it is a natural formula with no toxic residue.

We were happy to learn that  Cedarcide has developed an even stronger bug spray, that kills bigger bugs, such as mosquitos, ticks and bed bugs. Yes, cedar oil not only repels them, but can kill them on contact! The formula has been tested for potency by independent labs, and it is effective for being in the deep woods. Cedarcide sells Tick Shield industrial strength formula for outdoorsy types, nontoxic bug repellent for babies, and everything in between. If you are pregnant and considering travel, I recommend doing your own research first. Better to take precaution during those nine months. But for the rest of us, Zika and other diseases should not hold us back! In fact Cedarcide sells a travel size repellent and a bed bug kit for travelers to take on airplanes.

 

Crunchy Soup?!

Do You Take Your Kids’ Advice?Anthony

I’m not talking about bland generalities, like “they inspire me,” or they make me stop and smell the roses.” Come on– it’s January!

Did your children give you any good ideas this past year? Anything so adorable and creative you will always remember it? Any surprisingly grown-up, workable ideas? Any really good questions that made you stop and think– and have to google it? Any little projects they put so much time into you couldn’t help being proud of them?

Go ahead– remind them! Encourage them! And don’t be afraid to comment here on this blog– I’d love to hear some stories about how your kids inspire you!

I need to backtrack and think of all the occurrences this past year when my kids surprised me with something novel. I need to let them know how much I appreciate them! But here is one example from last night:

Crunchy soup?!

“Crunch, crunch,” my little guy was munching on almonds right next to me, and as usual, Mommy had two separate issues to tackle: how to get my son to eat his soup, and how to get my daughter (who was eating it) to stop complaining! “This soup isn’t tasty without noodles. Why can’t we have noodles?” my older child whined. Before I could explain yet another time, my little guy leaned over and dropped an almond right in her bowl. A half-eaten one at that! In spite of her shriek, I looked to my right and noticed my son’s bowl of soup was full of almonds. He seemed to have found them to be quite a tasty substitute for noodles!

One by one, we each tried the almonds in our soup. When my husband came home, the kids insisted he try them too. After learning that I did not intentionally alter a recipe, and that our son was the culprit– not me (whew!) he decided to try one almond, and to our delight, asked for more! No more complaints from the peanut gallery– I mean almond gallery!

Task List versus Inspiration List

Before I give out the recipe– which I will later– I want to point out what my little boy did for jump-starting my new year! If you’ve been following this blog, you may have noticed the recent silence. I don’t mean to make excuses. I don’t have writer’s block. I have what’s called a “bread and butter” business from home. I have clients, deadlines, and scheduling conflicts. I spent the autumn months doing quite a bit of commuting to train for this new venture. Just as I began blogging my children’s book, and blogging about travel, I have been “on the go” more than ever!

Throughout my seven years of being a stay-at-home mom, I woke up almost every day with my right brain in full swing– lots of ideas and a strong desire to write. I promised myself that as soon as my kids reached school age, I’d begin a blog. Well, I’m not breaking that promise! I have plenty of material to write about! It’s just that for the last three or four months, I’ve awoken to a task-list, instead of an inspiration list. And that’s been quite an adjustment!

When I took my blogging course last summer from Nina Amir, I learnedd that a blogger needs to have an outline– a projected course of material and how they will cover it. That outline can get us through times when inspiration seems to be lacking.

Thanks to my amazing little son, I recovered some inspiration! But going forward, I want to talk about what I will be doing with the blog:

What’s Happening with the Blog:

  • At some point, my husband and I will refine and hone the children’s book… stay tuned!
  • “Familes On the Go” newsletter and posts. Tips geared for active parents– not travel adventures only, but more practical, everyday tips for living a busy lifestyle!
  • Nutrition information. Living a gluten-free– or for that matter any health-conscious lifestyle can slow you down. (How to be healthy on the go is something my husband and I have spent a considerable amount of time studying and practicing.)
  • More book reviews– adult and child. Reading list for busy parents, as well as recommendations for children’s educational books.
  • Experiences with moving and transitioning, and helpful tips.
  • More product reviews
  • At some point, an updated look and more user friendly website!

 

Nutrition on the Go: Thermal Slow Cooker Recipes

A while back, in my post about thermal slow cookers,  I promised to give some recipes for the thermal slow cooker… Here they are!

Advantages to thermal cooking:

We use our slow cooker for entertaining, parties, camping, and just being on the go! My husband and I discovered thermal cookers (non-electric slow cookers) about eight years ago, and its a great way to save energy, and perfect for taking on the road, or even just to visit friends for dinner!

Another great benefit to it is that my children have special dietary needs. Since they require a gluten-free diet, they need extra calories to make up for not having bread or grains. I can make a pot of soup with rice, or a pot of buckwheat, quinoa or other gluten- free grains, flavored the way they like it. Then they can eat something before going into a restaurant.

Essentially, this little device saves energy and can be brought almost anywhere. Prepare it at home, put it into the outer thermos and let it cook while you’re driving!

Our bodies do need a little more sustenance as the weather changes, and most people spend  more time in the kitchen– which adds to the electric bill. Thermal cooking only requires a stove to get it to a boil, the rest of the cooking is done in the thermos!

Where to purchase them (using my Amazon shopping link)

Thermos Shuttle Chef

I like this one, not just for the color, but the size of it, and the great reviews it got (five stars), and the cost. It’s made by Thermos, the same brand as my first one: Thermos Shuttle

It comes in a smaller size too, and is very economical compared to some of the other brands listed on Amazon. Here is a link to some other brands available: non-electric slow cookers

Read the Safety Precautions

Before trying some recipes, please make sure to carefully read all directions on your thermal cooking device before using. Your thermos will cook the food for you, but it has to be brought to the proper temperature. Each thermal cooking device is different and will come with different safety precautions as to how long the food can cook for, when it must be eaten and whether it can be reheated. You will also need to know the amount of food that it can safely cook and how full to fill the inner pot.

Some Recipes and Sources: Bon Appetite!

The recipes I’m sharing come from the Nissan Thermos Cook and Carry System instructions (the one I have been using.) However, I am excited to try other thermal cooking systems, and I highly recommend Mr. D’s Thermal cooking blog: http://www.thethermalcook.com/ You can go crazy on his website watching videos and learning all these wonderful techniques!

Onion Soup (Serves 12)

1 Tsp Olive Oil

3 Tbsp tomato paste

4 1/2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick

10 garlic cloves

1/4 pound shallots, peeled and quartered

2 pounds leeks, white part only, sliced 1/4 thick

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 1/2 tbsp fresh whole thyme leaves

1 1/2 cup red wine

2 quarts broth

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Over medium high heat, brush a large skillet with the oil, add the tomato paste, and cook until the color darkens, stirring to prevent scorching, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the onion, garlic, shallots, leeks, cayenne pepper and thyme, and cook until the onions become translucent and start to carmelize, about 8 minutes. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil.

Transfer the onion mixture into the Cook and Carry system inner cooking pot. Add the broth, salt and bay leaves, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover the inner cooking pot and place in the insulated transport container and allow to cook for two hours.

To serve: ladle into individual bowls and garnish each with a tablespoon of parmesan cheese.

Poached Herb Chicken

1 four pound roasting chicken

1 cup assorted fresh herbs of choice (I like tarragon!)

1 tsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into 4 peices

6 medium red potatoes, well scrubbed, but not peeled

6 cups chicken stock

1 tsp salt

9 whole black peppercorns

2 cups fresh green beans

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

3 tbsp arrowroot

Wash and dry the chicken well, pulling off any visible fat. Stuff the cavity with the herbs and put in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Heat the Cook and Carry System inner cooking pot, add the oil and fry the onion for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and fry for two minutes. Transfer the prepared chicken into the inner cooking pot, on top of the onions and carrots, and tuck the potatoes in all around. Pour the stock over the chicken and vegetables and bring to a full boil. Add the salt and peppercorns, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Place the green beans on top of the chicken, cover, place in the insulated transport container and allow to cook for 3 hours.

Just before serving, make a sauce: 3 cups of the stock from the chicken and our it into a fat-strainer cup. When the fat has risen to the top, pour the defatted liquid into a saucepan. Remove 1/3 cup of the defatted stock and mix it with the arrowroot in a small bowl to make a slurry. Stir the mustard into the saucepan and heat gently. Remove from the heat, stir in the slurry, return to the heat and bring to boil to thicken.

To serve: remove and thinly slice the chicken. Serve the meat with the potatoes and green beans, covered with the sauce.

When at Home: Foreign Language

When at home: Foreign Language Audio learning

Ah, summer is almost gone! Yes, we travel a lot, but in reality school season has set in and there’s nothing we can do about it! My little boy is at home with me, and he is constantly asking me, “A donde bas?” “A donde bas usted?” He just naturally expects to be on the road, going somewhere! He’s learning some Spanish phrases because I finally figured out the best way to incorporate foreign language into our home is to listen to interactive audio CDs. I always had musical CDs in Spanish when they were babies, but now I really felt comfortable putting on the Pimsleur Approach Spanish. The best time to play it I find, is when I’m making meals, because that can get so boring and time-consuming– especially for a preschooler. Pimsleur can be expensive, but here is the version I use available on Amazon: Pimsleur Approach Spanish 1. I’m at level two, but that’s O.K. Sometimes I put on what the kids need and sometimes I put on my what I need. During meal prep, while he’s playing or while I’m doing puzzles with him;during dinner prep while my daughter can hear it too, and of course, on the open road!

I love that it’s interactive and that my mind is trying to get the answer before they say it on the CD. It is designed to just listen and repeat. It’s also designed to constantly refresh vocabulary just at the scientifically proven moment that your mind starts to lose its retention. The more times you hear a word, the longer you can remember it; each time gets incrementally longer and the Pimsleur designers have that all figured out! Here is an Amazon page showing the different varieties of Pimsleur studies that are available: Shop my Amazon links

I really believe in giving them potential to become fluent in another language while they are young. For a long time I obsessed about just doing one language, but through thrift stores and garage sales I have gradually acquired Chinese, French, Italian and other languages– there’s nothing wrong with giving them a sampling of multiple languages, and if you have babies still, it has been proven that they can learn to speak without an accent if you introduce it before the age of 16 months! I love the idea of learning it on the go– because my kids and I are too busy to be able to sit down and focus in front of workbooks right now.

When it comes to books, you may like the Usborne First Thousand Words books– each book has the same cute pictures and themes but they come in different languages. Help them learn their first thousand words easily and reinforce what you are doing audibly with Pimsleur. Here is my Usborne link: First Thousand Words

On my children’s book:

When I decided to blog a book, I knew I would never complete it without the pressure keep writing– which comes from having to post two to three times per week. Just read this quote from “The Weekend Book Proposal” by Ryan G. Van Cleave: “Ideas are cheap. A good idea handled poorly in writing isn’t publishable. A boring idea handled wonderfully in writing might well be publishable. It might even be a bestseller. Until you develop your idea on the page, you’ll never know if it’ll work or not as a written text.” That is my reason to keep blogging: to figure out whether it will work or not! Thanks for being patient and supportive of my blog as I figure it all out!

Learning Together on the Go: Part 3 Memories

In a world where everything is changing, and convenience is king, I hear many parents who look at car trips as a headache rather than an adventure. They’re afraid their children will be hungry and whiny and have to stop for the bathroom constantly– which are all just as much a reality at home. In “continuation of the Learning Together on the Go series”, here are some more ideas to make your car rides exciting!

Memories:

Traveling is a great time to reflect on places you have been, and to tell stories of where you went as a child. It’s hard nowadays to be all together– parents working different shifts, kids in daycare. Make the most of family trips– they’ll never forget it! These lyrics of “Galway and Mayo” by Irish band Saw Doctors speaks to that:

“We used to go out driving
We’d travel near and far
Nearly every Sunday in me
Father’s oul’ ford car
He’d be pointing out the landmarks
Everywhere we’d go, through the
Twistings , turning , winding roads
Of Galway and Mayo

Me mother in the front seat
Children in the back
We’d be imagining Indians in the
Fields waiting to attack”

Last spring we were able to take a trip to Pennsylvania where both my Dad and Grandma grew up. My mother grew up nearby in Maryland, and her mother’s childhood home– built by her father– still stands. My Dad was along with us and it was neat being able to show the kids the landmarks I remember visiting as a child. After careening down a narrow mountain road that I remember very well, we were able to stop at Summit Diner– a place I remember eating banana cream pie with my Mom and Grandma when they were alive. We had to use the GPS to find it. It’s really amazing and comforting to find places that haven’t changed!

Kids too, have memories to reflect on. In their short lives, a trip you took six months ago– relatively speaking– is like me remembering the last time I was in PA– twenty years ago. There’s always something to talk about on a trip, and very little need for kids to be watching movies or playing video games in the car. My Dad shared a story about being stuck on a mountain road after a ski trip. The road was closed down due to a blizzard and they just made it into a nearby town before the road was closed off. The visibility was so bad that my Dad and Uncle had to walk in front shoveling while my Mom drove the few miles into town. What a memory! I’m so glad the kids got to hear it, although I need to write these things down and retell them.

Kids may feel bored at times covering a vast expanse of land, but without driving all those miles, how would they know just how big the world is? When we drove from Tennessee to Arizona, my kids got to experience how big Texas is. They got to see the change in landscape from trees to ranches to cacti. No only can we appreciate the variations in landscape along the way, but things that we see jog our memories. Passing through a military base in New Mexico got my husband talking about his time at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Although we came to Arizona to see Tuscon and the Sonora Desert, flying in to our destination would have excluded other opportunities for views of the landscape and family memories.

And don’t forget those stickers and passports I wrote about in Learning Together on the Go part 1. Keeping a record of states traveled and routes will help them keep it all in context for years to come!

Children’s literature: Mom and Daughter Relive Costa Rica via Scrapbook

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“Mom, we have to find a picture for Daddy to paint– somewhere cool that I’ve been to!” Sophia exclaimed, the next morning.

Sophia’s little brother was still sleeping, so mom and daughter sat on the couch to look at the family scrapbooks.

Sophia goes through her baby pictures. “Am I still that cute, Mama?” she asks. “You are even more beautiful now.” her mama says.

Sophia reads a caption on the page: “I never tried to squeeze my baby’s feet into shoes before– her feet get stronger without them. But now that she’s walking outdoors, I emptied the bag of hand- me- down baby shoes that Karla gave us, and found two pairs that fit her. Here’s Sophia in her first shoes!

“Wait, Mama!” Sophia said. Karla gave us used baby shoes?”

“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” asked Mama.

“Karla the airline stewardess?! I got my shoes from someone who had traveled all over the world? No wonder I’ve been to so many places already– I’m wearing someone else’s shoes! I bet her daughter traveled with her in these shoes, and now I am traveling! See Mama, shoes do take you places!”

Mama just smiled. “Let’s look at your pictures in Costa Rica. You were only 1 and 1/2 years old then. Your first trip overseas.”

Turning the page, Sophia saw that Mama had embellished it with detailed journal entries. Now that she was old enough to read, Sophia found herself delighted at what she was learning!

costa rica 3-236costa rica 5-575

Here’s Sophia at 4:00 a.m. ready and waiting to go to Chicago O’Hare airport. minus 13 degrees outside– January in Chicago! Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane!  It’s winter here, but Costa Rica will still be having their summer. Wonder how hot it will be and how many bugs? Part of our time we’ll be up in the mountains, so we’ll keep some sweaters and rain jackets, but leave most of this winter clothing behind once we get to the airport. Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane! Costa Rica, here we come!

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When we first arrived, the sky was clear but the wind was blustery. We were told that the wind gusts were unusual and had to to with Mount Turrialba volcano having erupted on January 5, 2010– one week earlier. Vocanoes can send ash far up into the stratosphere and this can continue affecting weather for quite a while. High winds and even rain and thunder in the sky can result from a volcanic eruption. No one was hurt in the volcano that year, but everyone felt the high winds were very unusual for such a mild climate.

Our trip started and ended with San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. San Jose is packed with cars. Only ten years ago, people mostly took buses or rode bicycles. But then people started being able to afford cars. There are so many cars that the city of San Jose made a law that people can only drive their car one day a week, and on the weekend. Some people may drive on Mondays, other people on Tuesdays, etc! So people still have to take buses or share their car with someone else. It did take us incredibly long to get to our hotel!

sandals_cropcosta rica 5-813

In Costa Rica, coffee beans grow. They have the best tasting coffee in the world! And guess what? Mommy never cared for coffee before– until she had to start chasing little Sophia around! Yep, we had to put you on a little harness sometimes!

You ran all over in those little sandals. We put them on you in San Jose and you wore them the entire trip, until we returned to San Jose, and you lost one of them at a concert and cried for two days. We never found the missing sandal. It seems that it wanted to stay in Costa Rica. Funny to think of it, we got those sandals and summer clothes from a friend who had taken her kids to Puerto Rico. Her little girl is only a little older than you and they are part Peurto Rican– like you and Daddy. I think that sandal wanted to stay near the Carribean. I can’t blame it– sandals don’t like Chicago winters!

Children’s Literature: an aside for the reader:

A brief note to blog followers: I recently started training for a new position and am traveling all over for training. My family and I have been adjusting to the new routines, and additionally, we lost a very dear family friend to cancer last week. I intend to keep going with my blog plan and children’s story, but I apologize for the inconsistency these last couple weeks!

I need to backtrack in my story a little bit. I don’t think I need to remind anyone that its a rough draft– but if you’re new to this blog  you may want to take note: the story will come together and make sense in the end! Its about a little girl that wants to write her travel memoirs, and turn them into a story so she can win a writing contest and use the prize money to go to Italy. Her parents teach her to be grateful for all the places she has been already and to use those places as inspiration. Each post is a vignette for the book, and being a picture book it will have to be simplified into shorter, less descriptive stories put together as a series. Each book in the series will end with the girl having learned not only new facts about the places she’s been, but having a fuller understanding of the creative process of making a story, and lastly, each book will end with her family being inspired by her and drawing closer together.

Having said that, I now go back to a couple posts ago when I mentioned mother and daughter looking at the family scrapbook together. Mother has written vignettes, or memoirs about the places underneath the photos. The first place they look at is Costa Rica– having been the girl’s first trip outside the U.S. As a writer, I wrestled with moving forward with the plot, versus spending time on detail. I now see that this will work itself out if I end the first book with the girl reading her mother’s descriptions in the scrapbook, comprehending the definition of “Memoirs” and desiring to write her own memoirs. In this way, the first book encompasses the desire to go to Italy, introduces the challenge into the plot, requires a change in the main character’s perspective, brings her closer to her mom through the scrapbook, gives her a clue about the role her shoes played in this adventure, and deepens her mental image through both facts and feelings of a place she has been: Costa Rica.

Learning Together on the Go: Part 2

by Wendy Kullman

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Devise a strategy not to use your “devices” on the trip! How do you feel after a day of working on the computer? Why subject your child to that?

Normally family schedules make it hard to sit down and tutor your kids, but car rides are a great time to make up for that!  A family vacation, or any trip together can be seen as a time for developing deeper family relationships. Make it happen!

Here are some strategies that I hope will accomplish both learning and togetherness– MISC. as in miscellaneous (with lots of m’s): Manipulatives, Math, Music, Manners, Memories, Imaginative play, Stories, Cards.

Manipulatives:

Here are some fun, non-messy hands-on activities your children can be doing while you’re on the road:

Travel Tangoes: These are magnets shapes that can be made into all different animals or other patterns. They come with only a small number of peices (only about 6 per set) and a magnetic board with flaps that show different patterns to create. The answers are on the back of each flap. These have kept our children entertained quietly in the car, and we have also brought them to a wedding reception and a concert. We were able to interact quietly, helping our kids, while stimulating our brains and theirs! Really works well for all ages! (Except children who are young enough to put them in mouth.)

Magnet letters: bring your refrigerator magnet letters and an old square shaped cookie tin. Keep the letters in the tin, and children can use them to practice sounds with you or write messages with them. Not good for children under three of course.

Learning Palette: This manipulative “toy” by Usborne  is the FUN, HANDS ON, SELF-CORRECTING learning game that teaches essential grade-appropriate skills without batteries or electricity. Covering addition all the way to algebra, it meets the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards. Each card is self-correcting. You can buy sets for reading or math skills. You really have to see it to believe it– click here for demonstration!

Interactive Math:

When I was growing up, my uncle would always quiz my cousin and I on math facts in the car. I was always inclined to write down the problems, but now with the Singapore method used in many schools, children can learn to solve problems in their head much more reliably. We always did counting with our two year old in the car– it was a good time to work on memorization of any kind. Normally family schedules make it hard to sit down and tutor your kids, but car rides are a great time to make up for that! Flashcards can help too.

Music:

You don’t want to be singing “Old Mac Donald” over and over again. Nor is resorting to the radio a good idea. So plan ahead! Go to your library and check out a bunch of children’s CDs, classical music, and songs you all can learn from. I always enjoy getting foreign language CDs designed for learning, because we can all practice together, and sing together!

My advice is to intersperse music with other interactive games and learning activities, so that you’re not relying on music and get some peace and quiet. There are times when children just need to let it out, so use those times to introduce new music!

If your child plays an instrument, make them practice at intervals during the trip. We take my daughter’s violin and have her play for relatives; but we’ve also had her play at an outdoor picnic area at a rest stop, and at the oil change place while waiting. These kind of situations challenge the child to recall and utilize their skills in interesting situations. It’s refreshing to hear music in these otherwise boring places, and we always get applause!

More M’s to follow!

“Are We There Yet” Prevention, Learning on the Go! Part One

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“Are we there yet?” are four words that parent’s ears should not have to deal with when traveling. And likewise, day trips to museums and cultural places should be filled with excitement and anticipation! Read on to see how to make these statements as reality in your family!

Stamps, stickers and passports:

Kids love to feel like grown-ups! Just like us, they love rewards and a sense of completion. These rewards should not be treats or toys; they should be acknowledgements. In fact, it makes sense to reward them for achievements outside of school; this way they understand that focus and discipline can help us in every day life!

When Sophia was at White Pine Montessori school her first year of preschool, they made a mock passport with her photo in it. I never dreamed how handy something like that can be! Here are some new ways you can use this idea:

  • For each trip you go on, whether its abroad or near home, make a mock passport.
  • for a long car trip, give them a sticker or stamp for each hour spent reading or learning in the car. (More tips on car learning time to follow)
  • Use rubber stamps or stickers to represent places they go. Some museums might use stamps or stickers for admission. You can ask someone to stamp their “passport”– they’ll probably be delighted to!
  • If you go to a cultural event, find a stamp or sticker that would represent that country. For instance, our 4 H group hosted an international night, and each child had a mock passport. Our group represented the Netherlands, so we used a windmill stamp.
  • If you can’t afford stamps, why not write something like “Hello” or “Welcome” in that language on their passport along with the name of the country.
  • Not traveling abroad? Get stickers of all 50 states, and use them, whether you’re on an adventure or just visiting the grandparents. I would love to have an accurate record of all the states I’ve been to throughout my life!

Learning Toys:

If you’re going to reward them for learning in the car, on a camping trip, or on the way back from a day trip, you need to provide them something to work with! My next post will continue this theme with some good suggestions for learning toys!