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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Fun Activity Ideas for Long Car Rides

Beat backseat boredom! Here are 7 fun ideas to keep your kids entertained during your next road trip, while boosting brainpower and bonding with family.

By Sarah Antrim

Road trips can be really exciting … for about 20 minutes, until the “are we there yet” and “I’m bored” comments begin to roll in. Sure, you could let kids fire up a game or movie on their tablet, but let’s face it: Kids get enough screen time these days. Besides, gazing out the window means they will get a better sense of going on and adventure as they watch the scenery change and spot buildings and landmarks that are unfamiliar.

How to get kids to set down the tech for at least a good part of your trip? ActivityHero gathered these 7 great games and activities that kids love — and some are even fun to play well into their teen years! Don’t tell the kids, but these activities also improve their powers of awareness and observation, memory, and fine motor skills. Be sure to play at least a few of the ones that involve the whole family, such as the Alphabet Game. They allow for some silly interaction between parents and adults that is sure to start your trip off with miles of smiles.

See All On-Demand DIY Activities and Printables, including art, science, coding, music, and more >>

The State License Plate Game

Heading down a highway? That can make for boring viewing, to be sure, but it’s a great forum for this car game, which enables kids to practice geography, memorization, writing, and more.

In this game, passengers check out the license plates of vehicles nearby and attempt to find at least one plate per state.

To begin, have kids make a list of all 50 states. They can hand-write it during the trip, or you can prepare sheets ahead of time at home. To make it more challenging, see if the your kids (and you!) can name all of the states without looking them up.

Next, give a copy of the list to each child. If you have little kids who can’t read, you can print the photo shown here and have them look for states by their first letter and their license plate color and image.

As each child finds a plate from a new state, they cross it off their list. The first one to complete all 50 states or get the highest number crossed out is the winner.

Alternate version: Instead of a worded list, give kids a printed black-and-white map of the states (widely available online) and have them color each state as they spy a license plate from there.

You can also use the map to point out where you’re headed, as well as the route you’re taking, so your child can track your progress.

BONUS POINTS: Download one of the many “50 States” songs (or states and capitals songs) to play in the car, too. By the end of the trip, you all might be able to name them quickly … even it it’s off-key.

The Alphabet Game

This game can go fairly quickly, but it’s one your kids can play over and over until they tire of it. It’s especially fun for little ones just learning their ABCs, since they’ll be proud to show what they know.

To play, kids will try to find each letter of the alphabet — from start to finish — by looking at street signs, billboards, highway markers, license plates, car or truck logos or artwork, and any other item with wording or letters.

For example, a sign that reads “Albuquerque” would count for letter A. Another that says “Bus Stop” would count for B, and so on.

The alphabet must be completed in order, which means it can be challenging when you get to Q and Z, unless you do happen to be near Albuquerque or Zion National Park.

It’s more challenging if you can accept only first letters of words, but you can also allow kids to find consecutive letters within the same word. In this case, Albuquerque could count for A and B. Alter the rules as you like, but be sure everyone knows them!

Kids can either work together to finish one alphabet or each complete their own in a race to see who finishes first.

Mad Libs

Who can resist the silly stories that ensue with Mad Libs?

A tried-and-true favorite for over 50 years, Mad Libs can still entertain every generation in vehicles, at rest stops, in the lobby of a restaurant, or in a hotel room while waiting for a turn to brush teeth.

Purchase your own book of Mad Libs at your favorite book store, visit the website (Madlibs.com) for free downloads, or add the Mad Libs app to your iPhone or iPad.

Kids will practice language and terms, such as identifying the difference between a noun and an adjective. If you’re traveling during the school year, encourage them to bring their vocabulary books or lists from school and find the funniest uses for new words.

Make a Travel Journal

Give each child a notebook and crayons. Or create a homemade travel journal using construction paper and office paper, punching holes in the spine and linking them with yarn.

Each time you enter a new state, encourage your child to draw a picture of something they spot, and ask them to write a few memorable things that they liked about that state.

Older kids can log the trip in greater detail. Did you stop somewhere for lunch or dinner? How was the food? What sort of things did you see there that are different from those back at home? Not only will this help you recall good times when you review them a few months later, but it also will allow you to return to favorite spots if you make the same journey again.

The Alphabet Memory Game

This is a great activity for the whole family, except perhaps the driver who should save their attention for the road ahead.

One person starts the story with a noun that begins with the letter A, for example, “I went to Atlanta.” The next person repeats the story and adds on with the next letter of the alphabet, such as “I went to Atlanta to see a buffalo” and so on. See how long you can keep the game (and the story) going.

Kids will exercise their memory and concentration with this game.

If you complete a particularly funny story, one of the older kids can write it down after the fact, recording it in their travel journal so you all can have a good laugh later.

BONUS POINTS: On the way home, see if anyone can remember one whole story that you created during the ride to your destination. (No peeking in the travel journal for help!)

Destination Wheel of Fortune

Can I get an F for fun? There’s a reason that this game show has existed since 1983!

In this travel version, everyone chooses one thing that they are excited to see or do at your destination. Then each person puts that thing in the form of a phrase, just as the game show does. Examples could be “going miniature golfing” or “hiking a new trail.”

Next, have passengers take turns trying to guess one letter at a time to reveal the answer. If they can solve the puzzle first, they win!

Kids will practice reasoning and spelling with this game. This is also a good way for parents to learn what each child is hoping to do, so everyone will have a fond memory when the vacation is over.

BONUS POINTS: It’s always nice for parents to have one “date night” during a vacation! You can use ActivityHero to help you find a drop-in session or a day or evening class at your destination, where your child can a special activity while you savor a meal and some couples-time at an upscale eatery.

Sewing Cards

If you’d like kids to practice fine motor skills, pick up some of these colorful cards at a craft store or toy store. Or work together with your kids to construct some homemade ones prior to the car ride, using these instructions.

All you’ll need is a hole puncher, some thin cardboard, a thick plastic needle, and some colored yarn.

Have your child trace a figure that they’d like to “sew” on a piece of cardboard. For instance, they may choose a teddy bear, a dinosaur, or a cartoon character. They may draw it themselves or you can print it out from a website photo. (If using a printout or a drawing of the item that’s on paper, use glue to mount it to the thin cardboard before moving on to the next step.)

Next, use the hole puncher to place holes around the outline of the picture, locating them about an inch apart and an inch from the edge.

Take these cards, along with the plastic needle and yarn, along on your trip. If you don’t have a plastic needle, simply wrap some tape tightly around the end of the yarn … or use a thin shoelace, which will be easy to thread through the holes.

What fun games do YOUR kids love to play during road trips?

Share your ideas in the comments to help other parents keep their kids happily amused! And for more car activity suggestions, check our recent posting on kid-friendly, screen-free podcasts to keep little ones entertained.

ActivityHero has updated schedules on popular kid’s activities – including in-person, live online, and on-demand. Customize your search by your child’s age and discover convenient providers near you.

 
 
Categories
Adventure/Outdoors Community Service Environmental Hiking Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Nature Programs Play/Outdoor

Outdoor Activities for Earth Day






Getting outside is healthy for the body and the mind. This Earth Day, why not get the whole family outdoors for some memorable adventures?

By Wendy Chou

Research has shown that getting outside keeps kids moving, lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Another health benefit from being out and about: added Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and is thought to help the immune system fight off infection. Some health experts say that spending time outdoors also relieves some symptoms of hyperactivity, including short attention span.

Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22. It was originally created to bring attention to environmental goals like cleaner air and water. Today Earth Day reminds us to step out into nature. Try these kid-approved outdoor activities highlighting science, crafts, sports, and helping the community. Find these activities and many more in The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, an excellent user-friendly guide for kindling the adventurous spirit in all of us.

Little Scientists

Go outside at an unusual time: nighttime! Go stargazing or take a walk to admire the moon. Visit kidsastronomy.com for tips.

Start a compost pile from kitchen scraps and yard trimmings. If your family has a garden, generating your own rich compost (so-called “black gold”) is not only fun, but also useful. It’s also a great tool for teaching kids about nature’s version of recycling. Tips for beginners.  

Watch a sunset. Watching colors change can inspire a lifelong appreciation for the environment. Find details on specific sunrise and sunset times at timeanddate.com

Arts and Crafts Lovers

Paint a birdhouse. Using a more natural palette such as gray, dull green, brown, or tan will help keep birds safe from eagle-eyed predators. And steer clear of metallic, iridescent, lead-based, or neon-colored paints which contain additives that are unsafe for wildlife.

Play “Nature bingo”. This game is a variation on a scavenger hunt. Create a bingo card for each player on sturdy paper or cardboard. You’ll need 16 assorted images arranged in a 4 x 4 grid: either paste on stickers, or draw/clip out pictures from magazines. Some examples are ladybug, leaf, flower, bird. After you design the bingo cards, have a blast exploring nature and looking for your items.

Make a nature mosaic. For this textured craft, first gather small items of roughly the same shape and size, like small pebbles, dried flower petals, or seeds. Take a paper plate and draw your desired shape with pen or pencil (for instance, outline your handprint). Working with one small section at a time, add a thin layer of glue and press the objects down to secure them. (If you apply glue over too large an area at once, it will dry before you’ve finished pasting.) Let dry and it’s done!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

Ready, Set, Move!

Roll down a grassy hill. Who doesn’t love doing this on a sunny day?

Go for a bike ride. There’s nothing quite like coasting along on the open road. Safety first: study the biker’s checklist before you head out!

Make homemade trail mix and take it on a hike.

Try geocaching, a modern take on treasure hunting. This activity relies on GPS technology to hide or find caches. To get started, check out geocaching.com.  

Community-Minded

Join a volunteer event. Find an organization near you (check your city or county listings) that is sponsoring an Earth Day event, such as a river cleanup or tree planting.

Visit a farmers’ market. You’ll find fresher fruits and vegetables here with less wasteful plastic packaging. People selling their wares often enjoy telling you where and how they grew their food –and sometimes let you try a sample for free.

Beautify your neighborhood. Clean up trash, prune or weed a garden, or do some other type of community service to show your appreciation for Mother Earth.

Be Adventurous Beyond Earth Day

Save the date for Kids to Parks Day, an annual event to encourage youth to get out and play in nature. Learn more: https://www.parktrust.org/kids-to-parks-day/. Getting outside isn’t just something to do on Earth Day!

Find summer camps featuring the outdoors. Camp is a great way to spend time outside. Emily Moeschler has over ten years of experience in adventure education and the outdoor industries. She is currently a leader at Avid4Adventure Camp in Boulder, CO. Her top tip: “Give your kids permission to get dirty!”

Be inspired. Have your own brainstorming session to come up with even more outdoor activities. There’s really no “right” way to explore, just get outside and have fun!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

About Wendy Chou

Wendy Chou is an environment writer and parent based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Categories
Adventure/Outdoors Play/Outdoor

Where to Dig for Buried Treasure in the United States






Little boy wearing pirate costumeWhat kid doesn’t dream about becoming a pirate and digging up buried treasure to fill their chest? You may not be able to sail the bounding seas on your summer vacation, but you and your kids can enjoy nature while digging for buried treasure across the U.S. From gold and gems to actual dinosaur fossils, if it fascinates your kids, there’s a spot where they can discover it. These top-notch treasure spots are guaranteed to give your kids a great time and might even provide a valuable piece of treasure for a souvenir.

Hiddenite, North Carolina

Nestled in the hills of North Carolina, the Emerald Hollow Mine is the destination for thousands of gems seekers each year. Set in one of the most interesting geological areas in the country, Emerald Hollow Mine has produced dozens of types of gems, including amethyst, topaz, sapphires and valuable green emeralds. Your little treasure hunters might happen upon one of the 63 different types of gems that have been found here and they can turn any of their finds into cut stones or jewelry with the onsite lapidary shop.

Murfreesboro, Arkansas

geography for kids
photo by Flickr user artstreamstudios

In Crater of Diamonds State Park, diamonds can be found literally sitting on top of the soil, ready for treasure hunting kids to pick up. Sitting on top of an ancient volcano field, this diamond field produces already-smoothed stones in white, brown, and yellow colors. There are three different diamond-searching methods used here:

  1. Walk the fields and, using a sharp eye, find stones laying on top of the soil
  2. Dig shallow areas and sift the soil, digging through resulting gravel by hand
  3. Dig deep holes, concentrating the resulting soil into a likely gravel mix

The first method is obviously the simplest, and has actually produced gemstone-sized diamonds for lucky visitors. Bring your own tools or rent them at the park. Rangers are prepared to identify diamonds from your pile of rocks, but leave the valuation up to your local jeweler.

Deming, New Mexico

In the desert lands of Rock Hound State Park, thousands of people have found geodes, also known as thunder eggs. These stones just look like plain rocks when you pick them up, but once you crack them open the insides show off lovely crystals in amethyst, hematite, or rose quartz. Make this treasure hunting outing a part of your camping or RV trip in the Western part of the country. Geodes can be found in washed-out piles of rocks or lying against wind-swept hills. Bring along small hammers to tap the rocks open to discover what’s inside the best of them.

Devil Hills, South Dakota

The Badlands region of South Dakota is prime dinosaur-fossil hunting land. Kids who are dino-lovers will eagerly spend their days sifting through piles of rock and soil just to find a hint of dinosaur history. Gigantic pieces of bone from over 145 million years ago have been discovered here, and young hunters have had as much luck as older, more experienced explorers. If you find fossils in this area you have to report them to the authorities and leave them where you found them, but pictures with the fossil make a great souvenir. Besides, how many kids can brag about personally discovering their own dinosaur and have the pictures to prove it?

Central Florida Coast

Photo by Flickr user  David Dawson Photography
Photo by Flickr user David Dawson Photography

11 Spanish galleons sunk off the Florida coast in 1715, dropping tons of gold coins, jewels, and other relics into the sea. The ocean waves have been washing this treasure up for the past 300 years onto the beaches between Cape Canaveral and Stuart. People have been finding treasure almost daily, even today, and the finds are so simple they’re great for kids to work on. Look on the high tide line, especially after a thunderstorm creates big waves and on the sand that’s still damp from the tide going out. Treasure has been found by looking with the naked eye but you may want to invest in a simple metal detector to find treasure buried in the sand. The entire eastern coast of central Florida provides abundant lodging for visitors so pick a small town for your best bet and look for your very own pirate treasure.

When you go treasure hunting with your kids, you’ll build memories and give them experiences none of their friends will ever have.

 

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After-School Activities Events Parenting Resources

10 Summer Activities that will Satisfy Bored Kids AND your Wallet






Summer: the ultimate free-for-all.

Instead of being entertained and engaged for 5 to 8 straight hours every day, kids are now looking to you with those big eyes that say “I’m bored.”

Here’s some fun and thrifty ideas to beat summer boredom that will keep both your kids and wallet happy.

Make a tire swing

A simple summer classic, tire swings can easily be put up and taken down as often as you’d like. On the days that the park is too crowded or it’s too hot to make the walk, hop on the tire swing and let the fun begin!

Simply hang a tire from a sturdy branch with strong rope and you’ve got yourself a swing.

10 Thrifty Summer Ideas Guaranteed to Beat Boredom, not your Wallet
Photo by Flickr user twred

Have a cooking day

For those days that the air conditioning is more comforting than the wicked heat, rally the troops into the kitchen and come up with some fun recipes to make as a family.

On those especially hot days where turning on the oven is a no-no, check out this list of no-bake desserts that are sure to beat the heat.

Cooking with Kids

Backyard obstacle course

Who is the greatest obstacle warrior of them all?

Have a competition in your backyard that will be sure to keep kids busy for hours. Make an obstacle course out of wading pools, tires, and ropes to test kids’ balance and agility. For some great obstacle course ideas visit here.

Scavenger hunt

Keep kids entertained and having fun by sending them on a scavenger hunt. Hide clues throughout the house and yard so that kids will have to follow clues to get to their final destination. Place clues underneath rocks, hide a message in a balloon, or even bury clues in the yard so kids will have to dig for them.

The final destination could be anything from a surprise ice cream cone to a special screening of their favorite movie.

geography for kids
photo by Flickr user artstreamstudios

Rainy day fort

What better place to set up camp than in the comfort of your own living room?

Grab some pillows and blankets and build a fort worth writing home about. Shut off all the lights and bring out the lanterns so kids feel like they’re really at camp. Kids can share ghost stories, eat s’mores, and play flashlight tag all just steps from their bedrooms.

Photo by Flickr user designerBrent
Photo by Flickr user designerBrent

Have a boat race

Toy boats can be made out of anything from wood to Tupperware—as long as it floats, it can be a boat!

Go to your local creek or simply fill up a pool in the backyard and let the races begin. Kids can use straws to set their ships sailing and see whose boat is the quickest. For some ideas on how to construct your own boat, check it out.

Photo by Flickr user Jon Olav Eikenes
Photo by Flickr user Jon Olav Eikenes

Tie dye

This is a great outdoor craft as it can get pretty messy!

Grab some white pieces of clothing such as socks, t-shirts, or dresses, and get ready to dye! Tie dye kits can be purchased at any craft store, or simple fabric dye will work just the same. Be sure to follow all the instructions provided to avoid too many stains.

Photo by Flickr user Karly Soldner
Photo by Flickr user Karly Soldner

Dress-up box

Kids love to pretend, and what better way to create a living story than with costumes.

Raid your closet for old bridesmaid dresses or bedazzled jean jackets that you knew would come in handy one day. Most thrift stores are a gold mine for dress-up boxes. Fancy hats, heels, and costume jewelry can be found at a fraction of their cost if you know where to look!

Photo by Flickr user mooshoo {littlepapoose}
Photo by Flickr user mooshoo {littlepapoose}

Backyard water wonderland

This is a great activity for those unbearably hot days. Drag out the inflatable pool, sprinkler, water guns, and even water balloons and have an all-out water blast–bored kids no more!

For an extra cool dip, float some ice cubes in the pool and call it the “cool off zone.” When kids get overheated from running around they’ll get a quick chill of relief.

Photo by Flickr user jennyhud
Photo by Flickr user jennyhud

Fly a kite

Check your local forecast and plan for the next windy day. If your kids have never flown a kite before, I recommend picking up a cheap starter kite. You can find them at any super store or even some dollar stores.

Keep in mind they probably won’t last long, but it will teach your kids the basics of kite flying. Once they’ve mastered it, consider purchasing a good kite that will last all summer.

Photo by Flickr user Vironevaeh
Photo by Flickr user Vironevaeh
Written by Sarah Antrim
Categories
After-School Activities

Top Reasons For Summer Sports Involvement






Elite sports begin young, and select those few who will be the superstars of the next generation early on. Whether you desire this intense experience for your child, or simply want them to be active, have fun and learn a new skill – summer is a great time to get it done.

Competitive sports can be, well, competitive – even during elementary school. While everyone should try to be a good sport on game days, coveted positions on teams can cause jealously and fierceness to flare up. And then outside of the parents, the kids will feel the pressure too!

In today’s world of young athletes, it can be difficult for school-aged children to try out for a team when they have zero experience in the sport. A summer camp or intensive can help resolve this issue, providing the child with one of two things:

–        For the beginner: a basic, non-competitive environment in which to learn

–        For the seasoned athlete: a chance to enrich skills during freed up hours during summer

No matter which goal your family has in mind, taking advantage of longer days and less commitments over the summer is vital to improving one’s game.

Finding a True Love

Perhaps your child is young or new to sports and aren’t sure which one to plug into. Since every recreational activity that involves being part of a team tends to be both expensive and time-consuming, summer is the best time of year to “try things out” and see what really excites your child. You may have always envisioned her as a soccer star, but then discover that she is a tennis pro. Summer vacation is a wonderful time to just explore and play. Many summer intensives for sports (including dance and gymnastics) invite those new to the arena a chance to sample a handful of different things. An intensive sports camp may include a week of softball, football, tennis, volleyball and soccer – or any other combination of sports. Basic rules are taught, mock games are played, and information about what to do next if you’ve caught the bug for one in particular are usually included. For dance, a smattering of different dance disciplines are taught, and may include ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, contemporary or hip hop. Gymnastics intensives for new athletes may choose to focus on all events within competitive gymnastics, or instead just work on strength-building, basic tricks and safety protocol.

Encouraging an Elitist

If your child is going to become a sports elitist, taking the summer off is not an option. Elite sports demands a generous amount of commitment from both the athlete and his/her family, and summer is a time spent ramping up training, endurance levels and honing new skills. If the competition season prior ended up being a bit rough in some regard, then those skills which caused the fumbles will often be worked on intensively.

Summer is time for the elitist to spend the hours he/she would normally be in school working with a private coach or taking extra classes. The goal of an advanced athlete is to use summer camps and intensives toward improving significantly in their sport of choice, or at least maintaining the level they are at.  These months are often the only time of year where you can get an “edge” on your fiercest competition, as there are fewer distractions in life.

Finding Your Heart

Parents tend to have big dreams for their youngsters, and kids really do need us to dream big for them. However, every parent must be careful they aren’t dreaming beyond what a child is capable of, or not forcing their own slighted ambitions onto a little one. Explain the importance of summer intensives to your child, but if they don’t want to be an elitist in their sport, or just really need a summer off to avoid burnout, it’s important to honor that whenever possible.

Whatever your activity decision-making may be, the heart of it should always be your child’s dreams and passions. Take a good hard look in your family mirror – is the sacrifice something that is worth it? Does your child’s elite sport make his/her life enhanced? Is this something that is child-driven rather than parent or coach-driven? If so, take advantage of one of the great intensive camps available in your region. You can find out about them through your child’s regular trainer or coach, or simply look online. Discounts and scholarships are often available to ambitious young athletes hoping for high-quality summer enrichment without an overwhelming price tag.

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