Wednesday, June 30, 2010

4th of July or Independence Day Book Recommendations

Children are not born with patriotism.  It must be taught to them.

One of the best ways to teach children patriotism is to provide them with books that explain the history of freedom in American and teach them why America is a great country.

There are numerous books available that accomplish both those goals.  Some of my favorite are published by Sleeping Bear Press.  But since I've mentioned them several times lately I've decided to tell you about three other great books I've found.

America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates.  Illustrated by Wendell Minor.  Published by Putnam Books, 2003.

There are many pictorial versions of this famous song but this one is definitely a favorite of mine.  The illustrations (watercolor paintings) capture the details and majesty that makes America's landscape so great.

Included at the back of the book is a U.S. map pinpointing the location of each illustration and a brief explanation as to why that place is special to America.  Also included is a history of the song with brief biographies of the author and composer.

If you are looking for a book that captures the inspiring wonder of America - this is it!

I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson.  Illustrated by Chris Raschka.  Published by Candlewick Press, 2002.

What's not to like about this book?!  Each page contains a word or phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance.  The authors then explain what that word or phrase means and why it's important to Americans.

My favorite page explains that the colors of the flag (red, white, and blue) stand for courage, purity and innocence, and loyalty and fairness.  I didn't know that!

If you are looking for a book to teach children the importance of the American Pledge of Allegiance - this is it!


The Statue of Liberty by Lucille Recht Penner.  Illustrated by Jada Rowland.  Published by Scholastic, 1995.

Simple text explains the story of how Frederic Bartholdi designed and built the Statue of Liberty while simple illustrations help young readers imagine the process.  I recommend this book for 3-8 year olds.  Non-readers will enjoy listening to the story and looking at the pictures, while more advanced readers will have no trouble with the text.

I hope to take my children to see the Statue of Liberty later this year so this book is helping prepare us for that.

If you are looking for a book to share the history of one of our national landmarks with young children - this is it!


Those are my book recommendations for the 4th of July or Independence Day.  I realize that they don't directly address WHY we celebrate on the 4th but they do inspire children to be patriots and believe in their country.  We've enjoyed reading them at our house so I hope you enjoy reading them at yours.

What children's books do you recommend for the 4th of July or Independence Day?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

(Almost Healthy) Red, White and Blueberry Pie

Independence Day is right around the corner and my fridge is full of strawberries and blueberries.  That can only mean one thing:

It's time to make Red, White and Blueberry Pie!!!

RWB Pie is probably my favorite pie ever, well, my second favorite, right behind apple pie.  Unfortunately, it is not the most scale-friendly pie ever made.  I don't know the nutritional info on it and I'm OK with that. Denial isn't just a river in Egypt!!

But, this summer I am determined to get rid of my 20+ extra pounds and a couple of extra inches.  Which means I can't float down Denial with this pie.  So I'm tweaking the recipe a little to reduce some of the calories.  Without further ado I give you...

(Almost Healthy) Red, White and Blueberry Pie

  • 1 pie crust
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, divided
  • 1 package cheesecake (or white chocolate or vanilla) sugar free instant pudding
  • low or fat free milk (according to pudding package directions)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup light whipped topping, thawed

  1. Bake pie crust according to package directions or golden brown. Cool completely.
  2. Rinse strawberries and pat dry on paper towels. Select 8 uniformly sized berries; cut in half through stem ends. Set aside. Hull and slice remaining berries into uniform sized pieces.
  3. Arrange sliced strawberries over bottom of cooled pie crust.
  4. Prepare pudding according to package directions.  Pour over top of sliced strawberries.
  5. Arrange blueberries evenly over top of pie filling. Attach open star tip to Easy Accent Decorator (or any decorator frosting bag) and fill with whipped topping. Pipe topping evenly around edge of pie. Place strawberry halves on whipped topping border. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut into wedges.

Yield: 8 servings (VERY generous portions, you can easily get 10)

What kind of dessert do you make for the 4th of July?

Monday, June 28, 2010


I have an announcement to make.

{clearing throat}

Effective immediately, I am a staff writer at Offering Hospitality, a blog for the purpose of inspiring, encouraging and instructing women in the practice of biblical hospitality.

{And you all thought I was going to announce a pregnancy, didn't you?!}

How did I get this position?

Over a year ago I began reading book reviews at 5 Minutes for Books.  I really enjoyed the posts of one particular reviewer (Carrie) and followed the links to her blog (Reading to Know).  Throughout this year, she and I have developed an on-line friendship and know that we are going to have a lot of fun when we finally meet in person!

A couple of weeks ago Carrie and I were emailing about her other blog (Offering Hospitality) and I offered her a few suggestions.  She asked if I wanted to join her team and become a staff writer for the blog.  And the rest, as they say, is history!

When will I be writing at Offering Hospitality?

I have committed to writing 3 posts a month for July and August and 1 post a month during the school year.  There may be more during the school year (such as November when I've agreed to host a book review/club) but I'll have to gage my involvement once September arrives and I've started teaching a 2nd grader, Kindergartener and preschooler; all while keeping a 2 year old out of trouble! 

That's a round about way of saying it depends.  Make sure you subscribe to Offering Hospitality so you don't miss any of my posts!

Why am I writing at Offering Hospitality?

Because I have a dream to one day be a published author and speaker.  There.  I've actually said it in a public forum. (Please don't laugh!)

But, I don't want to write and speak about just anything.  As I said in my O.H. about page, my goal is to encourage and inspire women (from a Christian world view) as they invest time and energy in their families, homes and relationships.

I believe that writing for Offering Hospitality (O.H.) will provide me with opportunities to:  improve my writing, delve into topics I don't normally discuss here at SMB, and increase the number of women in my on-line community.

How will this impact Stephanie's Mommy Brain?

I don't foresee there being much of an impact.  I will continue to write at SMB as usual; though there might be occasions when I point you to one of my posts at O.H.

In conclusion, I am VERY excited about being a staff writer for Offering Hospitality!!  Thank you, Carrie, for this opportunity to be a member of your team.  I can't wait to see what great things are going to happen as we work together!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

1st Day of Summer Celebration (Part 2)

For my family celebrating the 1st official day of summer required two parts:  a field trip to the Zoo and a backyard picnic for supper!

While Daddy grilled our hot dogs and hamburgers we waited impatiently with potato chips and lemonade.

He worked quickly so we didn't have to wait long...

But it was SOOOOOOO worth the wait!!

Sam gorged himself on half a bowl of potato chips.  He would have been happy to finish them off if I would have let him!

You can see our picnic was simple.  Lemonade, hamburgers, hot dogs and chips.  Simple but fun!

Of course, no summer picnic would be complete without ice cream cones!!

If the rest of our summer is as fun as today was then we're going to have a great time!!

Thank you Offering Hospitality for reminding us to celebrate summer and giving us a reason to share our celebration.  For more ideas for summer celebrations go visit the carnival at Offering Hospitality!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

1st Day of Summer Celebration (Part 1)

On Monday Sam and I invited you to join us in celebrating the 1st official day of Summer.  Did you accept our invitation?

Yesterday's Zoo and animal book recommendations post was a hint about how we celebrated the first day of Summer.  We visited Roger Williams Park Zoo!!

Roger Williams Park Zoo is kind of small but they have some fun displays.  It is also one of the oldest zoos in the country.

The three female African elephants are always fun to watch.  This one flapped her ears for us and grabbed some hay hanging in a basket over her head.

Next door to the elephants are the giraffes.  This male has the great fortune of sharing his space with 2 females.  RWPZ has a VERY busy giraffe breeding program as a result!  In fact, a year or so ago some zoo visitors had the unexpected experience of watching a giraffe being born!!

We also walked through the Farmyard exhibit where rare or unusual breeds of farm animals are kept.  This goat knew just where to lay in order to receive a good petting!

After our picnic lunch, Will, Ben and Ellie took a "ride" on this camel.  He doesn't go very fast but he doesn't smell as bad as the one on the other side of the fence does!

As usual we enjoyed our visit to the zoo!  I'm sure we'll go back before the summer is over.

So, what did you do to celebrate the first official day of summer?

It's not too late to join in the fun.  And if you're out of ideas just visit Offering Hospitality to see what other families have done.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Zoo and Animal Book Recommendations

"Walk like the animals...  Talk like the animals...  at the Little Rock Zoo..."

I still remember that advertising jingle from my childhood!  Thirty years ago I loved going to the zoo.  Truth be told, I STILL enjoy going to the zoo.  Which is part of the reason my family has an annual membership to Roger Williams Park Zoo.

And when we aren't visiting the Zoo (because who wants to walk around outside when it's 30 degrees?!), we like to read books about the zoo and about animals.

One of our favorite zoo books is 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle.

Children count animals as they travel on a train to a zoo.  The counting is fun but so are the illustrations, done in typical Carle fashion.  We also like to practice the sounds each animal makes.  Even Sam can let out a pretty good lion roar!!

Another of our favorites is Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire.

A poor leopard (dog? cat? not really sure) tries his hardest to be in the zoo.  He changes his polka dot spots all different ways but, alas, is not talented enough for the zoo.  Thankfully 2 children suggest he join the circus, where he finds he fits right in. 

My kids laugh and enjoy the book a great deal.  They think the leopards tricks are very entertaining.

And last but DEFINITELY not least, we flip through The Encyclopedia of World Wildlife by Mike and Peggy Briggs (published by Parragon) on a regular basis!

This book gives a photograph and description of animals from around the world.  The animals are categorized by their habitat so that you can read about desert animals or tropical forest animals at the same time.  The photographs are close up and allow you to see a lot of detail.

It's a coffee table book which means it's big and heavy but my kids, especially Ben, pull it out often to look at the pictures.  I found it on the discount table at Barnes and Noble for $5 and consider that money well spent!  If you have an animal lover in your family look for this book!

Those are the zoo and animal books we enjoy.  What zoo or animal books does your family love to read?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Celebrate the 1st Day of Summer

Today, Monday, June 21, is the 1st day of Summer!!

Samuel and I invite you to join us in celebrating!

Eat ice cream, visit a park, have a picnic, or go swimming.  Just do something and blog about it.

And then join us Wednesday, June 23, when we link up our Summer Celebration at Offering Hospitality.

I can't wait to read all the great ideas other mom's had for celebrating the arrival of Summer.

What plans do you have for today?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strawberry Picking for Family Fun Friday

Have you figured out this week's theme?


Last weekend we went berry picking with friends. It's a tradition for us


This year we took the two daddies with us AND introduced the two toddlers to the delight of eating a fresh picked strawberry. 

Ben tried a couple right along with Sam!

William probably did most of our picking.  We brought home 4.5 pounds of red berries!

But I think the prize for Most Berries Eaten in the Field goes to Ellie!  Complete with a VERY non-ladylike burp in the middle of the berry patch!!!  It's not her first time to enjoy strawberries in the field and I'm sure it won't be the last time either!

If you are looking for a fun outing with your children I highly recommend a U Pick strawberry farm!!  It's a great way to kick off summer!

Do you have any early summer traditions?  Please share them with us.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6 Tips for Strawberry Picking with Children

Strawberry picking with friends has been a June tradition for my family since 2005.  At 2 years old and 4 months old, I can't say Will and Ben contributed much to our baskets back then but we sure had fun!

After 5 years of strawberry picking with my children I've learned a few lessons I want to share with you.

1.  Take a bottle of water for each person.  Hard working pickers get thirsty!

2.  Expect them to eat as they pick!

3.  Take pictures of your kids when you first arrive.  Be sure you squat down to your child's level to get the best pictures.

4.  Wear hats and sunscreen.  The sun can be brutal in an open field.

5.  EVERYONE should wear red shirts.  Little hands WILL get wiped on their shirts and yours, too!  And strawberry juice STAINS!

6.  Stop for ice cream cones on the way home.  (Optional, but it's always a good idea to reward your hardworking strawberry pickers!)

Do you go strawberry picking?  I'd love to hear about your experience!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where to find your local U-Pick Strawberry Farm?

They look like strawberries.  They smell like strawberries.  And they ALMOST taste like strawberries. 

But, when compared to the delicious fruit found at a local farm, grocery store strawberries are only a cheap imitation!

Instead of settling for a mediocre berry I recommend you find a local farm and pick your own berries straight from the plant!  (Or buy them at a local farmer's market.)

To help you find a local U Pick or Pick Your Own farm I've compiled a list of farm registry websites.  Just click on the links below and search for your area.  If you still can't find a local farm then google "u pick strawberry farm YOUR TOWN, YOUR STATE" and see what comes up. (for farms in New England) (for farms in NJ, NY, and PA) (for farms in Rhode Island) (for farms in Kentucky)

I would love to hear about your strawberry picking trip!!  What is your favorite Farm and where is it located?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberry Picking Children's Books Recommendation

It's strawberry picking time here in Rhode Island!!

If you've been reading here long then you know I like to include a book (or two) in any activity my family does.  Strawberry picking is no different.

So far I've found two delightful books about strawberries.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Hungry Bear written by Don and Audrey Wood.  Illustrated by Don Wood.  Child's Play, 1984.

The narrator (who we never see) tells a little mouse that a bear will come and eat his juicy red strawberry.  The little mouse does all he can to keep his strawberry safe - even using Groucho Marx glasses as a disguise. 

This book is officially my FAVORITE strawberry book!  I sat on the couch with 3 of my 4 children and we read it together.  Or rather, we giggled and laughed our way through the book.  Though the story is very cute, what really makes this book are the illustrations.  The little mouse doesn't speak words but his body language makes his thoughts VERY clear.
After we go strawberry picking, I plan to read this book with my children again.  Then I'll hand each of my children a paper I downloaded from the author's website and let them draw what THEY think the bear looks like.

The other strawberry book I found is completely different but also charming.

Molly and the Strawberry Day by Pam Conrad.  Illustrated by Mary Szilagyi.  HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.

Molly and the Strawberry Day is exactly what this book is about.  Molly goes strawberry picking with her parents early one morning.  Her dad predicts they will soon have "strawberries coming out of their ears."  We follow Molly through the rest of her day as she uses the strawberries they picked that morning.

I have no plans to make jam from our strawberries or a facial for myself but reading about all the different ways Molly uses strawberries is fun.  Except for her baloney-and-strawberry sandwich.  I think I could do without that.  Ewww!

Whether you are picking strawberries at a farm or just bringing them home from the store, I recommend you pick up copies of these books and enjoy a bowl of fresh strawberries soon!

Have you read these books?  Do you having any strawberry book recommendations?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes (Recipe) with Fresh Strawberries

Sunday supper at our house is always pancakes, usually chocolate chip pancakes.  Lately I've wanted to try something a little different and healthier.  So I went visited my friend Google and discovered a recipe for Oatmeal pancakes that uses oats and whole wheat floor.

Drop a tablespoon of plain yogurt (or whipped topping) and a handful of sliced farm-fresh strawberries on top and you have a yummy Sunday supper.

Want to try it for yourself?  Here's the recipe:

Oatmeal Pancakes from

1 1/8 c. milk
1 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
2 tbsp. oil
2 lg. eggs, beaten
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine the milk and rolled oats in bowl and let them stand at least 5 minutes. Add the oil and beaten eggs, mixing well. Then stir in the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Bake on a hot lightly oiled griddle using 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Turn them when the top is bubbly and the edges are lightly dry.

Yields:  Hard to say.  I tripled the batter and added a lot more milk.  Probably 2-3 dozen pancakes.

I have to confess the pancakes did not taste as good as they looked.  Maybe we're too accustomed to "regular" pancakes or maybe I didn't cook them correctly.  My kids declared them a little better with syrup but overall this isn't a recipe I'll try again.

Do you have a tried and true pancake (oatmeal or otherwise) recipe to share? 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on Family Fun Friday

I have a confession.  Space and airplanes hold very little interest for me.  I find it terrifying, mind boggling and more than a little boring.

But on our recent trip to Washington, D.C. I knew I needed to compromise with my hubby and visit a museum that holds little attraction for me:  the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

We originally planned to visit the one on the National Mall but when a rainy Sunday required a change of plans we decided to drive over to the Udvar-Hazy Center instead.

It's a part of the same museum but has different exhibits and is located near Dulles Airport (close to our hotel for the week).  You also have to pay $15 to park but admission is free.

We looked at more airplanes than I can tell you about (or was interested in) and we ate lunch at the McDonald's inside the Museum.

Surprisingly, there were a few exhibits I found interesting.

If you enlarge the picture you'll see "Enola Gay" on the silver plane.  This bomber dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. See, history (my interest) at a science museum!

Rather than just wander around the HUGE building, we joined a free tour about U.S. manned space exploration.  Now that was interesting!

We learned all about the space shuttle Enterprise.  Though it was the first space shuttle built it never went into space.  Scientists used it as a test model and to develop technology.  By the time they invented everything needed to make it go into space, it was decided building a brand new shuttle would be easier and cheaper than retro-fitting the Enterprise.

Also, it's builders originally named the shuttle Constitution (I think that's what the guide said).  But so many people wrote in suggesting the name be Enterprise they changed it!

We also saw training capsules for the Apollo and Gemini missions.  Very cool (again because of the history behind it).

If you are ever in the D.C. area, I recommend visiting the Udvar-Hazy Center.  It's fun, educational and fairly inexpensive.  It's also stroller/ wheelchair friendly with ramps everywhere.

Have you visited the Air and Space Museum?  If so, what exhibit did you enjoy?  If not, do you want to?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy birthday Mom!!!

Please head over to my mom's new blog, Country Road Faith, and leave her a comment.  It would totally make her day!!


10 Tips for a Family Vacation in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is a beautiful city rich in history and family friendly activities.  But even family friendly cities can be overwhelming and frustrating.  Hopefully these 10 tips will help you make the most of your next visit to our nation's capital.

  • Park the mini van and take the Metro.  We paid $4.50 to park all day!  Trust me.  You don't want to drive in D.C.!!!
  • Buy a pass (1 or 7 days) for the Metro.  Trying to understand exactly how much your fare will cost can be confusing.  And if you end up getting on the wrong train you'll just have to pay more anyway.  Spend a couple of extra dollars so you can get on and off the Metro all day long with no worries.
  • Make a plan for meals BEFORE you go into the city.  Finding restaurants on the street is not easy so look them up online and print a map before you go.  Also, check the website for the different Smithsonian Museums.  Most have snack bars or restaurants in them.  Otherwise you'll end up eating from a vendor and paying a fortune for a hot dog.
  • Take bottled water for everyone and plan on buying more.  
  • Use a backpack carrier for those under 2 and leave the stroller in the van.  It's just easier to navigate the Metro and Memorials without a stroller.
  • BUT if you are spending the day walking the Mall with a child 2-4 years old, take a stroller.  She will get tired of walking.  And cranky.  And mom's shoulders will get tired of carrying her. (Not that I know from personal experience or anything.)
  • Prioritize your "Must See" list.  It is impossible to see everything.  Discussing priorities ahead of time will keep you from arguing with your spouse over where to go when the Museums are closing in an hour.
  • If you only have 1 day in the City (like we did), once you arrive go straight to the end of the Mall and begin working your way back.  I recommend starting at the Lincoln Memorial because it is furthest from any Metro station.  At the end of the day you want to be CLOSE to a station! 
  • Wear your walking shoes!!
  • Dress everyone in identical shirts.  It makes it easier to spot each other in a crowd.  And if a child wanders off a little ways everyone else knows who he belongs to. 
Have you visited Washington, D.C.?  If so, what tips do you have for making the most of your time in the city?

      Wednesday, June 9, 2010

      The Best Books for a Road Trip with Children

      How do I keep 4 children under the age of 7 occupied during a 10 hour road trip?

      I give them books!!!

      But not just any books.  I give them Discover America State by State books by Sleeping Bear Press.

      While planning our recent trip to D.C. I wanted to include books in our trip.  So I decided it would be fun to use the state themed alphabet books by Sleeping Bear Press for the 7 different states we drove through (RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA).

      With the help of the Rhode Island library system I managed to collect the alphabet book for each state and the city of Washington, D.C.  Then on our trip I put the books in a box between Will and Ben.  They could pull the books out anytime they wanted and read all about the state we were currently traveling through.

      And there's a bonus with these books.  Each one has an online study guides that you can download and print!  So not only can a child read about Delaware, he can work a word search about Delaware.  

      I found the Sleeping Bear Press State by State alphabet books worked well for keeping my children entertained our a long road trip.  It almost makes me want to take another trip so we can get some new books.  Almost.

      Do you use books to keep your children entertained on a long road trip?  If so, which ones?

      Disclaimer:  I have NOT received any compensation or been requested to write this review.  The opinions and idea are all mine.  I truly love Sleeping Bear Press and think everyone should love them, too.

      Tuesday, June 8, 2010

      S is for Smithsonian by Marie and Roland Smith

      S is for Smithsonian: America's Museum Alphabet by Marie and Roland Smith.  Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen.  Sleeping Bear Press, 2010.

      My family visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Udvar-Hazy Center) on a recent trip to Washington, D.C.  While there I quickly purchased S is for Smithsonian as the perfect way to remember our trip.  The book does not disappoint!

      From the Wright Flyer to Dorothy's ruby slippers, reading this book gives you snapshots of exhibits in the 19 museums and zoo that comprise the Smithsonian Institution.

      When you read "S" you learn that an English scientist named James Smithson willed his fortune to the U.S. with the stipulation that we create the "Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." Very interesting!

      One of my favorite parts of the book is actually on-line.  A free study guide is available for you to download and print.  The guide contains worksheets and follow-up activities for you to use after reading the book and visiting the museums (or viewing the museum website via the link provided).

      If you are planning a visit to a Smithsonian Museum, or just want to learn more about them, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of S is for Smithsonian!!

      Monday, June 7, 2010

      Space Food Review

      While at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum a few weeks ago, I decided a package of space food would be a fun way to celebrate our visit.

      So I spent $5 on a package of ice cream - an ice cream sandwich to be exact.

      Yes, we split it 6 ways.  My children thought it tasted great and loved eating food that astronauts eat.  My opinion was a little different - it tasted exactly the way I imagine Styrofoam would taste with a chocolate coating.

      I don't regret buying our space food but I definitely wouldn't want to eat it on a regular basis!!

      Have you eaten space ice cream?  What'd you think of it?

      Friday, June 4, 2010

      Family Road Trip on Family Fun Friday

      Road Trip!!!

      My goodness, how my perspective of those two words has changed in 7 years!  Road trips used to mean spontaneous drives listening to great music and visiting new places.  Now a road trip means planning, researching and packing.

      Last month I planned, researched and packed my family up for a road trip to the Washington, D.C. area.  Our purpose was two-fold:  enjoy a 40th birthday party with friends who knew us BEFORE kids and enjoy visiting the sites of D.C. with our kids.  (But before we arrived at our hotel outside D.C. we had to explore a rest stop in every state along the way- except NY.  What?  You don't do that?)

      For me the trip was a little surreal.  I visited D.C. 18 years ago on a school trip as a junior in high school.  I loved everything about the trip (except my first plane ride ever!) and fell in love with history and political science at that time.  I promised myself I would come back one day with my children. 

      Over the course of a week we enjoyed a year's worth of t.v. viewing; visiting with our friends twice; more junk food than anyone should eat; a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Mount Vernon, and the National Mall.

      I have a lot of pictures and thoughts to share about our trip but I'll try to spread them out over the month so you don't get sick of hearing about it.

      Are you taking a road trip this summer?  Where to?  If not, where would you like to go?

      Thursday, June 3, 2010

      8 Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Small Children (and not losing your mind)

      How does a family of 6 (with 4 children under 7) take a road trip for 6 days and the mama not lose her mind?

      Planning.  Planning.  Planning.

      Road trips with small children are a lot of work but they aren't impossible!  You just have to think through everything BEFORE you go.

      In fact, taking a road trip with my children is a lot of fun.  To help make your summer travels fun, too, here are a few tips I've learned along the way:

      Plan your activities ahead of time.

      My family took a road trip to Washington, D.C. last month.  Joel and I knew we would leave Friday and return on Wednesday.  Our only "have to" for the trip was a friend's 40th birthday party Saturday evening.  That left 3 days without any plans.

      So, I searched the internet and made a list of activities I thought we could do.  Joel and I discussed it, compromised, and planned a flexible itinerary for the trip.  I say flexible because Sunday ended up pouring down rain so we replaced on outdoor activity with an equally fun indoor activity. 

      Plan the clothes for the entire family.

      Granted, I have little people who aren't as opinionated about clothing as teenagers, but I believe the idea works for everyone. I thought through each days expected activities and decided which clothes would work best.

      I also color-coded everyone's shirts.  I know it's lame but one of my biggest fears is losing someone in a crowd.  Wearing the same color helps people know we are a group.  It also makes for great pictures!  :)

      Plan your route ahead of time.  

      Once we knew we were driving to D.C. I spent time pouring over an atlas to decide the best roads for us to take. 

      Print maps from Google maps.  

      I arranged them in order and put them in a clipboard.  This made it much easier than dealing with an over-sized atlas.  AND rest stops (BATHROOMS!) are marked on the maps - a big bonus when traveling with little bladders.

      Stop for a potty break BEFORE entering a city.  

      I decided to be brave this trip and take us straight through NYC on I95.  It took us 2 hours to get through the city!  I was SOOOOO glad we had taken a potty break before we entered NY!

      Pack your own snacks.  

      It's cheaper and makes your stops quicker.  I bought about $30 worth of snacks before our trip.  Then, divided anything not individually wrapped into plastic bags.  The bags were put back into the boxes for the trip.

      Those snacks lasted us for the drive down, 4 days in D.C., and the drive home.  Much cheaper than buying as we traveled.

      Take re-usable water bottles and a thermos.

      I found these cute water bottles at Wal-Mart for $1 each.  The morning of our trip we filled a 2 gallon thermos with ice water and took it with us.  Each time we stopped we refilled everyone's bottle.  MUCH cheaper than bottled water and healthier for us than sodas.

      We also carried the bottles with us as we explored D.C. and left the thermos (filled with ice and water) in the van.  Nothing is better at the end of a long day of walking than a bottle of ice cold water!!

      Plan activities for the road.

      For this trip I purchased each of my children a clipboard, a pencil bag, a small box of crayons, a coloring book and a scribble pad.  I found most things at a dollar store.  I also wrote names on everything so there would be no fighting!

      (You can see Ellie's clipboard and pencil bag in the pocket under her feet.  Under her legs is our tub of snacks.)

      We also took a bunch of books with us - some on c.d. and some to flip through.  Our library has a great selection of children's books on c.d.

      While in D.C. we spent a day with dear friends touring Mount Vernon.  I had to laugh when, after seeing our supplies for the day, B. commented that I have traveling down to a science.  I guess she's right.  All that planning may seem silly but it makes for a relaxed and enjoyable vacation with my family. 

      So, what tips do you have for staying sane on a road trip with small children?
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