Oct 10 2012

Road Tripping with Gadget-Free Kids

Though we’ve never had an in-car DVD player, over the years I have gradually let the kids bring more and more gadgets with them when we travel.  Sometimes keeping the peace, especially on trails we’ve driven multiple times, is worth something in sanity.  By the end of this summer, however, I had tired of the arguments over who gets what, the constant state of something-needs-to-be-charged, and the mass of headphones and earbuds that are necessary to keep one child from disturbing the others.

When we went to Omaha at the end of August, I put my foot down.  They were going to have a gadget-free trip.  No i-devices, no DS, no e-readers.  They were to bring nothing that would potentially require a cord.  And no one was to tell me they were bored and ask to use my phone.

Although I sometimes live up to the title of “mean mommy,” I did help them to decide on some things to bring that would help keep them busy on the trip.  We had a few stuffed animals, some coloring books and workbooks, and a well-worn set of travel bingo cards.  I also took them to the bookstore to choose a few new books.  (Since we have a hard enough time keeping track of library books at home, I did not want to worry if they had fallen out of the car somewhere in the four-state area).

Now, I know that not everyone can read in the car, but fortunately motion sickness isn’t a problem in our family, so times with new books in hand can be almost as blissfully peaceful as when they have a new electronic game to play.  The trick is finding books that will hold their interest.

As a former librarian, I have plenty of notions as to what constitutes a good book, but I’ve also bombed out enough times to know that kids are happier reading what they want to read instead of what Mom says is a good book.  At the bookstore, I let them choose the books that piqued their interest, but when it came time to hit the road, I brought along a secret weapon that almost always counters boredom for elementary-age kids:  a colorful fact book.

I had been sent a review copy of The World Almanac for Kids 2013, and this is what I brought along for when all else failed.

I’m pretty sure that reference books weren’t nearly as exciting when I was a kid, although I remember the boys in my third-grade class clamoring for Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Guinness world record books.  I’m pretty sure our almanacs were big and fat and black and white.  The new almanacs for kids, however, are colorful with photos and illustrations, and laid out with information that may or may not be useful in life.  Want to know what the world’s fastest animals are?  It’s in the World Almanac for Kids.  Need to know a few words of Spanish?  There are a couple of pages to get you started.  Sure, there’s the typical almanac information on presidents and countries of the world, but there are also facts about sports and space and even some book recommendations for kids.

Books like the World Almanac for Kids are great for those kids who love to soak up every last fact about everything they possibly can (partly, I think, so that their parents will sometimes be required to ask “How did you know THAT?”), but they’re also good for reluctant readers since they don’t have to be read through from cover to cover.  Kids can flip to the pages they’re interested in, read a few quick details, and move on to something else.  They might not even realize that they’re reading and learning.

Colorful fact books are some of the most well-worn books on my kids’ shelves, and they’re also great for taking in the car while traveling.  Who knows, your kids might try to impress you with their newfound knowledge of Nebraska, all of which they got from your secret weapon book.

It is possible to take a roadtrip without gadgets; it just might take a bit more creativity and planning to have something the kids will enjoy doing when the landscape no longer holds their attention.

These are some of the fun information books from our bookshelf.  (I’ve listed the newest versions currently available, and my kids would love for me to update our collection. And yes, they’re affiliate links, so if you’d happen to buy them for your own kids I might get a few pennies out of the deal. Just so you know.)

Do you have any other good road-trip books or activities to recommend?

(or any of Stan Tekiela’s other region-specific bird or animal books)

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Published by at 3:58 pm under Family Travel,Product Reviews
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4 comments so far

4 Comments to “Road Tripping with Gadget-Free Kids”

  1. Missy on 10 Oct 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Great story Linda. Thanks for giving us a list of books as well, I was needing a few new book ideas for the boys. I seem to run out of book ideas frequently. I noticed you listed The New Way Things Work which is one of our FAVORITE books in this house.

  2. Adam Sommer on 16 Oct 2012 at 11:34 am

    You are brave! Not sure my toddler would get out of the driveway without the iPad!

  3. Orsi on 21 Oct 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I think that the idea of such an offline trip is really cool, although it is a little bit sad that we find it special or unusual when we ‘just’ go hiking or camping without sharing it on facebook or tweet it or post it or pin or… I believe than happiness is still happiness without sharing….

  4. ashree on 10 Mar 2013 at 10:28 pm

    I like your idea of gadget-free trip! I’m pretty sure I don’t see any reason for my kid to use gadget in her young age, but I think I’d agree with you in travelling with gadget is bringing peace for our trip as a mother. I think I have to start looking for good books to be read by my daughter in our trip. Good post!


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