Monday, June 24, 2013

The Car Trip

I planned a ton of activities for N2 to do on our car trip.  I had no idea how long things would last.  You can see all my traveling activities in this post.  You may need to refer to it to find out how to make something or the link to where I got it from.

***I took very detailed notes on my ipad about the activities and as I was starting to write this post, my note mysteriously disappeared.  So now all this is based on what I remember.  I hope I'm accurate and that I don't forget anything.  My numbers could be off.  Most of the things that I say lasted 30 minutes or more are accurate but the ones that are around 10 minutes could have been 5-10 minutes longer but since I lost my notes, I can't tell you for sure :(

***The times I list are the longest time period they played with the item in one sitting, not an overall total

Marshmallow Building: 30 minutes
The first activity that I handed out was marshmallow and toothpick building.  I wanted to make sure I had that done the first day so that the marshmallows wouldn't melt.  It was cool so I didn't need to worry.

I gave them their cookie sheets so they had a surface to work on.  They started connected marshmallows and toothpicks as you see above.  I had to show them how to create 3D shapes.  Noah then created his own.  I had to make the shapes for Natalie.  She started eating them before I told her she could.  This lasted about 30 minutes.  The marshmallows can't be stuck and restuck-they kind of fall apart.  Make sure to have wet wipes to wipe down hands and the tray.

Felt Boards and Activities
1.  Mr. Potato Head-Noah was the only one to play with this-10 minutes or so
2.  Monster-They both played with it but maybe only 15 minutes each
3.  Pizza and order cards-Natalie played with this for at least 30 minutes at one time. She asked us which card we wanted and then she would create it so we could eat it.  Then I created some pizzas for her.  On a later day Noah played with it and didn't use the cards at all but created his own pizzas.  He didn't play with it as long as Natalie did.  Natalie did play with it again another day and it lasted about the same amount of time.  This one is definitely a keeper.  Make more sausages than you need because those pieces were easily dropped/lost.
4. Town-didn't last long at all.
5.  Train-never touched.

Color By Number Books were a hit (I found crayola ones in the $1 section of Wal-mart)-we pulled these books out quite a bit at different times.  They didn't color all that long but they never got old for them.  It was a reliable go to. (I had 2 different kinds of books-a Crayola one and one I found at Dollar Tree.  The Crayola ones were in color so they could figure out on their own which color was which number.  The Dollar Tree ones were in black and white.  I didn't need both books-just the Crayola ones).  I put crayons in a soap box.  This was a good idea because they were easy to transport and grab when I wanted to take them in to a hotel so they wouldn't melt  BUT they could not open the box by themselves!  We didn't lose any crayons.

Magnetic Activities
1.  Puzzles-never took them out (both the jigsaw and the cards I cut apart)
2.  Pattern Foam shapes-never took them out
3.  Number matching cards-never took them out
4. Tangrams-Noah played with them once for maybe 10 minutes.
5.  Memory (with transportation memory game from Dollar Tree-I put the magnets on)-Natalie loved to play this.  She played it more than once.  All the cards didn't fit on the cookie sheet but that didn't stop her!  She would match the ones up and then add more.  This maybe lasted 20-25 minutes each time.  Noah didn't play with it.
6.  Dominoes (I made cardboard dominoes with stickers)-Natalie played with these first.  I had to teach her how to play dominoes.  She wanted me to keep helping her which was hard for me to turn around and twist constantly.  She played with them for maybe 15 minutes.  Noah played with them for a little longer.  He liked making an outline of the tray rather than putting dominoes across the center.  It maybe lasted 20-25 minutes for him.
7.  Marcie made us play mats-a dinosaur one and an under the sea one.  I attached these to the cookie sheets with magnets so they could have a surface to play on.  Noah played with the dinosaur one for a while.  Natalie played with the under the sea one.  They didn't last as long as I had expected them to.
8.  I drew on paper different scenes (car, farm, etc) for them to play with their cars or animals.  These did not last much time at all.
9.  I bought hematite in Moab thinking they could play with magnets-I never pulled them out.

Marble Mazes-Noah was so intrigued be these.  They saw me make them and they couldn't wait to play with them.  He kept asking me if we could pull them out.  When they did play with them, they didn't last that long (maybe 10 minutes).  But they might be great for younger kids.

Button Sorting: 45 minutes
Natalie loved this activity!  The sorting by color and counting out the right number of buttons was easy for her.  But then when we turned it over to the shape sorting, that challenged her more because there were both pentagons and hexagons!  I gave her the cookie sheet so she had a tray to hold everything on.  After she was done sorting, I gave her a pipe cleaner and she strung the buttons on the pipe cleaner.  I could have given her a variety of pipe cleaners and had her string the buttons on the correct color pipe cleaner, but she done with the buttons after stringing them on the pipe cleaner.  She played with this another day as well (maybe more than just one more time) and didn't sort them properly but had fun putting the buttons in different spaces and being silly.  I can't remember for sure if Noah played with them or not but Brian thinks that he laced them but didn't sort them.

Star stickers and black construction paper and chalk: I only pulled this out once for Noah to put stickers on. He had one sheet of black paper and some stickers and that was it.  I would put this in the "things we never touched" category (see the bottom of this post) but we did use it once.

Pony beads and lanyards: at least 30 minutes
I had the beads in a small container thinking that only one kid would do but they both wanted to string beads, so Natalie dumped out the buttons and used that container to hold her beads.  They both had their cookie sheets as trays.  I tied the first bead on the lanyard.  The lanyard was already cut in necklace length pieces.  We didn't drop many (if any) beads.  They each made one necklace and then were done.  I had to wear one and Noah wore one.  Another day Natalie wanted to lace again, so I untied her necklace and she used the beads again.

Cardboard Weaving: 20-25 minutes
They were intrigued by this as well.  I showed them how to weave the yarn.  The wove in a checkerboard fashion.  They wove in different ways that I wouldn't have necessarily thought to do.  The problem we had was when they tried to unweave.  The yarn would come through the hole so I had to rethread it and tie more knots.  Maybe I should have taped it down.  They played with these more than one time.

Color Wonder-good idea.  I bought they new books and new markers (on clearance).  They would rip out a page and use their clip board.  They traded markers back and forth.  Later the markers were played with kind of like swords.

Lacing Fruit Loops: 30 minutes or more
I had a string precut in a bag of fruit loops.  We tied one fruit loop to the end of the string.  They had to string ALL their fruit loops or else they couldn't eat them.  I had 3 bags for each of them so we could do this 3 times.  I think we only did it twice because I wasn't desperate enough to pull them out (I was saving them).  The stringing took quite some time-in Noah's case the second time it was at least 45 minutes but the eating was fast-less than 5 minutes!

I Spy Bottles: 25 minutes or so
When they were just looking at the bottles, they didn't last too long.  But when I showed them the page in their binder that had the objects they needed to look for, they spent more time looking at the bottles.  They each only looked at one of the bottles (they each claimed one as their own).  They did look at them more than once.

Pipe Cleaners: a LONG time
When Natalie first played with them, she used the cards but had trouble making the shapes.  So I had to make them.  They didn't last long.  When I was in my parent's car, Noah played with the pipe cleaners for at least 45 minutes and just did whatever he wanted to do with them-made shapes, connected things together, made stories with them.  Pipe cleaners was his favorite thing to do in the car.  He played with them numerous times (probably every day after they were first introduced).  Once Natalie was in the car with Noah and she saw how he was playing with them, she played with them for a long time too.  I had to help twist some things but mostly they played on their own.  They did get a little silly with them, so I would have to take them away and give them something different to do.

Aluminum Foil: 45 minutes or so
I wrapped all their surprises in aluminum foil thinking that they might play with the aluminum foil but they didn't.  I tried building something with aluminum foil to show them what they could do but they weren't interested.  Finally after one surprise, Noah put the surprise to the side (eventually let Natalie play with it) and played with the aluminum foil.  I gave him more pieces and he just kept building.  Natalie eventually joined in the fun.  We had tiny pieces of aluminum foil on the floor but who cares, they were entertained!  I gave them pipe cleaners and aluminum foil and at first they were frustrated but they finally figured out how to use the two things together.  That lasted for a while.  They played with their aluminum foil multiple times in the same day.  I think I threw it out at the end of the day.

Robot face sticker and coloring books-didn't play with them for long.  Noah made one face but I don't think he colored anything.

Construction sticker books-They almost finished these books throughout the trip.  Definitely worth it.

Paint with Water-30 minutes
Marcie found N2 race car paint with water books at her dollar store.  I took along small bottles of water and brushes.  We pulled these out toward the end of the trip.  Natalie really liked it and painted more than once.  Noah did one page and was done.  The water does get discolored, so don't drink it!

Button Snake: 20 minutes
Natalie played with this first.  It didn't take her too long to button them all up.  She also took the felt pieces all off but then was done with it.  Noah played with it too but didn't button all the pieces on,  He only wanted to do a few felt pieces.

Notebooks: 60 minutes
I had intended to have them use their notebook however they wanted to but we really didn't pull them out.  I also wanted to record their thoughts about our trip but we were just too busy for that.  So on the way home, I pulled each of their notebooks and had them take turns telling me about a day of our vacation.  When they were done telling me all they wanted to say, I had them draw a picture of that day on the opposite page.  They each did 3 different pages before we had to stop.  I would have done more but we changed drivers and Brian can't read in the car.  I think this would have lasted much longer if we had done it along the way!  I may still get them to tell me a few things about what we did.

I can't really put a time on this one.  I had these out so they could always reach them.  They pulled them out several times a day.  They tried the travel bingo right at the beginning but they would just mark them all off whether they had seen them or not.  The dry erase markers erased from the page protectors very nicely.  The pom poms worked well as an eraser.  Noah's almost came off so maybe I needed more glue.  The number dot to dots were hard because my kids only recognize numbers up to 12.  The alphabet ones were much better.  The printed out mazes were good too.  Noah did the I spy page that I printed out, Natalie did not.  They played with the stickers in the folder a little bit.  Marcie had found stickers to make funny faces and I printed out pictures of N2 so they could add the stickers to their faces but they didn't really do that.  They used the stickers to attach the pictures to pieces of paper.  Maybe they aren't old enough for that yet.  They had dry erase books in the front pocket and those got used a lot.  Natalie did her alphabet book once a day at least.  There were also seek and find pictures and they did one page but that was about it.  The binder was a definite must.

Finger Puppets: a LONG time
I was surprised that these lasted so long.  They don't play with them at home.  They would each take a few finger puppets and make them do silly things.  They would each tell their own story and then then would combine stories which got interesting.  They often would drop their finger puppets (perhaps they were falling off a cliff) and then we would have to search for them.  They played with these over and over again.  I did have to take them away because they got too silly.

Books on CD:
We had made our own books on CD so we could just play them on Brian's ipod.  We had multiple copies of some so each kid could have their own.  Other times Brian held the book in between the seats (I was driving) so they could both see.  They enjoyed listening to books.

Construction Site Stickers: 30 minutes
I bought big sticker scenes for N2's birthday party and I had leftovers so I brought them along.  They were a little big so they were hard to manipulate in the car.  I gave them their cookie sheets but those were too small.  I should have cut off the edges of the scene to make them a little smaller.  N2 still enjoyed playing with them.  Natalie did 2 different scenes and Noah did one.  I am thinking about getting more for our next trip but have a different scene.  I still have construction ones left but they get a little beat up because they were in the pocket behind the driver's seat and Noah's feet could reach them.

Jewelry Links: 30 minutes
Natalie loved playing with these.  She made jewelry for her stuffed lion.  He had bracelets on each leg and a necklace.  When she went in Mom and Dad's car, she wanted to take them with her.  She view them as her toys.

Melissa and Doug Coloring books:
I bought a Water Wow coloring book (not this exact one):
and a Color Blast book (not this one):
They loved both of them.  I didn't realize Mom had bought a different water one too but that didn't seem to matter how much they played with these.  I think these were worth the cost.  The Color Blast marker seems to be dying already and they haven't colored all the book but maybe it was because it was hot?

Clip boards were nice so the kids had something to color on or write on.

Ipad and Kindle Fire:
Both of these have kids' apps on them.  The ipad has many more than the Kindle.  Brian managed to load movies on both of them before we left.  We had headphones too.  Surprisingly the first time we handed them a movie, they didn't watch the whole thing (the headphones may have been too bulky).  We didn't pull out the movies again in the car until the way home.  I wasn't feeling well on the last day of the drive and my back was really bothering me from twisting and turning around so we gave them movies the whole way home from St. Louis.  They were much more interested in the movies then.  They did get to play on my ipad for a while but I feel like it was only one or two days in the car.  I was surprised at how little time they spent playing on the ipad and kindle!

I had aluminum foil wrapped presents for N2 during the trip if I thought that they were behaving particularly well.  There were new cars to play with (didn't really play with them), stretchy lizards (they liked them and were possessive of them but they didn't play with them for long), Dollar Tree silly putty (not a good thing in the car as it can get stuck to upholstery), snakes from Dollar Tree (the plastic ones that are jointed.  They played with these for a while) and I found reusable sticker books (the small ones) at a store in Monument Valley (Natalie played with those for a long time).

Things we never touched: (Not because they weren't interested but because we didn't need more things to do and because it got tough for me to find all the different things in the big basket)
-Bug hunt with magnifying glasses
-Train felt board
-Magnetic puzzles
-Magnetic number matching
-Magnetic foam shapes
-Lacing beads
-Lacing cards
-Dollar Tree card games
-Mosaic stickers from Dollar Tree
-Usborne I Spy Book
-Where's Waldo Books (this really surprises me!)

-Natalie was much easier to entertain.  She would play with just about everything I handed her.  She was pretty indiscriminate in what she played with.  Most things lasted at least 20 minutes with her.
-Noah, on the other hand, was hard to figure out.  The first day, he hardly wanted to play with anything (I knew he was very tired).  I kept trying to give him things to play with and he didn't want them.  It shouldn't have surprised me that he liked pipe cleaners and aluminum foil because he loves to build at home.  He loves puzzles but refused to work the puzzles.  But once I found something he wanted to play with, he played for a long time.

It helped that on most of our long days of traveling or if we were traveling in the afternoon after being busy all morning, they took naps.  Natalie is not a napper any more but she napped quite a bit in the car.  Noah was often the harder one to get to go to sleep but he did.

We didn't have problems with N2 misbehaving but we had problems with them getting too silly and raising their voices and making way too much noise.  So I devised a behavior system with pipe cleaners and clothespins.  Each kid had a pipe cleaner and 3 clothespins.  I tried putting the clothespins on my visor but it was too thick.  So we strung pipe cleaners in the compartments on the ceiling of Brian's car.  The kids started with 3 clothespins.  If they continued to do a behavior after a reminder they lost a clothespin.  If they had 3 clothespins when the timer went off, they got a marshmallow (I had marshmallows left over from making s'mores).  I set my timer on my ipad for random times.  The first one was pretty short and then we increased them.  One kid lost a clothespin one time.  It really helped as a reminder for them and as an incentive.

I will definitely be taking some of these activities again on our trip to Colorado.  I will take most of the things we didn't touch since they will be new to N2.  Just because we didn't use them, doesn't mean that they weren't good!


  1. Wow, that's a fantastic list!

    So according to your notes, the best things were:
    pizza making kit
    binders (especially mazes & dot to dots)
    color wonder stuff
    color by number coloring books
    pipe cleaners
    pony beads & string
    Froot Loop necklaces
    finger puppets
    button sorting

    Is that right?

    1. I would add:

      Sticker Books
      Aluminum Foil
      Big Sticker Sheets

      Color Wonder wasn't as good as the color by number books.

    2. If you happen to see any color by number books cheap, will you pick one up for me? I couldn't find any at Dollar Tree, and my Walmart is not very well stocked. I know Amelia would love them. Let's check out Oriental Trading for big sticker sheets sometimes.

    3. Let me see if I accidentally bought 3. My Dollar Tree had tons but she would have to read the colors. Can she do that?