10 Go-To Travel Activities for Toddlers to Elementary Kids

Traveling with kids this week?

It can be downright craziness! It can literally make any sane parent want to pull their hair out. It can go seemlessly, or it can go down like my last trip….1 million potty breaks, baby crying endlessly, parents rotating sitting in the back consoling said baby, and snacks smashed into the seats.

But whether you’re flying or driving…there are a few activities to make it go a little easier.

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  1. Magnetic Dress Up Dolls: We’ve used so many different ones and even as young as 3 my daughter enjoyed playing with these dress up boards.
  2. Block beads: My kids as young as 1 year old can self-entertain with these beads for awhile. There are alphabet ones, farm ones, butterfly ones, and  more to fit your child’s interest.
  3. Aqua Doodle: A super simple way to allow your kids to draw without the worry of crayons or markers in the car.
  4. Imaginary Ink: Along the same lines as the aqua doodle, imaginary ink pads and magic markers can be great options for mess free coloring.
  5. Usborne Sticker books:Related image
  6. Wikki Stix: I love these for a variety of reasons. I use them in my work as an OT and love that kids can create letters, animals, and so much more with them.
  7. Melissa & Doug Reuseable Sticker Pads: My kids love stickers. And reuseable ones make it even longer lasting entertainment.
  8. Finger Puppets: I don’t know about your kids, but my kids can sit and talk for hours….especially when they can let their fingers talk to their other fingers.
  9. Lacing Cards: Geared towards the older toddler
  10. Busy Bags: Cards, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, and many other objects can keep a toddler-elementary aged child busy (at least for a little while!)
  11. Bonus Tips: Lots of snacks! Food always keeps my kiddos entertained!

I’d love to hear if you have any other go to activities. And yes, these are all inspired by my OT mama brain too!

Regardless of wherever you are going or how you are traveling, I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

xoxo-

renae

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Affiliate Disclosure: I’m a huge believer in transparency and authenticity and so I am disclosing that I’ve included certain products and links to those products on this site that I will earn an affiliate commission for any purchases you make (with no extra cost to you!). These commissions help enable me to provide more and expand my services for you! So thanks for your support!

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5 Ways to Teach Children Gratitude

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There’s nothing more powerful in changing our lives than having an attitude of gratitude. But in today’s society, it is SOOOO easy to overwhelmed with wants, efficiency, and discontent. I love November because of Thanksgiving, but if you are like me, I don’t want November to be the only month my kids show thankfulness. You too?

So here are 5 simple ways you can teach your children how to have a heart of thankfulness. I mean after all, those who are more thankful and content have an overall more satisfied and happier life (there’s tons of research out regarding how it effects so many areas of life like self-esteem, optimism, etc. Go check it out!)… And isn’t that what we want most for our children?

Daily Gratitude

This one is SO simple and something I try to practice myself. Each day as I tuck my ids away to bed (or even periodically throughout the day), I’ll ask them to name something they are thankful for. Some of the answers are TO DIE FOR cute. Seriously! I think my son is thankful for garbage trucks nearly every day 😉

Encourage Generosity

This past year we’ve been attempting to make major changes in our clutter around the house.  As a part of that, we’ve all given away a TON of stuff (Checkout my 5 Steps To Break Free From Clutter if you want to ditch clutter). We encouraged the kids to choose one thing to give away each day. I was actually amazed at how little resistance we experienced from them.  They were actually very excited to give to others.

Turn around the No

It’s sometimes so hard to go into a store with my kids because I feel like I get bombarded with the “I need this” or “will you buy me this” questions.  I hate using the word no and try to use it sparingly but geesh….shopping can be downright exhausting.  A huge focus for us this year is to eliminate ‘stuff’ so that we have more time and space to focus on our relationships.  So now, instead of just saying no I remind them of why we are saying no…. so that we have more time and money to spend on things we all enjoy like vacation, trips to the zoo, or Disneyland.  The no to the impulse buy becomes now something they are excited about and willingly put the item back on the shelf.  Kids crave relationship. And while they would love the latest and greatest toy, they more desire YOU.

Encourage them to Serve Others

I grew up serving people who were homeless or living on the streets and I cannot say enough about how it shaped my view of the world, gratitude, politics, and so much more.  Last year our family took coffee and breakfast to people who were homeless the day after Christmas.  It was an AMAZING experience for them. But in this stage of life, I just don’t feel it’s practical for us to do on a regular and ongoing basis.  So we’ve found other ways to serve.  We’ve connected with an amazing organization called Safe Families.  It’s given us the opportunity to bring children into our home, love them, and serve them.  My kids then have hands on real life, tangible exposure to serving those in need.  There are so many ways for families to serve together, whether it be as simple as picking up trash, serving food in a homeless shelter, giving gifts for Operation Christmas Child and others.

Please and Thank You’s

There is some thing so fundamental in manners that can have profound impacts on gratitude.  But rather than forcing your kids to say them just out of formality, make them meaningful (this is similar to why I never force my kids to say sorry).  When saying something is forced, it loses its value and meaning.  A gentle reminder such as “did you say thank you when Maya gave you a flower” reminds kids that even simple actions are something to be grateful for.  Just the same, encouraging them to write thank you notes reminds them of how many things in our lives we have to be thankful for.

 

Do you have any fun ways you teach gratefulness? I’m going to share some of my favorites in the next month and would love to highlight yours! Drop them below or email me renae@renaefieck.com

Secret to Saving Kids Artwork without Clutter

What the heck do we do with all the pictures, drawings, school projects, and little gifts from our kids? I mean, I love them all but my daughter’s love language is gifts.  So we are ALWAYS getting special pictures, drawings, or crafts from her because that’s her way of showing how she loves us.  But I’m on a journey to eliminating clutter from my life.  I want more space.  I want a chance to breathe and not feel like I’m CONSTANTLY cleaning.  Is it wrong to want a clean house AND be able to enjoy time with my kids?

I saw somewhere a picture of a triangle that showed mom’s sanity, a clean house, and happy kids on each of the points.  The meme stated, you can only choose 2, which 2 are you going to choose.  For a long time, hands down, I wanted happy kids and happy mom to be my choice.  But you know what I realized….a clean house was a HUGE contributor to my sanity.  I don’t think you have to choose between the 3. I think you CAN have a balance of all 3.

So in my quest to eliminate stuff without losing the memories (or breaking my dear daughter’s heart), I found an app called Keepy. It’s been amazing.  It has both a free and a paid version (with the amount of drawings we get, I totally bought the paid version).

You can take snapshots of your children’s drawings, crafts, projects, whatever and store them. You can have multiple kids all stored in the same account. You can store voice recordings of your child telling you about the picture or take a picture of your child holding the drawing so you can document age too. And best! You can add “Fans” so grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends can see all the magical drawings and leave messages too.

 

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It’s definitely a timeless way to preserve and capture memories without all the clutter.  And if you did want to print all of it in a book, they make it pretty seamless too with having photobook  and other photo gift options (although I haven’t tried that part yet).

If you haven’t snagged a copy of my FREE 5 Steps to Breaking Free From Clutter, you should totally do that! Breaking free from clutter has changed my life. I finally feel like I can enjoy time with my kids because I’m not spending day in and day out picking stuff up.

6 Steps to End Picky Eating

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Picky eating is SO hard for parents! It’s the struggle between feeding your child what they’ll eat just to make sure they eat, even if it’s NOT healthy or nutritious versus holding your ground and them not eating anything. It’s a really really hard spot for you to be in.  When I work with some of my clients, families are often struggling with a kiddo who will eat only a handful of items (commonly goldfish crackers and chicken nuggets). And while not all picky eating is that extreme, you may benefit from some of my tips with your own kids.

Here are my top 6 tips to turn around the struggle with picky eating and the endless mealtime battles. They can be exhausting, I know!

  1. Make meal times enjoyable. Meals should be a social experience. Eat together. Talk about your day or what you’re thankful for. Engage. Meals should be a family experience, not with kids eating individually.
  2. You are responsible for providing a meal, and your child is responsible for what they eat. No pressure, no force feeding, no bargaining, no polite bites. It’s hard sometimes to resist the urges, I know!
  3. Keep meals and snacks consistent throughout the day. Both you and your kiddos should have regularly schedule times to eat every 2-3 hours. It’s good for your metabolism, your satiation, energy, sugar levels and so much more.
  4. Always have at least 75% of your child’s plate be preferred foods with 25% being non preferred foods. And try to create family meals that are composed of both preferred and non-preferred foods so you are all eating the same foods. No more short order cooking!
  5. Learn to play with your food. It doesn’t have to necessarily be at meal times but creating spaceships, boats, mustaches or the like with non-preferred foods can desensitize aversions and increase the likelihood that your kiddo will try one those non-preferred foods. I encourage families to play with food in lots of different environments.
  6. Even if your kiddo refuses a food once, feel free to continue to expose them to that food. It can take between 7-10 exposures to determine whether or not they actually like a food or just opposing it because it’s new!

Was any of this new to you? Comment below with what you plan to implement.

P.S.- If you’re looking for an awesome kids nutritional shake, my kids LOVE this one!

Scrub a Dub Dub, What do you have in the tub?

My husband calls me a hippie.  I don’t think he realized it when we got married (neither did I!) but time as slowly progressed me into a more and more natural person, parent, and professional.  I know I still have lots of areas to improve upon but it’s one slow step at at time (did I mention that we just got a chicken coop!?!? sooo excited! I will blog more about that when we get the process rolling. We bought it off craigslist and have a few things in the next few weeks so chickens probably won’t happen for a few weeks!).

But as a part of this journey, I’ve started trading out chemicals for more natural products.  Our skin is the largest organ of our body and it absorbs whatever we put onto it. I’m picky with our sunscreen (and have a homemade recipe here) and we use coconut oil as a moisturizer 99% of the time.  I’ve been playing with homemade cosmetics (I will share!). But being frugal, I just can’t throw away soaps people give me (aka…I get lots of Bath & Body soaps as gifts).  So when I was given a bar of Believe Soap, I was thrilled to be using something way more natural that didn’t require me to buy soap when we still have some in the shower.

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(I meant to take a picture before I started using it but forgot, so here’s a picture from their website).

I got a full bar of Winter Citrus and a couple small samples of Lavender Oatmeal and Refreshing Mint.  So here are my thoughts.

  • 100% vegan (A+)
  • All Natural products, literally the ingredient list was mostly essential oils 
  • Handmade

Their website says they even use herbs freshly picked from their garden when possible! And even can custom order soaps for you because they hand make them.

  • They are $5/bar (it’s really not that much!)
  • Safe for the whole family

Because there is nothing toxic and these are natural products, I feel comfortable and safe using it on anyone in my family (do you know what kinds of  toxins are in baby soaps??)

  • Made in California 

if you are a Californian, you are supporting local business!–if you aren’t, then you are supporting small business! (A+ for both)

  • Lathers well 
  • Scent is pleasant and subtle 

Being an OT I am acutely aware that many people are sensitive to smells. This would be the soap for you if you are overwhelmed by many of the scented products.  It smells earthy, pleasant, and is subtle enough that you don’t think you are washing yourself with a slice of orange.  I tend to like things with a little more scent but I know many don’t so it’s a great middle road.  If you are one that likes stronger scents, maybe try one of the other flavors. My guess would be Rosemary & Mint or similar would smell a little more.

  • Long Lasting

I’ve been using the soap for a few weeks now and it really doesn’t look like I’ve made a dent in the size of the bar. I could see it lasting awhile.

  • Can be used on your face, or body

When I tried it on my face, I got a little in my eye and it wasn’t super pleasant but most soap isn’t. So if you use it on your face, just be sure to wash extra carefully

  • Essential oils can promote healing

It’s one thing to wash your body with just soap, but soaps using essential oils can promote healing while you use them.

My overall opinion…

I don’t know if I will order more soap for awhile (I still have lots) but if you are looking for a natural, vegan, handmade, local option, this is a great place to start.  My only preference would be to have a little stronger scent but it gets an A+ from me in all other categories!

Check them out! Have you used Believe Soap??

Sensory Alert!: Rice Bin

Alright, I have work on the brain! But my work is fun! I love being an OT. Today my daughter and I participated in her homeschool preschool program. We’ve been on sort of a hiatus because of other stuff going on but we decided to do a little today. We read about Joseph in the bible and his coat of many colors. We talked about how his family came to him for food. This is what led us to playing with rice!

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It’s an easy activity. It can oftentimes be a little messy so I try to do it outside but today we just let the mess happen! It’s great that you can teach your kids that it’s okay to explore and let life (and mess) happen and that in the end, you can clean it up again! Isn’t it true? There always seems to be redemption in the end, especially when God is involved (or should I say, invited to be involved!).

We played with the rice for a little while and then we upped the activity by adding food coloring to the rice and making a rainbow of colors (playing off of Joseph’s coat of many colors). It was easy. Just a few drops of food coloring and then stirred it in with the rice. (A word of caution: many kids do not respond well to food colors and additives within their food. While they typically won’t be consuming the rice, it is something to be aware of. In an ideal world, if this had been a planned activity, I would have sought out more natural forms of food coloring.)

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From the OT in me, here is why I love this activity:

  • Tactile-The number one thing about this activity is the tactile exploration. Kids can run their fingers through it, let it drip on their hands, bury their hands, etc. It provides a vast array of sensations. It’s great for kids that avoid sensory stimuli, crave it, or none of the above! Overall, it’s great for the tactile system. Adding other objects into the bin also encourages tactile discrimination, distinguishing between 2 objects through the use of the hands.
  • Fine Motor- While this may be a less of a fine motor activity than others, the clean up is where you can really get into the fine motor. Picking up those small grains of rice is a great pincer grasp exercise.
  • Cognition/Communication- With the colors, you can have lots of conversations about the colors. With other added elements, smells, toys, other objects, there is lots of conversation topics if you are doing this activity together. What about numbers too? Count some of the rice, or objects within the rice? Possibilities are endless!
  • Self-Regulation- It can be a great activity to increase calming in your child. (Ok I have to admit I have had kids with the opposite experience–picture millions of grains of rice flying around the room!). Many kids will sit and attend to this task for a good period of time (ahh! attention to task skills!).
  • Olfactory- While we didn’t do it during this activity today, adding a few drops of essential oils to the bin can provide another sensory input. You can add scents based off their alerting vs. calming qualities (i.e. peppermint, wild orange, eucalyptus may be alerting while lavender, vanilla,or calming blends may provide more calming). The rice of itself tends to have a scent which provide a olfactory sensory component for those who may be overwhelmed by smells.
  • Visual– With the added colors, you can play games identifying colors, separating colors (ooh! that plays with the fine motor pincer too!), you name it! Have fun exploring different objects within the rice. Visually finding objects of similar colors hidden in the rice, etc. There are some great theme oriented rice bin ideas at Imagination Tree.
  • Gross Motor Coordination- My daughter stirred the food coloring into the rice, which demonstrated to be a great task for developing the coordination to stir, without stirring too fast so that all the rice flew out. She was also using her cars to race up a ramp and dive into the buckets too. All great upper body coordination tasks.

Homeschool Preschool Program

We’re on a budget, as most people should. But we anticipate that budget getting smaller and smaller in the next few months as my disability/maternity payments end. I don’t want to return to work as much as I was which means we have to make budget cuts. I’d love for my daughter to still take advantage of a “preschool-like” program but we can’t afford to send her to a formal preschool at this point.  Being an OT, who works with children, I am aware of many skills they need to develop.  As well, I can be quite creative.  The key words in that…”can be.”  I don’t feel I have the time to be creative and intentional like I want to be in educating her.  I set out trying to find some material to use and ran across this program.

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God’s Little Explorers Preschool Program.  I love it.  It incorporates gross motor skills, fine motor skills, alphabet learning, number learning, sensory exploration, Bible stories, and more.  The thing I love about it most…I can look at what I’m supposed to do each day and do it! I don’t have to come up with it all on my own. This feature alone makes doing it 4 days a week practical for me.  It cost my $14 and I downloaded it. I knew it was exactly what I was looking for right away. I’m still incorporating things of my own and from my OT world as well, such as using the Handwriting Without Tears wooden pieces (she’s still not quite 3 and I don’t want to push writing letters yet, but will do more with actual formation of letters later, using HWT).

I do wish that it followed more a developmental approach to learning the letters (i.e. it starts off with X and diagonal lines are the hardest to learn.), but I’m just adapting it and not expecting that she’ll perfect any of it right away.  I’m just wanting her to engage with the material for exposure rather than expecting that by the end of it she’ll be able to write all her letters.

There are 28 weeks of lesson plans, 4 days a week. It gives suggestions for books to read, sensory activities to do, self-care activities, bible songs, etc.

We started this week. My daughter was super excited to wake up to find little X’s around the house for our “X marks the spot” treasure hunt.  We made a pair of binoculars, a journal for her to keep her letters and projects in, a box for her to store all her supplies in, and a learning map.  Today we went on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood identifying objects that were shaped like rectangles, forming the letter X with various mediums (wikistix, wooden sticks, etc), and making the sound of “ks.”

I’ve been using it as special time for her alone during my son’s first nap.  But we  try to incorporate the information throughout the rest of the day too. Singing the song we learned, “The B-I-B-L-E” song. cross (1 of 4) cross (2 of 4) cross (3 of 4) cross (4 of 4)