We've been going on r*e*a*l*l*y long road trips since our kids were babies. In fact, we once sold or gave away almost everything we owned and went around the USA for a year by RV with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old. True story.
Now that our kids are older, we still love taking road trips both near and far. When we travel, we try our best to be intentional about our time in the car and at our destination(s). We prefer tech-free entertainment, whenever possible - audiobooks, drawing, journaling, reading, board games, bike riding, hiking, visiting national parks and local sites of interest, etc.
Below I've compiled a list of activities, games, and gear to help keep your kids engaged, learning, and having fun - whether you are spending time at home or going abroad this summer. Enjoy!
I distinctly remember poring over the pages of the American Girl Magazine and reading through stacks of AG historical novels when I was about eleven years old. Almost 30 years later, American Girl still produces excellent resources for young girls (particularly in the 7 to 12 age range). For time at home, check out the new doll clothes and accessory sets. For road trips or airplane adventures, pick up a few of their activity books or guided journals.
If you are a bicyclist, you know how important it is to choose your bicycle with care. The same loving-care ought to go into a search for a bike for your child...and we've done the legwork for you! Take a look at the specs on this 16-Inch Pro Bike for ages 3-7!
This 13-lb bike is lightweight, yet built specifically for preschoolers. You and your child will love the grease-free and rust-free rubber belts, upgraded hollow bottom bracket, integrated crankset, cassette-free hub for easier pedaling, and front and rear v-pull TEKTRO hand brakes. Our son is 5-years-old and loves zipping around our porch, our neighborhood, and our city on his cookies & cream colored bike. We recently completed an almost 8-mile family bike ride and this bike performed perfectly - a super smooth ride all around!
If you're having a staycation of sorts this summer, make it extra fun with new toys and floats for the pool! Big Joe makes an assortment of options every year - from hammocks and loungers to slings and floats!
We just discovered Brinkman Adventures and can't wait to listen to this "exciting radio show that tells true, modern, missionary stories through the fictional Brinkman family. Each twenty-six minute episode contains a Biblical theme, lesson, and compelling drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat."
Using modern sound effects, original music, and superb writing, Brinkman Adventures have been described as ‘Movies for the Ears’.
Hooray for book publishers who put out enticing stories that have engaging educational themes! Charlesbridge publishes super clever titles that will draw admiration from any mathematician - whether young or old. The book titles and included puns are sure to draw a smile from anyone who loves numbers.
Pictured: Sir Cumference and The Fraction Faire, Sir Cumference and The First Round Table, Sir Cumference and The Viking's Map, Sir Cumference Gets Decima's Point, Multiplying Menace, and A Place for Zero.
When our family embarks on a road trip this summer, we've planned ahead to go through the book of Matthew together. To make it a more engaging and interactive experience, we're bringing along six art-filled copies of the book of Matthew - which are designed for journaling and highlighting. We'll take turns reading the chapters and then discuss. Simple, easy to pack, and beautiful too!
Additionally, we're going to work our way through the New City Catechism. "What's that?" you may ask. To put it concisely, it is "a modern-day resource aimed at helping children and adults learn the core doctrines of the Christian faith via 52 questions and answers." It's a bite-sized way to discuss theology together as a family and we're excited about these resources as a way to jumpstart conversations about basic truths of the Christian faith.
Last, but not least, I remember staying up late in middle school to read "This Present Darkness" and then the sequel by Frank Peretti. I look forward to re-reading these titles and sharing the suspense with my teenage daughters!
Educational Insights makes products that make learning fun! I love companies like this that turn mastery of concepts into a game - especially during the summer when I want my kids to have a relaxing break from their rigorous course load at the classical school they attend while also "sneaking" in some review in an exciting way!
Many of the games by this company are easy to take along with you too for easy use on road trips, camping trips, and at hotels. Instead of handing over a phone, give your child Hot Dots or Multiplication Slam instead!
I have fond memories of listening to Adventures in Odyssey as a child so it's been a delight to introduce my four children to these captivating theatrical audio adventures.
Focus on the Family also produces professional radio theatre adaptions of a number of classic books. On our road trip this summer, you'll find our family listening to Adventures in Odyssey American History Compilation and Radio Theatre: Oliver Twist.
Focus on the Family has great book options to engage your child(ren) too - including Captain Absolutely (a comic that "attacks" relativism) and Young Whit and the Traitor's Treasure (based on the life of the much-loved character John Avery Whittaker from Adventures in Odyssey).
For tech-free fun, our family typically turns to active pursuits (walking, hiking, biking, swimming, cornhole, ping pong) followed by...board games (which are a particular favorite activity for our 10-year-old). Gamewright offers a variety of board game options - such as Logic Land (a one-player game which challenges the player to use deductive reasoning skills to solve problems), Forbidden Island (a strategy game set in a magical kingdom for 2-4 players), and Think 'n Sync (an easy-to-pack, travel-sized game for 3-8 players).
One of the most pleasurable pastimes of summer is reading stacks of books! We visit the library all summer long and tend to consume books of all kinds. If you're looking for book ideas for your kids this summer, my first recommendation would be to not neglect the classics or forget your childhood favorites. There is a reason why these two categories have been loved, studied, discussed, and quoted for years!
For lesser known titles, check out the Unsolved Case Files series by author and illustrator Tom Sullivan. Interesting, real-life stories with accompanying retro images. Very fun!
For younger children, consider the Let's Read and Find Out Science series. If your kids love to ask you "why?" this series will help answering puzzling questions in a simple and clear format.
Pictured: Jailbreak at Alcatraz, The Chronicles of Narnia Hardcover 7-Book Set, Fireflies in the Night, Henry and The Clubhouse, Henry and The Paper Route, Henry Huggins, Where Do Chicks Comes From?, Why I Sneeze..., and Escape at 10,000 Feet.
Arizona summers are hot so we tend to spend our summers either swimming, reading, or doing lots and LOTS of arts & crafts projects. Although all four of my kids do their fair share of imaginative art projects using whatever supplies we have on-hand, they are always delighted when presented with a readymade kit to try.
Now that our youngest child is 5, we've taken a keen interest in family bike rides. This was sparked when we biked through Yosemite National Park last summer - such a perfect way to see the park! Our 10-year-old is an especially good rider - frequently frightening us with her daring stunts!
When we ride, we all wear helmets and have especially appreciated our smartly designed Vio helmets, which come with a removable vizor and an adjustable spin dial for a customized fit. Ideal for riding at dusk because the lights offer much-needed visibility on the road!
Have you seen these How to Draw books for kids by Alli Koch? They feature lots of items that kids love to draw (cats, dogs, cameras, dolphins, penguins, horses, etc) in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step format.
What games, activities, and gear do you pack for your kids for summer vacations?