Category Archives: Travel

Tips for entertaining kids during road trips

With the holiday season coming up, many of us have travel plans.  Traveling with kids can be fun.  It can also be stressful at times.  Planning ahead is key.

When road tripping with kids, I make sure the vehicle is stocked well for the road. Having the necessities on hand always makes the trip go better.

So then how do you fill the time during the drive?

This infographic, reprinted with permission from Wooden Toy Shop, has many tips for entertaining kids during road trips. It’s a helpful tool for planning ahead to keep kids happy with food and games during long drives.

These activities entertain as well as develop important skills while traveling.

Keeping Kids Entertained on Long Car Journeys
This infographic, Keeping Kids Entertained on Long Car Journeys by Wooden Toy Shop, is reprinted with permission.

Looking for more ideas for traveling and entertaining kids during road trips? Check out my travel board on Pinterest!

Child safety in crowds: Prepare kids to keep them safe

11 important safety tips for parents and kids

When my son was two, we went to a company picnic at an amusement park.  While we were in the company tent, he spotted a favorite cartoon character roaming the park and took off to see him.  By the time my husband could dart around the tables and chairs and start chasing our son, he had to break into a full-speed run to catch our child and stop him from wandering away.

A few years later, this same kid got separated from us at an attraction while were were on vacation.  One minute he was there, and the next minute he was gone!  We spent several terrifying minutes tracking him down.  Apparently he wasn’t paying close attention and followed another family away from us.  We were all in a complete panic in those minutes until we found him, safe and sound.

After that scare, I decided it was time to implement better strategies to be prepared when we were in large crowds with our kids.  The awful feeling of having lost our child for a few minutes haunted me and made me feel guilty for not preparing better.  As I talked with my son about the incident later, I realized that he had no idea what to do in that situation because I had not prepped him in advance.

Don’t make the same mistakes I made!  There are several things you can do to help prepare and safeguard your kids when you will be in a crowd.

Child safety in crowds: Prepare kids to keep them safe |

Original image credit: Pixabay

Prepare your children for crowded places

1.  Work with your child from a young age to teach contact information.  Children should know their full name, parents’ full names, parents’ phone numbers, and their address.

When kids are too young to remember these details, it’s a good idea to have it written down for them when you will be in a crowd.  You can find many creative ideas for this:

  • Put names and numbers on a small paper in the child’s pocket or shoe.  Laminate it or use clear packing tape over the words to make this homemade ID card last longer.
  • Write contact information on the child’s belly or arm under clothes.  Use a waterproof marker – or use a regular pen and cover it with a waterproof liquid bandage product.
  • String a beaded bracelet with your phone number that your child can wear.
  • Write your contact information on a disposable wristband.

You can also shop online for helpful products.  These are generally very affordable (less than $20) and a great way to have peace of mind about child safety in crowds!  Amazon affiliate links: inexpensive child safety wristband ID, shoe ID, or pack of child ID temporary tattoos.

2.  Discuss in advance how far a child can be from you at your destination.  Make sure the child understands your expectations.  For example, a young child may need to always hold your hand, and an older child may be expected to always stay where you can both see each other.

3.  Go over rules for any situation where your child may be apart from you in public, such as waiting by the door in a public restroom or meeting at the exit of a ride.  Make sure your child knows where you will be if you will be separated.  For example, tell him you will be on the bench under the tree at the playground.

4.  Tell your children to stop and stay where they are if they get lost.  It’s easier for you to find them if they don’t keep wandering.  Also teach your child not to go anywhere with a stranger who says they want to help find parents.  Adults who want to help will understand when children say they have been told to stay in place.

Child lonely

Image credit: Pixabay

5.  Teach your child to yell for you by first and last name instead of calling “Mommy” or “Daddy” if lost in a public place.  This will make it easier for you to respond and find your child’s location.

6.  Identify a safe person to ask for help.  Help kids know in advance who are the best, safest people to approach if they need help.  Other moms with kids are generally the best option for a child to ask for help when lost.  Employees at the location can also help.

7.  When traveling out of town, tell your kids your hotel name and location.  You may even want to write it down for them or put a hotel business card from the room or lobby in a child’s pocket or shoe with other contact information.

8.  Practice these strategies with your children.  Have them write down and repeat phone numbers.  Help them to know what to say to people if they’re lost, and practice who they should choose as a safe person in a crowd to ask for help.  Remind kids to always be aware of their surroundings.

Prepare yourself when taking kids to crowded places

9. Have your cell phone charged so it’s available to make and receive calls.  If your child has a mobile phone, make sure it’s charged as well.

10.  Know what your child is wearing.  Choose a bright color or even plan a matching color for the family to help spot each other.

11.  Keep a current picture of each child handy.  Make it easy: take a picture of your children on your cell phone before you go or when you arrive at your destination.

More resources, a website from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has resources focused on keeping kids safe.  These include parent tips and printable activities for kids.

My Child Safety board on Pinterest has a variety of helpful child safety ideas.

Follow Lisa {A Merry Mom}’s board Child safety on Pinterest.

Please pin this post and share it with other parents to spread the word and help keep kids safe!

Do you have any other ideas or strategies you use for child safety in crowds?  I’d love to hear from you!

This post includes affiliate links, which help support this site.
Please see my disclosure statement for more information.

30+ cheap or free summer activities for kids in 2015

Looking for fun family activities while school is out?  There are lots of cheap or free summer activities to do with kids!

The list below has been updated for 2015.  It’s a great starting point for thinking creatively about activities for kids during those fabulous summer days.Cheap or free summer activities for kids |

1.  Take that final report card and collect free doughnuts for good grades.  Although I can’t find any official information about it on the Krispy Kreme website, their stores give kids a free original, glazed doughnut for each “A” grade earned on report cards.  Check with your Krispy Kreme location.

2.  Catch a movie.  Matinees are always cheaper, and some theaters even have $1 special movies in the summer.  The Summer Movie Express at Regal Cinemas offers $1 admission to a selected list of PG movies on Tuesday and Wednesdays for nine weeks over the summer.  Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse offers 10 weeks of films rated G and PG at participating theaters, with an option for $1 admission at the door or a ten-week series punch card that’s available while supplies last at the theater box office or online at

3.  Join a summer reading program.  Many local libraries offer kids’ summer reading programs with rewards.  National booksellers – including Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Family Christian Stores, and Scholastic – have their own programs with rewards.  Pottery Barn Kids also has a book club, along with a weekly story time in stores.

Image credit: PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

4.  Take advantage of the library.  While you’re there to get some books and participate in a summer reading program, check out the other children’s programs that may be available, such as reading groups and craft workshops.

5.  Go bowling.  The Kids Bowl Free website lists participating locations across the U.S. and Canada, offering kids up to two free games a day, all summer long.

6.  Build something at a kids’ DIY workshop.  Home Depot offers free workshops for children the first Saturday of the month, while Lowe’s Build & Grow program has free clinics every other Saturday.  Check the websites for the schedule, featured project, and registration.

7.  Build something at home.  Inexpensive models and craft kids are available, or just use what you already have: pull out the Legos for a new creation, make a fort from blankets, etc.

8.  Build something at a LEGO Store.  LEGO Stores host a Monthly Mini Model Build, allowing children ages 6 to 14 to learn how to build a special, free mini model that isn’t available for purchase. The LEGO Stores website has more information about the schedule and each month’s model.

9.  Learn about the great outdoors.  At its retail stores, Bass Pro Shops offers a variety of free events and workshops for kids and families.  Check the Bass Pro Shops website for the scheduled activities at your local store.  The company also has a Bass Pro Shop kids’ web site with online games, craft project ideas, printable coloring pages and puzzles, and a collection of online animal fact cards.

10.  Go on a nature walk.  Whether it’s through the backyard, at the park, or through the woods, take time to observe the natural world and discuss it with the kids.  Consider giving them a small notebook to record their observations, an old or disposable camera for pictures, a checklist of things to look for, or a container to collect specimens such as leaves, flowers, or small bugs.  Link here to an eHow article with more ideas and safety tips.

Image credit: Unsplash / Pixabay

11.  Try geocaching.  Ready to step it up from a nature walk to a treasure hunt?  Go on a geocaching adventure.  Visit Geocaching 101 from to learn more.  If you have a smartphone with GPS, you can get started with free apps that are available to guide the hunt.

12.  Have a picnic.  Whether it’s in conjunction with another activity, like a nature walk or geocaching, or just a simple event in itself, summer picnics are a fun way to spend some time outdoors.

13.  Fly a kite.  Get an inexpensive kite and head out to an open space.  Amazon has a simple rainbow diamond kite (affiliate link) with good reviews for less than $12.

14.  Plan a water game day.  Pull out the hose and a sprinkler, fill up some water balloons or water guns, and make up your own games to get wet and have fun.

15.  Pull out some board games.  Pick your favorite board games for some friendly competition.  Invite some friends over for a game day – and ask them to bring some of theirs to discover new favorites.

16.  Put together a jigsaw puzzle.  Find a puzzle geared toward your kids’ age, but don’t be afraid to challenge them!

17.  Conduct your own science experiments.  Pinterest is filled with kid-friendly experiments that can be conducted right in your kitchen or backyard.   Check out my Pinterest board of kids’ experiments!

18.  Star gaze.  Research stars and constellations, and find a clear summer night to search the sky for those heavenly bodies.  A trip to a planetarium would make a grand finale.

Image credit: PatricioHurtado / Pixabay

19.  Send kids on a free plane ride.  Check out the Young Eagles program that gives kids between the ages of 8 and 17 an opportunity to take a free flight and see what real pilots do –  both on the ground and in the air.  Visit the website to find contact information for participating pilots around the U.S.

20.  Find free or reduced-price museum admission.  Many museums have special admission days that allow visitors for free or reduced entrance fees.

21.  Get crafting.  Michaels Stores has in-store kids’ programs that include Kids Club, Family Craft Time, and Passport to Imagination events.  A small fee applies for these classes.

22.  Learn about a different culture.  Research another country to learn about their culture, and plan crafts and food to gain a better understanding of life in that country.

23.  Cook up fun.  Spend time cooking or baking special dishes together, or let kids try some cooking lessons.  Williams-Sonoma offers free junior chef classes for kids in its stores on select Saturdays.  Visit for dates, times, and registration information for your local store.

24.  Grow your own food.  Plant some fruit, veggies, or herbs and work together to cultivate them.  It just takes a pot or two for kids to learn about caring for plants and reaping the harvest.  Take it an extra step and visit a self-pick farm and let the kids help harvest their own food on a larger scale.

Image credit: jf-gabnor / Pixabay

25.  Learn origami.  Pick some simple patterns to make lovely paper crafts. has instructions for a variety of origami folding designs, including simple options for kids.  Pick a paper airplane design and have a contest to see which one flies best!

26.  Go roller skating. lists participating skating centers that provide free skating passes for children.  The program is not yet nationwide, but is a nice resource for those living near a participating location.

27.  Do good in your community.  Summer is a great time to find volunteer opportunities.  Check out for local volunteer needs, using the filter to search for those that are appropriate for kids or teens.  Or just clean out those closets and donate unneeded items to a local charity.

28.  Keep learning with online resources.  Learning can be fun!  Check out some free online learning tools to keep kids sharp over the summer.  The U.S. government’s web portal for kids at is one resource, offering a variety of activities for kids from kindergarten to eighth grade.  It includes online access to games, videos, books, and other educational resources in categories including art, music, science, math, money, social studies, and more.  It’s a nice collection to keep kids learning over the summer.

29.  Find a fun factory tour.  Factory tours can be a fun way for kids to learn more about manufacturing.  Some factory tours are free, and some charge a fee.  The Factory Tours USA website has listings for tours available throughout the U.S., sorted by industry and location.  Find one in your area or in location you’re visiting!  Be sure to check for requirements such as reservations or minimum participants.

Image credit: freeikon / Pixabay

30.  Go camping.  As a time-honored frugal outing, camping costs are typically low and offer great opportunity for family bonding.  You can find special events at campgrounds, such as the KOA Kids Camp Free Father’s Day Weekend on June 19-21, 2015.  Or just borrow a tent and set up camp in your back yard!

31. Fish for your dinner.  In conjunction with National Fishing and Boating Week, many states offer free fishing days in early June that allow fishing on public bodies of water without a fishing license.  Find the free fishing days at

32.  Embrace tech.  Apple stores offer free youth programs for kids.  Apple Camp is available for kids ages 8 to 12 to make movies or create interactive books.  Check the Apple website for opportunities at local stores.

33.  Learn a new language.  Childhood is the best time to acquire new languages.  Take advantage of kids’ natural learning ability and learn a language together!  Look for library resources or check for free e-books on Amazon. Another option is Instant Immersion software, which is reasonably priced on Amazon.  My 9-year-old wanted to learn French so we recently got the Instant Immersion French Family Edition (Amazon affiliate link), and she loves it!  She’s been rushing to the computer each morning to learn more French.

Do you have other great ideas for cheap or free summer activities for kids?  Contact me or leave a comment below to let me know your suggestions to add to the list!

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