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August 29, 2007

How to Ensure Your Child Doesn't End Up Like Miss Teen South Carolina

Missteen_perrinpost_2
Rambling about "The Iraq" and "U.S. Americans," Miss Teen South Carolina attempts to explain why so many of her countrymen can't find their country on a map.

Photo: The Associated Press/Patrick Prather

by Wendy Perrin

"Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?" asked a judge in the recent Miss Teen USA Pageant.  The brainless reply from Miss Teen South Carolina -- which millions of people have now viewed on YouTube -- was so incoherent that yesterday The Today Show gave her a second chance to answer the question.  Even after three days to mull it over, however, she still barely answered it. "I believe there should be more emphasis on geography in our education."  You don't say!

Sticker_set_play_scenes_map_5 Any parent who's viewed the video may be wondering (1) how they can keep their kids from growing up so geographically challenged that they can't locate their own country on a map; and (2) how they can keep their kids from growing up to be Miss Teen South Carolina.

To that end, and just in time for Labor Day road or plane trips with the kids, I hereby offer up my five favorite geography-teaching games for youngsters:

(1) Sticker Set Play Scenes: both the Map of the USA and the Map of the World. I picked these up last month at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, and as a consequence my five-year-old now knows the location of every state in the U.S., as well as each state's capital. (Now if only he could tie his shoes.)

Delorme_map_store
Charlie and Doug with Eartha, the rotating globe, at DeLorme in Yarmouth, Maine, Sept. 2006.

(2) Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit: I found this at the DeLorme Map Store in Maine and now, thanks to the "Geography Bee" and "Life List of License Plates" sections, Charlie spends our car trips "collecting" license plates from as many states as possible and checking them off on the map.  Boy, was he thrilled this summer when he spotted a Hawaii plate!

Continue reading "How to Ensure Your Child Doesn't End Up Like Miss Teen South Carolina" »

March 09, 2007

By Land & Sea With Small Kids

Racing Nascar gokarts in Stuart, Florida
Charlie, me, Doug, and Tim racing NASCAR Go-Karts at 76 Golf World in Stuart, Florida, Feb. 24, 2007

By Wendy Perrin

To the millions who dismiss the blogosphere as a snarky place, may I present evidence to the contrary?  Willy Volk over at Gadling could hardly be nicer. Remember my post last week about Surviving Road Trips With Children, where I shared Gadling's tips for keeping tykes occupied in cars with the caveat that the tips don't work for my kids?  First Willy wrote in to apologize that his tips weren't usable. (Actually, I hadn't meant to imply that his tips were bad; I'd meant to imply that my kids are bad . . . although my husband keeps telling me that boys will be boys and I just need to chill out.)

Willy said he'd look out for tips more applicable to my life. How nice is that?!  Then yesterday, bingo!  He posts 21 (+3) Tips For Getting Kids Excited About Travel. This GREAT collection of games and activities can be found at the family travel site WeJustGotBack.com. I particularly like the Answer Those Niggling Mysteries section. Once Charlie (who is almost 5) learns How Interstate Highways Are Numbered, he'll be content for hours in the back seat obsessing over the road map. Doug (who just turned 3) is still a little young for How Airplanes Fly, but maybe by next summer . . . .

Speaking of WeJustGotBack.com, its editor Suzanne Rowan Kelleher also wrote in. She sympathized about the trials I encountered on my recent cruise with kiddies (trials highlighted yesterday in USA Today's The Cruise Log by Gene Sloan). Suzanne pointed me toward a very helpful article, Kid-Friendly Cruises: An Age-By-Age Guide To Cruising, adding,

"At WeJustGotBack.com we actually recommend waiting until kids are at least 3 -- or, even better, kindergarten. This article was one in a series for which we interviewed dozens and dozens of readers who'd cruised with small kids. All sorts of downsides emerged--the no-swim-diapers policy in the pools was just the beginning. Parents cited the ultra-tight cabins, the loooong corridors (meaning toddlers spend their time in the stroller), waiting in lines to do just about everything, the lack of flexible babysitting (group babysitting that BEGINS at 10pm? Sounds like heaven, eh?), and on and on. One mother of 2-year-old twins described her cruise as 'being in Hell.'"

Thank you, Willy, Suzanne, and Gene, for being so helpful and taking some of the snark (is that a word?) out of the blogosphere.


March 02, 2007

Surviving Road Trips With Children

Inkstained_kids_in_car_2 By Wendy Perrin

I'm a big fan of the fun read that is Gadling, even though its posts rarely pertain to any aspect of my life (a twentysomething hipster with time on my hands I'm not). So I was excited to see two posts up this morning about car trips with tykes. Now that's info I could use. Alas, though, I've tried the advised tactics, and they just don't work for my kids (pictured above on a 7-hour road trip last summer). Printable Car Activities require using pointed, staining handheld instruments in non-destructive ways -- something my junior commandos seem incapable of.

Car Trip Check List recommends sticker books, but I've found these work only if I'm sitting with the kids in the back seat.  Otherwise they lose interest within three minutes or Thomas the Tank Engine stickers end up all over creation.

Continue reading "Surviving Road Trips With Children" »

February 26, 2007

Just Wild About Harry and the Natives

Roadside restaurant in Hobe Sound, Florida
One of my favorite Florida hangouts is on U.S. 1 in Hobe Sound. Feb. 25, 2007

By Wendy Perrin

As I sit here in snowbound N.Y.C. dreaming of the Sunshine State I just left, I realize I neglected to post photos from Harry and the Natives, one of my favorite roadside breakfast and burger joints. I'm no food critic--colorful local atmosphere matters more to me than gourmet cuisine--so for a reliable review you can read TCPalm or PalmBeachPost. (Why there's only one measly mention of Harry's on Chowhound is a travesty.)

1950s Ford pickup truck transformed into barbecue grill
At Harry's they've transformed the hood of a 1950s Ford pick-up truck into a barbecue grill.

Continue reading "Just Wild About Harry and the Natives" »

January 31, 2007

New MapQuest Gas Price Finder

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How Mapquest's gas price finder works.

By Wendy Perrin

As soon as I read the news on TravelPost's Insider this morning about Mapquest's new gas price portal, I excitedly phoned my husband Tim. He's the one who plans our family's weekend car trips. Now, whenever he maps out our route in advance, he can plan our gas stops too, by inputting any given intersection and learning the gas prices there.  How great is that?!  The only downside:  Saving on gas will cut into the double miles I get at gas stations by paying with my Delta SkyMiles AmEx card.


November 19, 2006

Long Car Rides With Kids

1120_crayolaclay_1_4 
Doug, 2, and Charlie, 4, at The Crayola Factory in
Easton, PA., Nov. 12, 2006

By Wendy Perrin

Readers of this blog ask me how I survive so many car trips with squirmy youngsters in tow. Here, in case you're planning any long family drives over the Thanksgiving weekend, is how my husband Tim and I cope:

1. Work kid-friendly pitstops into long itineraries.
You may remember that en route to Washington, D.C., a few days ago we stopped at Port Discovery, the children's museum in Baltimore, so the boys could run, climb, and otherwise work off their pent-up energy. We took a different route back home from D.C., via Pennsylvania, so we could stop at The Crayola Factory, 5 minutes from the New Jersey border. 

1120_crayolachalk_1 
Doug scribbling with chalk on the "sidewalk" at The Crayola Factory, Nov. 2006

2. Minimize back-seat mess.
Our car's back seat ends up a disaster zone no matter what we do—activity books, markers, stickers, half-eaten snacks strewn all over—but the food mess is lessened considerably when we use Snack-Traps -- cups whose lids have slits that allow tots to fish out what's inside (Cheerios, raisins) while preventing spillage. What juice boxes and spill-proof sippy cups do for liquids, the Snack-Trap does for solids. (It also helps with fine-motor skills.) As for the pen-and-paper mess, that's lessened when we use Color Wonder markers, whose colorless ink is invisible except on Color Wonder paper. When we don't use these markers, our kids look like this:

Continue reading "Long Car Rides With Kids" »

November 11, 2006

Children's Museum in Baltimore

By Wendy Perrin

En route to Washington, D.C.--where Tim and the kids and I are visiting friends this weekend--we discovered Port Discovery, the children's museum in Baltimore. It's easy to reach off I-95, and boy was it an excellent mid-drive pitstop.  We ended up spending 4 hours there . . . and hated to leave!  Whoever designed this museum had restless, athletic young boys in mind.  There are countless ways to work off random excess energy, what with three stories filled with contraptions for climbing on, crawling through, jumping in, running around, sliding down, and pulling yourself up in.
Balt2verticals
Doug, 2, on a rope bridge 3 stories high. Charlie, 4, on Clifford the Big Red Dog's conveyor belt.

Tim remarked that this kids' museum really should be called a Daddy Museum.  There are no weight or height limits for the equipment, which means Dads get to climb and pull and jump too. 

Continue reading "Children's Museum in Baltimore" »