Entertaining Kids on the Road

We have logged more than a few hours on the road.  In fact, we put 16,000 miles on the RV since we purchased it in Indiana last February.  From Indiana to Mexico, up to British Columbia (via California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana), back down to Wyoming, then again to British Columbia, over to Alberta, back to BC, then Mexico and finally to Indiana via Utah – we covered some road.  We lived on the RV for about 31 weeks and only spent a handful of nights off of it during that time.  Since we average a whopping 50mph, that makes for approximately 320 hours of drive time.   That is a lot of opportunities to ask “Are we there yet?”

The red line is RV route in 2017. The black line is the boat route in 2015 through early 2016 plus a few months in 2017.

There were a few days that were hard for the girls, but not many.  I guess we have conditioned them to just go with the flow.   But, we did do a few things for them to ease the monotony of the miles.

Below are a few resources for kids if you happen to have a road trip in your future.  This is also useful for families getting ready for a passage…of which we are one.


Podcasts are easy to download onto your phone or tablet, they are mostly free and they can be educational and very fun.  If you have a Bluetooth or USB connection to your car stereo or a portable Bluetooth speaker, its a cinch.  Some of our favorites are:

  • Science Friday
  • Brains On
  • Story Nory
  • Astronomy for Kids
  • Story Pirates
  • Wow in the World
  • We are always looking for others, so post your favorite in the comments below!


The girls mainly sat at the salon table while we were underway.  With a nice big table top, we were able to get a fair amount of artwork and crafts done on the smoother roads.  I highly recommend watercolor pencils.  This eliminates the need for a soupy grey colored glass of water on the table just ready to take a tumble.  A water-filled brush carries more than enough water and a towel to clean the brush between colors does the job.


Non-Hardening Modeling Clay:  I can not begin to describe how many hours the girls played with this clay.  It completely blew my mind.  When we were at the Family Adventure Summit I attended a great talk by Spramani Elaun.  One of the things she talked about was the importance of working in 3D.  She suggested having the girls work with very small pieces, starting with only about a 1/4” – 1/2” square piece of each color, encouraging them to get good at the details.  The girls created worlds with this stuff.  In the beginning, they just made blobs and said, “This is a dog”!  The details were hard at first, but in the end, they were designing these tiny delightful flowers, clay “people”, birds, and horses jumping fences in an arena.  We would have days when they would do nothing else but play with the clay.  It was an amazing thing and I had no idea it would end up whiling away so many hours and teach them so much about sculpting.

Books on Tape

These can be expensive, but there are some free resources and it is an invaluable tool for education.  Following Susan Wise-Bauer’s advice, we listen to a lot of classical works.  They are a bit more interesting for the adults to listen along too, and it also helps with their education.  I know that in our family, listening to books on tape has enhanced the girls’ love of reading and broadened their vocabularies and minds.  We don’t have audio accounts, but if you listen to lots of books on tape, Audible is a great resource.  Radio productions, more like audio plays, can be hit or miss.  I go for the straight-up reading of the unabridged novel by one person.

  • Librivox is a free online catalog of mainly classical works, all of which are in the public domain.  You can download for free.  Sometimes the reading is not the absolute best as they are all volunteers, but it’s free! and the material makes up for it.
  • The Library is an amazing free resource of books on CD
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Secret Garden
  • Peter Pan
  • Moby Dick
  • Harry Potter
  • The Hiding Place
  • Glory Stories – The lives of Saints
  • Anything by Roald Dahl
  • Anything by Dickens
  • Marry Poppins
  • The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe


The girls did a fair amount of reading on the road.  Books we are loving right now are; The Penderwicks, the Amulet series, all the “Who Was” books, Smile, Sisters, Ghost, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter,  Horrible Histories, The Mysterious Benedict Society,  The Selfish Giant, The Sunken Kingdom and many more.

Isa reveling in the recent book delivery
My little fairies enjoying the books from the book exchange.


Do not underestimate the power of boredom.  This includes listening to nothing on the radio.  Some days we would get on the road and not immediately turn on the radio or give the girls a task.  Often they would come up with their own form of entertainment, art, game or pass time and surprisingly, sometimes, they would just enjoy the silence.  This was more out of neglect than planned thoughtful parenting, but in the end, I really believe in the power of letting your kids be bored.  It is a great jumping off place for inventive thought.  Just today Adelaide was complaining of being bored as Cameron and I were busy preparing the boat for a 5-day passage down to La Cruz.  I didn’t immediately meet her need so, she decided eventually (after a bit of moaning and groaning), to invent her own language.

This is what happened one day when we gave the girls nothing to do on the drive.

Note the absence of devices.  I kid you not that the girls did not spend any appreciable amount of time on screens.  I think we were four months on the RV before we dug out their tablets, and that was only after we had started schooling in earnest every day.  For better or worse, I’ve conditioned them that after they are all done with school, they can have 30 minutes of playing games on their tablets.  Since most driving days we didn’t do full school days, the girls never even asked for their tablets.

As we prepare for our long passage across the Pacific, I’m grateful for this experience as it reminds me of all the activities that are available to us.  When we arrived back on the boat a few days ago (YEA!!!!)  the girls dove head first into their bags of legos and have been reacquainting themselves with some of their treasured books and toys.

So, as we reflect on our time in the RV, I have to say that it was really an amazing time. What an adventure.  I decided to post some of the silly outtake photos that we took along the way.  But, my internet connection is not cooperating.  So, keep tabs on this post as I will update it with more photos.  I look forward to sharing more nautical photos very very soon.

Update: 2/24/18, we arrived in La Cruz after a safe 5 day passage from Guaymas to find much better internet connections!  Photos now attached!

NOT our most enthusiastic hiker.
fun fact: Fossils will stick to your tongue since they are porous!
Fun with hanging flowers.
My dad actually smiling in a photo. This is such a familial novelty I have to post it. What caused the smile? Almost getting washed down the stream by the rushing water after he and Cameron cleared the culvert of its blockage.
See what’s in Isa’s hands?
Checking out the diving gear at Coulee Damn
Post sare tire recovery. Nothing like our first moments up at highlands in the fresh mountain air.
When one’s sunglasses are all scratched and messed up, one’s snow goggles are a wonderful alternative.
Hello Lake Louise!
Adelaide in full happy dance mode up at what we call “Three Trees”
If Cameron insists on making faces like this when I take photos, then I told him that sometimes, I will actually post them. This was with the Chandler family while exploring Big Sur.
Adelaide’s fish face after she learned from the best just how to catch’m


  1. Marianne McGriff says:

    Good morning, Anne, Cameron, Adelaide and Isa First of all, I miss you The times we spent together are a wonderful memory for me. Anne, the post was wonderful. I’m going to try the non-hardening modeling clay for my grandchildren. I’m just going to ‘google’ unless you have a specific brand to suggest. Adelaide and Isa, I’m going to TN in a couple of weeks. I know Elizabeth and I will do some cooking. I was thinking of making some crepes. Have you done this yet? I have a recipe that I’ll dig out. You can fill them with a variety of food…savory and sweet. I’ve ordered the DVD you recommended, Isa, “Nim’s Island” and planning to take it with me. I’ll let you know how they like it. I’m looking forward to the photos. Love to ALL,

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Marianne,

      If you click on the green “Non-hardening molding clay” words, it is a link to Spramani’s website where she sells her products. They are all safe and non-toxic! I’m sure you can find other great products out there too. Hope you have a great time with your family! I LOVE making crepes, but Cameron complains that they take too long:) I think I just need to fill his with more stuff! I haven’t done it in a while though, so perhaps we are coming due for some crepe making fun! Love you, Marianne and look forward to seeing you in 2019 if not before!

  2. Deb Lease says:

    Ha! I knew I’d seen you guys online. Shoot us an email, so we can send you a book list; we’re at El Cid in Mazatlan, and have kickin’ internet for a couple of days. Francesca misses your girls already.

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hey Deb,
      I’m so glad you guys made it up there safely! I will shoot you an email now. I really enjoyed meeting your family and wish we had more time together! Have fun in El Cid!

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