Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting Two Kids to Sleep in a Tent

Two kids under 3 years of age. Both of whom are used to sleeping in their own rooms. In a comfy crib and/or bed. Put said kids in a tent, in the great outdoors on a hot summer night, and expect them to sleep well a few inches from each other. Recipe for disaster? Enough to give parents nightmares and scare them off from tent camping forever? No way!

Tips for Tent Camping with Two Kids
We successfully tent camped with our 3-year-old and baby a few weeks ago and lived to tell the tale. Here's how we executed a quiet night of slumber in a tent:
  • Put them down one at a time. I'm not sure what bedtime looks like around your house. We always put our boys to bed separately anyway, so doing that while camping was nothing new. But I think it's essential that each kid gets a chance to settle down to sleep without the distraction of another kid awake a few inches from their face.
  • Wait until your rowdy kid is really tired. Big Arrow is pretty noisy when he goes to bed at home. We'll often hear him talking to himself, singing and carrying on for 30 minutes or more at night. I knew while camping, all this noise would certainly wake Little Arrow. So we kept Big Arrow up far beyond his usual bedtime so that he would ideally drift right off to sleep once we got him in the tent. This is pretty much how it worked out, fortunately.
  • Lay down with them. My husband and I have worked really hard at establishing good sleep habits with our boys at home. We very rarely lay down with them to get them to fall asleep. But all bets are off when you're trying to get two kids to sleep in a very strange environment. Plus, knowing I was right in the tent with him supervising helped to ensure Big Arrow didn't do anything silly to wake his little brother up.
  • Parents sleep between the kids. My husband and I slept between the boys. This way, a nighttime feeding of Little Arrow didn't wake up Big Arrow.
  • Try to make it comfy. We used a blowup mattress for Big Arrow and the mattress from a pack n' play for Little Arrow. I know I don't sleep very well directly on the ground, so I can't expect my kids to either. We're going to get some sleeping pads for future camping trips to save space and time (the blow-up mattress was a bit cumbersome). We'll continue to use the pack n' play mattress for at least the next year for Little Arrow.
While I'm a somewhat experienced tent camper, I'm definitely new to doing it with kids. (Our previous camping trips involved borrowing my parent's pop-up trailer.) Any tips you'd like to add?

Other Camping with Kids Tips:

Our Destination:

Interested in hearing more about our destination, Clifty Falls State Park in beautiful Madison, Indiana? Here's a video I did for Visit Indiana (please watch just so that the awful freeze frame picture of me goes away...):

I'll be sharing photos on Friday, so be sure to check back.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hitting the Beach in Michigan

I think there's something really therapeutic about watching kids play on the beach. Like your doctor should prescribe it in the winter months to cure the blues. (Perhaps insurance would cover an airplane ticket to someplace warm?)

If you're a Midwesterner, then you know the southwest part of Michigan, along Lake Michigan, is a really popular summer destination because we can get our fill of sand, surf and sun without driving very far. Views like this less than 4 hours from home? Just tell me where to sign up for an annual membership.

I took these photos in tiny Union Pier, Michigan, just north of New Buffalo. But there are wonderful beaches all along this stretch of "coast."

Michigan Love Around the Blogosphere

I'm not the only fan of Michigan out there. Here are a few other posts about "the Mitten" from some fellow family travel bloggers.
This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreaming at R We There Yet Mom.

Monday, July 23, 2012

5 Toys for Babies AND Preschoolers

We've taken a lot of road trips this summer. Even when you have the luxury of more space than you would if you were flying, you can't exactly pack up the whole toy chest to entertain your kids while you're away.

Now that I'm a mom of two (I'm still getting used to the sound of that, 7 months later!), I'm finding that toys that can serve the dual purpose of entertaining both my kids are the first that get packed when we hit the road. Here are a few of my favorites (affiliate links). And keep reading for a special discount on one of these items!

1. Color-Changing Touch Board from Lakeshore Learning: I was sent this cool touch board (pictured above) from the folks at Lakeshore Learning a couple of months ago and it has quickly risen to the top of my favorite toys list. Big Arrow has long been obsessed with his Magna Doodle and I thought this would be a fun alternative for him. If you're not familiar with these, they're sort of like a mood ring... they change color based on temperature.

Big Arrow draws pictures, makes hand prints, foot prints and more. Little Arrow loves banging on it, chewing on it, and drooling on it. (Water actually makes a cool effect on it, so Big Arrow thinks the drooling is hysterical. Luckily, it's easy to clean.) They like to sit around it together and giggle. I'll admit that I sometimes find myself playing with it, too.

While it's not a small toy and won't slip into a diaper bag, I like to keep it tucked into the back of the passenger seat. That way we always have it on hand as a quick distraction during a long ride in the car.

Want one of these touch boards or something else from Lakeshore Learning? Save $15 off your order of $75 or more by visiting Offer is good for 30 days after visiting the page. (Or save $5 for a $25+ order, or $20 off a $50+ purchase.)

2. Fisher Price Snap-Lock Beads: I never would have guessed this toy could serve a purpose beyond delighting a baby, but my nephew proved me wrong last week. He spent about 30 minutes playing with them, having a puppet show, swinging them around, etc. Big Arrow, always one to admire his older cousin, is now really into them too. Little Arrow has been a fan for a couple of months now.

3. Fisher Price Alphabet Blocks: Blocks are a dime a dozen, right? Not with these! Each letter has a different fun activity lodged inside, making these entertaining for babies and preschoolers. Big Arrow builds elaborate structures with them, while Little Arrow just likes to shake the rattle ones and chew on the rest. Even better for trips is that they come in a convenient carrying case so you can keep them organized among the rest of your toys. If  you don't have room for all 26, just pack a few of your favorite letters (we love the rotating queen inside of "Q" and the rattling strawberry seeds in the "S").

4. Munchkin Bath Letters and Numbers: Our favorite bath toys when traveling. Just throw a few in your toiletry bag and you've got instant bathtime entertainment. It also helps Big Arrow, who can sometimes be a little skeptical of bathing in unfamiliar places, feel right at home. They stick to the surface of the tub so he can move them around (smarty pants is even starting to spell words!) And they are among Little Arrow's favorite things to chew. (You may have noticed that chewing is a common theme among his toys.) You can also throw them in your beach bag for a few playthings in the ocean, lake or by the pool.

5. First Library sets: We always travel with books. Great entertainment for the car ride, and reading a book or two is part of our naptime/bedtime routine. These come in a variety of characters/themes (we have Cars and Sesame Street). They're small and light enough for babies to fumble around with (and chew... sigh). And also short and simple enough to hold Little Arrow's very limited attention span. But Big Arrow still loves to flip through them all. Plus, for travel, I love that they come in a compact little box and don't get mixed up with other things inside big bags. Essentially, it's like traveling with 12 books in the space of 3 or 4.

What toys do you always pack when traveling?

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Walkingon Travels and Suitcases and Sippy Cups.

Disclosure: I was provided with a Touch Board from Lakeshore Learning for purposes of a review. All other toys were purchased by our family or given to us as gifts. All links above are Amazon affiliate links.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bottoms up.

Just got back from another HOT trip to Michigan. I can't wait to share our adventures from New Buffalo along beautiful Lake Michigan in the southwest part of the state. For now, I've got one more tip to add to my post about traveling in the heat. Stay hydrated.

Thanks to my cutie nephew for the photo opp. (I warned my sister prior to the trip that I would totally be cashing in on her adorable children to attract new readers to my blog. Expect to see lots of pictures of them in the weeks to come!)

How are you staying cool out there this summer?

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Summer for Slowing Down and Savoring the Moment

When we pick a vacation destination, I jump right into trip planning. What is there to see? What should we do? Where should we eat? How much time is enough to see it all?

It's not that I want to rush through an experience, or see things just to say I've seen them. But tomorrow isn't promised to any of us, and you never know when or if you'll make it back to a place. So while I'm there, I want to really live it up.

And while I still love to research a new place and figure out what makes it special, in recent years I've changed my mindset about doing it all. That's been one of the beautiful things about having kids. You slow down. Sometimes you slow way down. It doesn't mean we don't get out into the world, it just means we do it a little differently. Traveling with kids has been more about enjoying a moment than it has been about making something into a moment.

Here's what I mean: An ordinary trip to the playground is more special when palm trees are your backdrop. Meeting a street performer might be what you end up remembering best from a jam-packed trip to the big city. Hiking while the baby snoozes in your Ergo is special not just for the beautiful trail but because it means quiet conversation with your husband. And every great vacation day ends with ice cream (actually, I thought that was true even before kids...)

Our trip to Saginaw Bay in northeastern Michigan last week is a good example of this change in thinking. We spent 7 days at my inlaws' cottage right on the lake. It shows me that a vacation can be about just enjoying your environment, the food on your plate, and the people you're sharing it with. It's not always about museums, popular restaurants, and doing what others consider must-see things. (Although I still love all that, too.)

This trip was about savoring the full moon over the water each evening with a cold beverage by my side.

And actually being thankful your baby is an early riser, because it meant you saw lots of lakeside sunrises.

It was breathing in the freshest of air, savoring every breeze, and feeling the sun on your face.

It was about grandparents, aunts and uncles getting quality time with kids that are growing up faster than I ever thought they could.
The week included a celebration of our country on the 4th of July. I've spent the 4th in some beautiful and popular travel destinations. Madrid. Boston. Charleston. But this holiday spent in little Pinconning, Michigan will rank right up there with those trips.

I'll always be a do-er when I travel. Sightseeing is in my blood and motivates me to travel to new places. But I'm learning to appreciate the special, unplanned moments that make our trips even better than I ever imagined them to be when I was back at home weeks before, pouring over a guidebook.

Our travels this summer have been sweeter, livelier, and certainly more exhausting. It's like someone cranked up the color wheel and made everything a few shades more vibrant. It's a feeling a camera will never be able to capture, and a trip planner could never schedule.

This post is a part of Photo Fridy at Delicious Baby. We're off to a different area of Michigan this coming week, so things will be a little quiet again. Keep up with us on Facebook where I tend to hang out more when we're on the road.

This post was also featured on the Ergobaby blog as part of their Summer Travel Series.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tips and Tricks for Traveling in the Heat with Kids

While the heatwave that plagued most of the country last week has subsided, it still seems timely to share some tips I picked up on our recent trip. We spent the week in my inlaws' beautiful cottage on Saginaw Bay in northeast Michigan. It's only flaw (which is ordinarily a non-issue given it's typically cool and breezy location) is that it is not air-conditioned. Temps in the mid-90s had the whole family scrambling for ways to get relief from the heat.

If you find yourself traveling this summer with kids (especially babies) and know you'll be without regular access to an air-conditioned space, such as a campsite, here are a few things you can do and should pack.

  • Blow-up baby pool.* Even though we were staying right on the lake, we got a lot of relief from an inflatable baby pool right in the backyard.
  • Cloth swim diaper.* You'll want to be in and out of the water as much as possible. So forget the disposal swim diapers (I can never get my chubby baby boys in and out of those anyway). Make a one-time investment in a cloth swim diaper and you'll be good to go for the whole trip no matter how many times your little one gets wet. I've used this Bummis Swimmis brand with both boys and they've held up really well.
  • Fans. I suggest a fan for each bed in order to keep everyone cool in the sticky evening hours (and during naptime). If you don't have room, buy a few cheap ones when you arrive. I even got some use out of a laptop fan* I bought for about $6. I just put it right on my bed by my pillow. 
  • Bed sheets instead of sleeping bags. I still like to be "covered" when I sleep, even when it's hot.
  • Hydrocortisone cream.* Both Arrows got a pretty nasty heat rash by the end of the week. It was nice to have something handy to give them some relief.
  • Outdoor toys. No matter what we did, it was always cooler outside than inside the cottage. So we hardly used any of the indoor toys I packed, but got a lot of mileage out of the outdoor activities.
Dinner picnic because it was too hot to eat inside!

  • Move the pack n' play* mattress onto the floor. It was impossible to get enough air flow into the pack n' play itself for Little Arrow to get cool enough to sleep. So we moved the mattress pad onto the floor and kept a fan blowing on him (but out of reach). He doesn't move much in his sleep, fortunately, but even if he did, he was safe on the floor.
  • Keep a beach bag packed and organized throughout the trip. It made for quicker organizing for heading out to the boat, pool or lake.
  • Extend bathtime. Both boys spent most of the evening splashing around in the tub (or sink!) Perhaps pick up a couple of new bath toys to bring along.
  • Do what the locals do. We went swimming at the local community center one day. We also looked into the local libraries, movies, etc., as potential sources of relief. Whatever you might do to keep cool at home works just as well when traveling!
  • Cold wash cloths. Little Arrow's favorite toy during the hottest part of the day.
Little Arrow loved cooling off in the sink bathtub every night.

Check back on Friday, I'll be sharing some photos of our view at the cottage that made all the heat worth it (as if Little Arrow's adorableness wasn't enough!)

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.

*Amazon affiliate links.