A couple weeks ago, on our backpacking trip to Yosemite, we experimented during the four-plus hour car ride there — we didn’t bring the iPad. I know, I know. Crazy, right? It could have been the riskiest decision of our parenting careers thus far. Instead, we brought games (like this travel bingo), a notepad and books to read. It went really well. Henry was surprisingly quiet, and we had a nice game of MASH going for a while which he got a kick out of. Then I got worried and thought maybe he was sick. I mean, we didn’t hear any complaining coming from the back seat. He was even looking out the window at one point. That made me realize how reliant we’ve become on screens. It’s like chapstick: the more you use it, the more you need it.
I’m happy to say that I’m partnering with Ford for a few posts to share with you some idea on how to make car rides more enjoyable without the devices (we all know it’s possible. We survived our childhoods, didn’t we?). Today I’m sharing two family map projects we’ve done that have made Henry really excited about travel and exploring. He’s always loved maps, and now that he’s reading I thought it would be even more interesting to give him the official job as trip navigator.
The first project is this giant family adventure map where we can plot all the adventures we’ve had in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Sierras is where Tahoe, Yosemite, the giant trees of the Sequoias and countless other special places are. We really love doing outdoor activities together as a family and wanted to create a fun visual way to document our adventures together. I’ve been wanting to do this project for so long, and am happy with how it turned out.
Keep reading to see more about our family map project and a small map version to take with you in the car!
This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive.
Supplies: Giant wall map (I bought ours at our local bookstore), spray adhesive, giant white foam core board, mini map pins, scissors, pen. Not pictured: Exacto knife, small window squeegee.
Step 1: Our map was folded so we need to flatten the creases a bit with a warm iron.
Step 2: Start to spray the map to the foam core in a well ventilated area one section at at time.
Step 3: Using a window squeegee, flatten the map and creases as best as you can. I was surprised with how much the creases flattened out. You really can’t see them at all once mounted!
Step 4: Cut the foam board with an exacto knife along the edge of the map
Step 5: We printed out ‘Stanley Adventures’ and ‘ camp, hike, climb, swim, ski’ and glued it to the bottom to create a key.
Step 6: We used different colored pins to coordinate to each activity.
Hang in a spot where (responsible) members of the family can reach and add to the board.
It’s a great family activity to sit down and document our adventures together!
To go along with our study of maps, I also made and laminated mini map routes to explore during car trips. I picked three popular routes we take a lot: Tahoe, Stinson Beach and Santa Cruz. Each route is highlighted and laminated with numbered points to indicated every approximate 30-minutes of travel and stars show points of interest (like an amusement park in Vallejo or a ghost town in Sacramento) that Henry might be interested in hearing about along the drive.
The numbered points help him track our progress and practice a little math as well (“it’s been 15 minutes since point 2 so we must be halfway to point 3″). It was fun to study up a bit on the route and learn a little history about different areas (like, did you know Daly City has more gravestones than people?). These maps sit in the glove compartment and require no special tools or pens to go along with them. Just some regular old map reading (so vintage!).
How do you handle long car rides? Are there favorite games or activities you like to do? Have you ever tried to not use screens on a road trip?