Things to Read - Long Roadtrips & 3 Great Toys for Learning to Read


As I mentioned on Monday, every other year we drive 700 some miles from Arlington, VA to the Chicago suburbs. For the first leg of the trip (to Cleveland) we break up the drive by stopping at the Pittsburgh Children's museum. But the next part (Cleveland to Chicago) is pretty boring (if anyone knows of any good stops along the way, please let me know). Plus, two full days in the car is tough on kids. To make the drive more bearable, we've hooked up two portable DVD players for the girls, which entertain them for the first few hours, but then they start to yell "I'm bored" from the back of the minivan. Until I became a parent I didn't comprehend the true pain caused by hearing "are we there yet?" Nor did I realize the timelessness of the phrase. The children's complaints lead my husband on a long rant on how, during his childhood, movies could not be watched in cars. My kids could care less.

Since F (our five year old) is learning to read, we also bring along some activities suited to this task. We found the following toys and games quite the lifesavers during the long drive through Indiana's farm country.

1. LeapFrog TAG Reading System - Purple

Both the girls have Leapfrog Tag pens, along with several Leapfrog books, and they use them quite a bit (despite the fact that they're now "old" toys). I know they aren't a substitute to having an actual person read to them, but I can't read to them all the time. And for kids they're way better than TV. Leapfrog has several popular titles - LeapFrog Tag Activity Storybook Disney Princess Adventures Under the Sea, LeapFrog Tag Activity Storybook Disney Fairies, LeapFrog Tag Activity Storybook Cars Tractor Tipping, LeapFrog Tag Activity Storybook The Amazing Spider-Man: The Lizard's Tale, etc. F really seems to enjoy the LeapFrog Tag Learn to Read Phonics Book Series Short Vowels, several of the books have reading games she likes to play. If your child answers enough questions correctly, he/she can win a downloadable "reward" (basically a certificate you need to print). F adores her reward collection, P could care less about the rewards. On the downside, the pens have awful battery lives, we need to change them all the time.

2. The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary (I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner Books)

The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary (I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner Books) matches THOUSANDS of pictures with thousands of words. So all afternoon, F kept yelling from the backseat, "I can spell cat", "I can spell mouse", "I can spell doll", etc.

3. Discovery Toys Wiz Kidz Card Game

F loves this simple game, so we play it as a family during roadtrips. If you don't feel like paying $12, the premise is quite simple and easily replicated. The game comes with two series of cards, one series contains the letters of the alphabet and the second series contains a several generic categorizations and places, such as "a foreign country" or "something you hate" or "a book or movie." The game involves randomly choosing two of the cards and trying to think of something that matches the description and starts with the appropriate letter (i.e. something in a grocery store that starts with V). F can play this for hours. Sometimes she's better at it than my husband or me. For example, a drink that begins with D (non-alcoholic, as they are children) stumped me, then all of a sudden I heard "diet coke" yelled from the backseat; F's more aware of my addictions than I am.

Obviously, neither of my kids can actually read yet, so I'm not an expert on this topic. But I do find that these "toys" really entertain them and they also make long car rides more bearable. So what's not to love? What about everyone else? Any suggestions on teaching children to read and making it fun? We also have Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers and Dora The Explorer Phonics Box Set (Dora the Explorer (St. Martin's Press)), and while F loves the Dora books, it's not easy to read them to her in the car.

If you're interested in possible gift book suggestions (for adults and children) please check in next Thursday as I'll be posting on books for everyone on your Xmas list. Also, check in tomorrow for my post on the BEST TOY EVER!

Oh, as a final shout out for Neat Repeats, my mom purchased ALL of the toys mentioned from the second-hand store where she works (with the exception of the Leapfrog system). I'm telling you, if you live in the south suburbs of Chicago, you need to shop and/or donate here. It's such an easy way to both save your own money and help victims of domestic violence. A total win-win. By the way, does anyone in the DC area know of a similar shop in this area?


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