Modern*Simplicity

Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Traveling? Keep Your Kids Entertained Without Screens

Traveling? Keep Your Kid Entertained Without ScreensLong trips with kids can be challenging, whether it’s by plane, train, car, or bus. It’s even more challenging when you want to entertain your children without the use of electronics. Ninety-eight percent of households with children 8 and under have access to a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. Usage of those screens increases during travel because it is just so easy to hand your kid your iPad or pop in a DVD in so you can drive in peace. If you’re looking for an alternative to sticking your kids in front of a screen to keep them entertained during long trips, try some of these ideas.

When you travel, it is just so easy to hand your kid your iPad or pop in a DVD in so you can drive in peace. What you need are ideas to keep your kids entertained screen-free. Click To Tweet

Coloring and Activity Books

Coloring books or activity books are inexpensive, easy ways to keep children occupied during long trips. A character coloring book, such as this one with Dr. Seuss, can inspire kids with a love of a certain TV show or character. If your child likes lots of variety, consider an activity book such as an “everything” activity book like this one. Does your child or teen feel like she’s too old for coloring books? Check out one of the newer adult coloring books with more intricate patterns to color. Don’t forget to pack a zipper bag of crayons, color pencils, or washable markers!

Books, Comics, and Graphic Novels

Books are tried and true travel companions, and a kid-friendly travel guide is a perfect way to get your child excited about the destination. When we went to Alaska last month, we packed books about the ports, bears, glaciers, and sled dogs. Disney World trips involve the history of Disney parks books, hidden Mickey books, and some Imagineer books. Also consider a couple of books from a new book series you think your older child would like, or board books featuring your younger child’s favorite characters. If your child isn’t a big fan of reading, try age-appropriate comic books, graphic novels that feature bright illustrations, or manga to keep their interest and get them to dive into some light reading.

Get your child excited about traveling with books on your destination, brain teasers, and activity sets centered on their favorite characters. Click To Tweet

Travel-Friendly Games

Travel games are also a great way to keep kids occupied on long trips. A deck of playing cards can make for dozens of game ideas for kids of all ages, or choose a card deck such as Old Maid, memory match, or other age-appropriate game if your child has a favorite. Skip-Bo and Uno have been our family favorites for years. Many popular board games also come in travel varieties, from chess and checkers to Scrabble and Trouble. Car bingo and versions of the license plate game can be found as free printables online. If you are taking a bus or car and expect a few pitstops along the way, consider taking a flying disc, inflatable ball, or jump rope for a quick activity to burn off some energy at meal stops and bathroom breaks.

Brain Teasers

Brain teasers are a fun way for kids to work their brains while traveling and can be entertaining for the whole family. Try a brain-bending activity book or a collection of riddles. Trivia books and “did you know” activities are also great brain builders. Activity books that feature kid-friendly versions of word search, crosswords, or Sudoku can also be a fun way to entertain as well as educate.

Character-Themed Games and Activity Books

If your children have a favorite character, consider putting together a character-themed collection for them. Let’s say your daughter enjoys Hello Kitty. Put together a travel collection featuring Hello Kitty Mad Libs, a Hello Kitty activity book, and a Hello Kitty sticker book, along with some Hello Kitty storybooks and a plush character she can read them to. When our kids were younger and we were heading to Disney World, I made Mickey and Friends activity books using free printables from the Internet, along with coloring books from the dollar store and a special Disney plush of their favorite characters.

Include books, coloring books, brain teasers, and travel-friendly games on your packing list to ensure the journey is as much fun as the destination. Click To Tweet

Traveling with children can be challenging, but it’s also a great opportunity to bond as a family and make lasting memories together. It’s easy to default to electronics for entertainment, but if you plan ahead and think about your children’s interests, it’s fun to plan activities to keep them entertained while traveling. Books, coloring books, brain teasers, and travel-friendly games are all tools you can include on your packing list to ensure the journey is as much fun as the destination.

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Traveling? Keep Your Kids Entertained Without Screens

Easily Distracted? 10 Ways to Stay Focused

Easily Distracted? 10 Ways to Stay Focused Lately, I haven’t been very focused. I’m distracted. Sure, I’m getting my work done, but I’m also doing a bunch of other stuff that is completely useless to achieving my goals. For example, today I’ve been updating my planner, working on vacation plans, watching webinars, and reading a bunch of online articles. I did very little of the writing that I had planned to do this week.

One of the worst things about distraction is that we often don’t realize it’s even happening. It sneaks up on us and, before we know it, the day has gone by and we have nothing to show for it. Click To Tweet

But we can change that. Once we are aware that we’re letting distractions get in the way of our priorities, we can focus our attention with an intention to actually get things done.

The Root of Your Distraction

If you’ve got a distraction habit, do you know what its root cause is? Mine tends to be fear: fear that I don’t know what I’m doing, fear that I’m going to mess everything up, fear that people will notice my mistakes and look down on me for them. I know that it really doesn’t matter if I screw up — everybody makes mistakes — and my value as a person isn’t tied to my success. But it still gets me every time.

Distractions can also be caused by the fear of missing out. What are you afraid of missing? Many of us spend way too much time surfing around online to make sure we don’t miss anything, but what exactly is it that we’re looking for? Usually, it’s just a lot of other people procrastinating and making sure they don’t miss anything. I love cat photos and funny gifs as much as the next person, but are they really something I need to be constantly on the look-out for?

None of these things actually matter. What matters is feeling content with what we have and using our skills to help other people. We need to be learning every day. We need to be compassionate to those around us. And we need to start taking action instead of just sitting around thinking and posting on Facebook.

Once we are aware that we’re letting distractions get in the way of our priorities, we can focus our attention with an intention to actually get things done. Click To Tweet

To-Do Lists

I’ve talked a lot in the past about keeping a to-do list as a way to stay focused, and I still think to-do lists are essential. But here’s the thing about to-do lists. Those tasks are only going to get done if you schedule them. If you don’t make the time, they’re not going to happen. You have to be intentional about accomplishing them, or they simply won’t get done.

I have a hard time sitting down to write, every day. It’s a struggle. It’s on my to-do list almost every single day. The funny thing is, I know exactly what I should be doing, and I even help other writers do it. But instead of doing it, I have a list of articles and blog posts I’d like to write “someday” and a fully formed outline for my new book that I haven’t been able to sit down and actually fill-in. Are there items on your to-do list that distraction is keeping you from accomplishing?

Overcoming Distraction

Here are a few tips to get you started overcoming the distraction habit.

  1. If you’ve got a web browser open (don’t we all?), start by closing as many of those browser tabs as you can. Bookmark things you want to read later and let the rest of them go.
  2. Close those social media sites and news sites. You don’t really need to visit them 10 times every day.
  3. Schedule time to check email, social media, read the news, any of those little habits you tend to do throughout the day. Don’t use them to fill the time, or to distract you from more important tasks. Write down when you’re going to do them, and for how long. Put that in your calendar or post a sticky note somewhere that you’ll see every day and follow that schedule.
  4. Take time every day to get outside and go for a run, take a walk, go on a bicycle ride, play with your kids outside, whatever you like. It’s important to get outside every day at least for a little while, and this is coming from the queen of staying inside. The fresh air will refresh you so you have more focus to work.
  5. Make time every day to read. I’m guilty of mostly reading on my iPad because I love electronic books, but it’s also important to read a paper book once in a while. Close the screens and just read a book like we did back in the good old days.
  6. If you’re having trouble staying away from social media, set up a blocker app or find a place to work that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. You can even try turning off your router. It’s amazing what happens when you don’t have access to the Internet.
  7. Check your phone and delete all those little apps that you waste time on. Remember Candy Crush? I could waste hours on that game. Maybe it’s not a game that distracts you. Is it social media? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Delete those apps from your phone now, at least as an experiment. Same goes for the iPad. Try it for a week, and see if you get more time back to focus on more important things.
  8. Eat without your electronic devices. No phones, no iPads, no television. Pay attention to what you’re eating and notice the textures, the flavors, and the colors of your food. Remember that eating is an essential habit to nourish your body, and it can be a good time to focus your mind as well.
  9. Think about what is truly important to you. We try to be everything to everyone, but in reality, we may actually be accomplishing nothing because we are not focused. We’re not going to make any of our dreams come true if we don’t pursue them. What is one big thing you want to work on right now? Is it something you can focus on for the next month? Can you break from the distractions and actually focus with intention on these activities?
  10. Write it out. For example, I need to be spending more time writing. I have a book that needs to be finished. My main ways to distract myself and procrastinate are Facebook and Pinterest. I really can’t delete all of my social media, because a big part of my job is being online, running Facebook communities and helping clients via social media. I have to be online. But I do need to set up some boundaries so that I am not online all day long. It’s too easy to use “work” as an excuse to surf the Internet for hours on end, at all hours of the day. So I’ll set a boundary. I’ll be online for work between 9 am and 5 pm. I’ll schedule additional writing time outside of that 9-5 schedule, without the Internet or social media open to distract me. No TV. No Facebook.

What distractions do you need to get rid of to actually get something done?

Easily Distracted? 10 Ways to Stay Focused

How to Keep Clutter Out of the House

How to keep clutter out of the house

You’ve spent weeks, or even months, working hard to purge your belongings and break free from your messy ways. It’s hard work, no matter how motivated you are. Once you have a decluttered space, you’ll want to know how to keep it that way. Good habits are key.

Since clutter is often the result of a few bad habits, recognizing and correcting those habits are the best way to ensure that you don’t end up with a cluttered mess again. Spend some time thinking about how you ended up with so much stuff in the first place.

  • Do you live to shop?
  • Did you inherit a lot of hand-me-downs that you just can’t seem to part with?
  • Do you have some collections that have grown out of control?
  • Did you downsize to a smaller home without downsizing your stuff?
  • Do you have kids or other family members that have a lot of stuff growing out of control?

Here are a few decluttering habits that I’ve found work well for many families.

Everything has a place.

“There’s a place for everything, and everything in its place.” ~Samuel Smiles

There’s a reason that saying is so popular. Every item in your home needs its own spot where it belongs. Label containers, shelves, cabinets, and baskets as needed to help other family members remember where things go, and get everyone in the habit of putting their own items away where they belong. With the exception of holiday and seasonal items, try to store items nearest to where they will be used and make everything as accessible as possible.  This ups your chances of actually using the item and will also make it quicker and easier for everyone to put away.  The simpler the solution, the better.

The simpler the solution, the better. Click To Tweet

Try to keep free space in all your drawers and cabinets.

There’s only so much you can fit into a home, and a home packed to the gills will be stuffy and anxiety-inducing. If a space is filled to the maximum, it will be more difficult to keep it clean, organized, and accessible. If it’s crammed, putting things away become difficult, so you won’t do it. That’s when the piles start. Try to always keep some free space in every cabinet, drawer, or storage box to give yourself a little freedom of movement — I recommend 25 percent.

Avoid the mall.

And Target. If you are one of those people that can’t pass up a good deal (and I used to be one of them), think carefully before you buy! Every item you bring into your home has a price besides the monetary – a price of time to clean and maintain it, a price of space, and a price of energy.

This was a big deal for us on a recent trip to Alaska on a cruise. We were already carrying way more luggage than I was comfortable with, based on the simple fact that our trip was going to encompass temperatures in the high 90s all the way down to the 30s (F). Of course, every port and city on our trip had gift shops and stores full of enticing items begging to be brought home. But besides the cost of the items, we also had the extra premium price of precious little luggage space and Mom’s waning energy to carry it all.

No matter how good the deal, if you don’t need it or and will not use it, pass it by. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it! Click To Tweet

Don’t buy things for your future self.

I used to have a bad habit of buying things I thought I would need “later” — from exercise equipment that I thought I might use “when I have free time (hah) to kids’ clothes multiple sizes up. Have you ever bought something because you believed you would need it in the future? It is so much easier (and cheaper!) to buy items as you need them instead of predicting what you will “might” need or want in the future. A small stockpile of food and basic items like toilet paper is perfectly reasonable. Clothes two sizes too big or too small, crafts supplies you may use someday, and sports equipment your child might decide to play five years from now — not so much. Just wait until you actually need them.

Rein in the crazy on the organization products.

I admit one of my favorite stores ever is The Container Store. Yes, you do need some storage in your home, but don’t stock up on bins and baskets in anticipation of using them. Before you add additional storage, declutter as much as possible, live with the space for a week or two, and then decide what you need to make it a functional, organized space.

Have a regular donation box.

I keep one large donation box in the garage so I can put items in immediately when we determine we no longer need or want them. Getting that stuff out of the house is essential to keep yourself from second-guessing your purge. When the box is full, drop it off at your local donation center.

Maintain that balance.

Decluttering is not a “one and done” activity. You will still accumulate stuff, so you’ll still need to periodically cull items to maintain that delicate balance of “just enough” in your home. This is especially true for families with growing children.

You’ll find soon that this becomes a habit — from cutting back your shopping to intentional purchases to discarding items as they wear out or outlive their usefulness for your family.

Decluttering is not a “one and done” activity. Click To Tweet

You will still accumulate stuff, so you’ll still need to periodically cull items to maintain that delicate balance of “just enough” in your home.

How to Keep Clutter Out of the House