By Janet Groene, F47166
More and more young families are living full-time in an RV these days, working as they go, and homeschooling the kids. Whether children are part of your full-timer’s life all the time or are just occasional visitors, here are ways to make the roving life happier, safer, and more educational for kids of all ages.
RadioShack offers all types of electronic fun for restless passengers, as well as electronic toys the entire family can use at the campsite. ZipZaps are miniature radio-controlled cars that come in their own carry cases. They provide hours of addictive fun for kids ages 8 and older. A starter kit costs less than $25, and accessories can be added at prices ranging from $4.99 to $12.99. Up to six cars can race at once, each using a different radio frequency. And when night falls, just switch on the cars’ front headlights to keep racing. Choose from a number of popular models, each in a choice of two colors, and then customize them until they’re totally tricked out. Visit any of the nation’s RadioShack locations to check out these neat little racers.
Graco’s new Pack “˜n Play Sport is a portable playpen that seems to lend itself to RV travel. When closed, it requires little more space than a folding chair, and it weighs less than 12 pounds. Using much the same frame technology as the new “spider-leg” folding chairs, this impressive invention pops up in seconds to form a clean, airy play area with mesh sides and a water-resistant floor. It also includes a sun canopy with a 50+ ultraviolet protection factor rating, which blocks up to 98 percent of harmful ultraviolet rays and stores in its own sleeve. Forget the heavy, hard-to-assemble playpens of the past; this is a breakthrough. Graco makes a full line of lightweight, compact travel accessories for parents of babies and toddlers. Look for them in places where baby gear is sold or go to www.gracobaby.com. The Pack “˜n Play Sport lists for $149.99.
Is there a future Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg in the family? A terrific new book titled Attack of the Killer Video Book ($12.95, Annick Press) outlines “tips and tricks for young directors.” Your kids will keep busy for hours on the road producing great videos. The book covers scriptwriting, storyboarding, editing, camera work, and special effects that are safe for kids to try, such as using mashed potato flakes as snow. It’s great fun to read and savvy enough to provide workable tips for serious videotaping. The book, which is suitable for teens and mature preteens, is available at bookstores and through online booksellers.
If you’d rather start off on a smaller and less expensive scale, try audio recordings. Kids can write their own scripts or obtain play scripts from the library. It’s fun to make up commercials and sound effects, interview adults, do news broadcasts, or play deejay while producing a dynamite music program.
Kids who are at the age when they find disgusting things funny will laugh themselves silly while reading Gross Universe: Your Guide To All Disgusting Things Under The Sun ($12.95, Maple Tree Press). The book is actually educational. For instance, it explains why dung beetles behave as they do; how far an Indy-style race car could go on the noxious gases produced by one sheep; and what animal has the deadliest breath in the world. Parents will hate this book, which makes it ideal for boys in the 8- to 12-year-old range. Tuck it away for a rainy day.
Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games & Activities by Carole Terwilliger Meyers ($8.95, Carousel Press) is a book you’ll wear out before the kids are grown. It includes 128 pages of pure fun with fill-in-the-blank challenges, riddles, tongue twisters, math games (answers are provided in the back), and loads of suggestions for fast-moving games the whole family can play on the go or during long waits in restaurants. For example, one person starts by saying a three-letter word. The next person must supply a three-letter word that starts with the last letter of the first word. See how long you can keep it going. The book is available from bookstores or through online booksellers.
For a honey of a trip, plan an itinerary around the many farms that harvest, bottle, and sell more than 300 natural honey varieties, as well as myriad products containing honey. Most are small family farms, so take the children for an educational experience as well as a sweet treat. Send your request to the National Honey Board, 390 Lashley St., Longmont, CO 80501; send an e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org; or see the list at www.honeylocator.com.
Souvenir shopping with children? Check out museum gift shops. Admission is free, even if the museum itself has an admission charge, and most museums have ample parking for motorhomes. Because these shops usually cater to school groups, they almost always have a large selection of inexpensive baubles. If you’re looking for quality gifts, museum shops have authentic items related to science, art, and culture, plus an excellent selection of books on local history, natural history, and science.
When traveling with children, it’s important to locate campgrounds that have features for everyone, such as a swimming pool, a playground, group activities, hiking/biking trails, fishing, a game room, or whatever suits your family. Reservations for many state and federal campgrounds, essential in busy periods of the year, are available on the Internet from www.ReserveAmerica.com.
Checking into a full-service RV resort with your grandchildren? If the resort issues membership cards to use in lieu of cash, it’s wise to review your bill every day rather than waiting for checkout time. Knowingly or unwittingly, the kids may be charging more to your account than you realize.
If birdwatching doesn’t catch on with your kids, give them something that is easier to identify and collect. The Butterfly Handbook ($23.95, Barrons Educational Series) is a sturdy, spiral-bound field guide with more than 250 pages of color photos. Each butterfly is shown and described according to size, habitat, geographical distribution, other characteristics, and whether they are protected.
Are you rusty on child seat safety rules or do you need to find out what the new rules are for children who have grown into a new size and weight class? For a complete chart of child seat safety guidelines, go to www.nhtsa.gov. If you don’t have Internet access, call the nearest fire or police station, sheriff’s office, or car dealer and ask where to go for a child safety seat check. There is no substitute for hands-on instructions for installing child safety seats. Remember, child safety seat laws apply to motorhomes, too.
Books for travelers
Bill and Marie Lassey know the greater Yellowstone-Grand Teton area inside out and write about it with love and meticulous detail in their new book, Paradise For RVers ($15.95, iUniverse Inc.). Experienced RV travelers, the two retired college professors have spent decades exploring this region. They outline a choice of routes into and out of the area, and list all the things to look for when there. Their campground descriptions also include information about cell phone reception. It is available at bookstores, through online booksellers, or from the publisher online at www.iuniverse.com.
If you plan to sell your home and belongings to go full-timing, a new book titled Moving On, A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home by Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand ($15.95, Stewart, Tabori & Chang) will help you to manage practical matters as well as the emotional strains of dealing with each other, grown children, neighbors, and greedy dealers. It contains checklists, advice, and reassuring case histories from those who have “been there.” Find it at bookstores or through online booksellers.
It has been widely believed that damp charcoal can combust spontaneously and cause a fire. Even the New York Fire Department has warned against storing damp charcoal. However, research by professor Patrick J. Pagni of the University of California, Berkeley “” presented at a symposium sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association and reported in the marine insurance magazine, Seaworthy “” says this is not possible. Mr. Pagni found that charcoal in the quantities used by consumers will not light spontaneously. The belief probably sprang from spontaneous combustion of coal, charcoal’s cousin, which can ignite when stored damp and in large quantities.
Nevertheless, charcoal does pose some real dangers for families. When burning, it produces deadly, odorless, carbon monoxide. So, never use it indoors or even under a canopy. When carbon monoxide poisoning occurs, it is usually the youngest family members who succumb first and can suffer the most severe, long-term effects. The other problem is that charcoal appears white and cold hours after use, even though it still may be hot enough to burn a child, start a fire, or melt through a non-metal trash container. So make sure to dowse the spent coals thoroughly when you’re finished using the grill.