Our life can get pretty chaotic. With my husband in medical training, sometimes a week goes by and Ray and I realize we haven't really had a family meal. So, the other night Ray suggested that we take the kiddos out for a special dinner. To be honest, we are always a little nervous to bring our 4-year old and 6-year old to a restaurant, let alone a really nice restaurant. They're so distracted by the environment and it's hard for them to sit still. We don't like to let them use phones or ipads while eating out, yet we are realistic about the situation and keep them on hand if all chaos ensues.
When we checked into the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised when the hostess offered the kids an Etch A Sketch to use at the table. "It's like the first version of an iPad," she told the kids. We naturally accepted the Etch A Sketches and made our way to the table.
Amazingly, throughout dinner, our kids happily played with the toys. And my husband joined in on the fun, helping the kids to spell their names and draw pictures. He even made this pretty impressive princess for my daughter!
The whole meal I kept thinking how interesting it was that the hostess called these toys 'the first version of the iPad.' While Etch A Sketches are way simpler and cheaper than iPads, surprisingly they seemed equally entertaining. It got me wondering, why do we constantly feel the need to use complex technologies to entertain our kids? I mean, I am a huge supporter of educational television and games, and I think these technologies are valuable tools when used the right way. But there is something sweet and comforting about opting for simplicity. Maybe I'm just feeling nostalgic for my own childhood. Who knows?! But this experience motivated me to use more technology-free forms of entertainment for my kiddos.
Here are some of my favorites! My top five picks for on-the-go, technology-free entertainment. When at a restaurant, doctor's office waiting room, airport, or any other places kids think are boring, I challenge you to go technology-free. I will admit, it doesn't work every time...but I think it's worth a try. These devices are mess-free AND reusable, so unlike coloring books, you can't 'use them up. (Note: This list contains affiliate links)
- Boogie Board: We love this coloring board! I typically stash this one away until we go on a road trip or flight so that it seems special and new to my kids. The best part about this toy is that it's mess-free! kids simply press a button to erase their work and start over so it gets a ton of use.
- Etch A Sketches: Also, mess-free, these toys may take you back to your own childhood! You can buy them in different sizes and throw them in your bag or the backseat pocket of your car. Kids can draw and then shake away their work when they are ready to start something new.
- Melissa and Doug Water Wow: These reusable water coloring books have been a huge hit, especially with my daughter. You simply fill the pen with water and kids can color the pages over and over again. And again, mess-free fun on-the-go!
- Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Activity Books Set: My kids go through stages of loving/hating stickers. When we are on a sticker kick, I love to pull these out. These booklets contain different scenes (e.g, farm, safari) that kids can decorate with stickers. They can re-use the stickers and change the look and feel of their environments as much as they want!
- Aqua Magic Doodle Mat: So this isn't something kids can necessarily do in a car or on a plane, but this is a great toy to bring on vacation or to a friend's house. Kids use a water pen to color on a mat over and over again (the drawing fades away after five minutes). It's mess-free and big enough for more than one child to draw on at a time.
Let me know how it goes and what you think of these devices! Maybe you have other products to recommend. I hope you'll join me on this technology-free "on-the-go" challenge!