Summer Travel with Kids: Hide the Screens & Engage

As parents, we all know that iPads, Kindle Fires, and other mobile devices can be lifesavers while traveling with our children. We use them to save our sanity during long flights, unexpected delays, and to end whining, bickering, and fighting coming from the back seat.

But obviously it’s a good idea to put away the screens at times and engage. Not only will you give your kids a better sense of place (by pulling them back into their surroundings) but you can even sneak in a little education.

Here are 5 areas for engaging your children and putting a little education into their summer travels.

GEOGRAPHY If you’re visiting a new location, talk about place. Ask your kids how the climate and topography affect housing styles, food selections, and outdoor entertainment options. How does the weather influence the way people live? How does it differ from where you currently live? Visiting national parks? Ask them about the natural formations they see and to guess how they were formed.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.40.40 PMMATH Yes, math can be fun while traveling. On a plane? Have them calculate how long it will take to reach your destination based on speed and distance. On a cross-country road trip? Explain how division can be used to determine how many times you’ll likely stop for gas. Also, make your kids calculate how much change to expect during a purchase.

SCIENCE Here it’s best to observe, classify, and compare. What kind of plants and animals do your kids see? Compare what you see around you with where you live. Visiting a children’s museum or science center? Talk about the exhibits and how science plays a role in our daily lives.

LANGUAGE ARTS Find books about the places you plan to visit and read them to your kids before your trip. If possible, try to seek out some of the sights you read about. Teach your kids a new song to sing together in the car or play a soundtrack from a favorite musical. When age appropriate, ask everyone in your family to keep a journal.

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Photo by Pixabay on

HISTORY Before your trip, look up some of the historical events that took place where you plan to visit. See if you can connect those events with what was happening in the U.S. (or your home country) at that time. Talk about what life was like during that period. Ask your kids how geography and location might have impacted major events in history.

Children will learn while on vacation no matter what you do. But you can help them think about their surroundings, solve problems, and make connections to what they’ve learned in school through active — but fun! — interactions. And while there may be a time and a place for screens, they should never replace real-world engagement.

So whether you’re on home leave, R&R, or summer vacation in the coming months, hide the screens and engage your children. And when you’re on the verge of losing your sanity — give them back.


American History for Expat Kids!

American History in a Box Level IIAmerican History in a Box is a standards-based elementary course on major American History themes and concepts. With four levels for different age groups, (grades K/1, 2/3, 4/5, and 6/7) the boxes include historical fiction, non-fiction, games, puzzles, supplies, and an activity book based on the Virginia Standards of Learning and the National Common Core Standards.

This overview provides a framework for future learning for Foreign Service/expatriate children who are not in standard courses offered to students living in the U.S. More information about the boxes here.

The course is intended to be fun, easy, and student-directed as many students will complete the box while attending school or during summer.

American History in a Box is reimbursable for some  families posted abroad with the U.S. government. Email us for more information and a reimbursement approval request form for your Financial Management Officer.

American History Box – Summer Edition

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Are you looking for activities for your children in elementary or middle school this summer? Our boxes provide books, games, and an activity book that can be done anywhere and at anytime.

You can also add on a tutoring package through Twiga Tutors to have a U.S. certified teacher guide your child through the major concepts.

In May we will also have a new expansion pack with ten activities focusing on U.S. History in the Washington, D.C., area with worksheets to help explore places like Mt. Vernon, Georgetown, the American History Museum, and the National Monuments. Stay tuned for more information!

Mexico and the United States


Teotihuacan with the moon pyramid, sun pyramid, and ruins.

Our newest expansion pack explores some major themes regarding Mexico and the United States. Much of the Southeastern United States was a part of Mexico before the Mexican American war and today the countries overlap in many ways. Our expansion pack looks at indigenous people (prior to the formation of either country), the Mexican American war, famous artists (Romare Bearden and Diego Rivera) and immigration today.

This pack is perfect for an expat student from the United States living in Mexico or vice versa. Each pack includes books and a directly mailed activity packet that asks the student to review, reflect, make connections, and analyze current situations.

We also suggest that students visit famous historical sites including Teotihuacan, the Alamo, the Anthropology museum (Mexico) and the Native American museum (U.S.). If visits in person are not possible, we hope students will be able to explore the sites online.

The packet can be ordered separately or with an existing grade level American-History-in-a-Box. Orders are reimbursable for some expat families. Email us for the Reimbursement Request Form.

If you have questions, please contact us at