Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Holidays, no matter how or what you're celebrating. I hope you are having a wonderful time with family and friends, and that you can feel some love, happiness, and peace.

Thank you for reading this blog, and all the best for 2013!

Geography games & activities for kids

Traveling is a great way to get kids interested in the world around them, and spark an interest in things like languages, geography, and arts and culture from other countries. There are also many games and activities that can fuel those same interest. Here are a few things that can get young minds.

There's a Map on My Lap!: All About Maps
This Cat in the Hat book teaches kids ages 4 and up about different kinds of maps and how to use them.

GeoPuzzle World - Educational Geography Jigsaw Puzzle 
This 68 piece puzzle for ages 4 and up lets kids put the countries of the world together.

GeoDice: Educational Geography Board Game
This board game for kids 6 and up lets players identify countries and capitals around the world.

Brainbox All Around The World 
This "memory" game requires players to commit several facts to memory in a short period of time and then show how many they remember. For ages 8 and up.

GeoCards World - Educational Geography Card Game 
This flashcard game for kids aged 4-7 teaches capitals of the world and countries of the world. The cards also include other basic information about each country, such as size and population.

Name That Country Game 
A board game for players aged 4-8 that teaches basic geography and facts about various countries around the globe.

GeoBingo World - Educational Geography Board Game 
This is a geography-based bingo game for kids 4-7 years old. You have to get 5 countries in a row to win. The country cards have basic information about countries all over the world.

VTech - Spin and Learn Adventure Globe 
This educational toy has 30 touch points with facts about culture, food, geography, and other things all over the world. It also plays music and other sounds and is meant for kids aged 36 months to 6 years.

World Map Paper Wall Mural
If you want to bring the world into your child's room, you can stick this massive paper mural on one of the walls.

Gift tip for kids - educational, funny, snuggable germs

This post is not really about a travel related item, though it is certainly something that could fit easily into your hand-luggage. I'm talking about Giant Microbes, a stuffed critter with a difference. To quote the website:
GIANTmicrobes® are stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes — only a million times actual size! They're humorous, educational, and fun!

Each of our GIANTmicrobes® comes with an image and information about the real microbe it represents. They make great learning tools, as well as amusing gifts for anyone with a sense of humor.
You can buy plush and cuddly versions of stem cells, brain cells, the germs that cause the flu, the common cold, ear ache, cholera, plague, and more. At first it sounds kind of icky, but it's also rather hilarious. My 5 year old is an avid stuffed critter lover and has three already: ear ache, mad cow disease and a stem cell. She LOVES them.

I'm plugging them here today because I think they are unique, funny, well-made and have educational value as well. Talking about cells, germs and various microbes with kids becomes a lot more real when you can show them what these things look like (minus the plush fabric and the eyes!).

So there you go. Just a small tip and recommendation for someone you love this holiday season: get them some germs.

Vancouver with kids - a beautiful place to go

This past weekend I headed to downtown Vancouver with my son. He was invited to a Christmas Party for kids with special needs at the Vancouver Convention Center. It was a fun day, and he enjoyed the party as well as the ride on the Skytrain there and back.

The view towards the port and North Vancouver across the water.
The weather was beautiful, and it was just one of those days when I really was reminded of how beautiful this part of the world is.

The view towards Stanley Park, West Vancouver in the distance.
It's a great city to visit with kids, and just as a reminder of that, here are some of my old blog posts about Vancouver:

Gift ideas for traveling kids

Yes, it's that time of year when many of us are trying to come up with gift ideas for everyone on our lists. Here are some ideas for gifts for the traveling children and the traveling babies (or rather: the traveling new parents) on your list:

Child-sized luggage from One Step Ahead
Luggage sets for kids are sometimes rather junky-looking in my experience, but this child-sized luggage from One Step Ahead looks fantastic. A pullman and a backpack is included in the set, and they can even be personalized with your child's name, or initials.

Crayola Color Wonder Travel Tote
Even with all the great handheld games and electronic devices out there, one of the best ways to entertain a child while you're traveling is to bring some paper, or a coloring book, and some crayons or markers. Crayola has a nice travel-set for color-happy children!

Magnetic Fun with Shapes - Picture Making Set

Bringing toys and activities along on a plane, or when you're traveling by car or train, can be challenging since you don't want to bring something that is difficult to pack, and has pieces that might get lost. Activities and games that use magnets can be very handy for this purpose, and I really love this set: it looks like creative fun and it packs up nicely.

Bears Dress Up Magnetic Fun Tin
This is another activity set involving magnets, and it looks like a lot of fun, and like it would be easy to bring along in a bag on a plane, in a car, on a train, or wherever else you're headed.

Magnetic Classic Games Tin - 12 Travel Games
And yes, a third gift-idea involving magnets! (They are so great if you're traveling, and really help make it easy to keep the game all together: losing game-pieces is a real drag.) This tin includes twelve different classic games that you can bring along on flights, car trips or elsewhere. I know people use apps and electronic games a lot these days, but there's something pretty great about old-school toys and games as well.

On-the-Go Bottle Warmer
If you have new parents on your gift-giving list, this might be a great present for them. To quote the manufacturer: "Reusable On-the-Go Bottle Warmer is an instant heat source anywhere, warming Baby bottles and Baby food jars while on the go, no power source needed!" Sounds absolutely awesome, and I wish I'd had one with me when I went on long flights with the kids when they were babies.

A portable travel-bed for baby
This is another gift-idea for babies and their parents: a soft, comfy, portable place for an infant to sleep when you're out and about. There are many different versions out there, including the Summer Infant Deluxe Infant Travel Bed and the Eddie Bauer Infant Travel Bed.

Mixie Formula Mixing Baby Bottle
This would make a great travel-item for new parents with a baby: a baby bottle that holds formula powder and water in separate compartments and then allows for easy mixing when you want to do that.

Rash Guard Sun Shirt - UV 50+ Protection by SwimZip
Rash guards are the best thing ever for kids who are outside in the sun. You don't need to worry about applying sunscreen on easily burned backs and shoulders, and it just makes it so much easier when you're at an outdoor pool or at the beach. These shirts by SwimZip have zippers, making them even easier to put on and take off.

Flexibath Foldable Bathtub
This is such a great idea: a foldable tub for your baby. Perfect for camping, and all other kinds of travel. Even if you're in a hotel or staying at someone's house, this would make giving your baby a bath a lot easier.

A Baby Carrier
A baby carrier is a big help if you're flying with a baby, and really helps free up your hands and hold your baby comfortably. The Boba 3G carrier was just picked by BabyCenter as the top baby-carrier of 2012.

A world-map puzzle
My kids, especially my 5-year old daughter, are jigsaw-puzzle lovers, and a puzzle with a map of the world can really get them into some geography as well. Two examples of these kinds of puzzles are the World Map 100 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle and Melissa & Doug World Map Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle. 

iPad apps
And if you or your child are lucky enough to receive an iPad as a Christmas gift, it would of course be really nice to have some good, child-friendly apps on it. There are lots of recommendations out there, including this one from Time: Top 25 iPad apps for kids.
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