10 Best Offline Apps for Traveling Toddlers

Tablets have become a necessity for many families these days. After all, they can offer endless hours of entertainment along with educational opportunities for kids. It’s surprising then that kids still get bored with their tablets, especially when there’s no access to WiFi. For traveling families, this can be the situation more often than not, especially when they’re traveling to remote or rural areas, are on the road constantly, or on planes without free internet accessibility.

Although they outsmart us sometimes, my husband and I usually control our toddlers’ tablet time. We make sure that they often don’t get it for long stretches of time and that they’re not just always on YouTube Kids, especially before a trip. This helps when we are stuck in transit and let them have their tablets, it’s almost like they’re getting their devices for the first time, every time! We’ve also discovered that there are apps out there that keep them interested as much as YouTube Kids does, and these apps are actually both interactive and creative-something that the kids really don’t get when tuned in on videos. Here are some of the apps we’ve found to be both entertaining and appropriate for our toddlers.

 

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1. Toca Dance – iOS/Android – $2.99

Toca Dance is one among many of Toca Boca’s highly entertaining kid-approved apps. Kids can choreograph endless dance routines, make costume changes as needed, and even interact with app characters. This paid app also has a free version with limited features, but the paid version is well worth the money. Toca Boca also features a bundle package if you want to save money and purchase all their other apps on this list.

2. Mrs. Potato Head – iOS/Android – FREE

The digital Mrs. Potato Head is just as fun as the original toy, now as portable as ever. Mrs. Potato Head features tons of fun costumes that your kids can take photos of. Kids can be as creative as possible by mixing and matching costumes from different collections.

3. Endless Reader – iOS/Android – FREE

This app is free to download, but you’ll need to purchase a reader pack in order to get all the letters in the alphabet. This is great for learning on the road and is designed for kids aged 4 and older. My kids have been using this app since they were 2 though, and they find the graphics and sounds very entertaining. It’s also great for beginner readers to practice with.

4. Toca Hair Salon 2 – iOS/Android – $2.99

Kids can be stylists in this incredibly ingenious app. Toca Boca’s Hair Salon 2 is a hair styling app that features the ability to wash, cut, color, and style different characters’ hairdos.

5. Toca Kitchen 2 – iOS/Android – FREE

With the addition of new characters and kitchen tools, Toca Boca has made Toca Kitchen even better with its 2nd version. Kitchen 2 lets kids get creative in the kitchen (and messy too!) as much as they want.

6. Ocean Swimmer – iOS/Android – $2.99

This app from Sago Mini is probably one of the most interactive and comprehensive apps out there for kids. You can discover lots of characters and pretty much interact with all sorts of creatures in this app. Kids can swim the ocean all day with this one.

7. Hoopla – iOS/Android – FREE

Hoopla is a digital library app. You can download it and get access by putting in your local library information (as long as your library location participates). You can browse through thousands of available videos, music, and books and download ones that you like to keep on your device. Much like how a library works, you can only borrow a limited number of digital items at a time and have a set number of days to keep them. Also, take note that you must have internet connection at the time of download. After the download process, you can have access to your materials when offline.

8. Kids Doodle – iOS/Android – FREE

There are tons of drawing/sketching apps out there. My kids happen to like this one because it’s really easy to use. There are no how to’s or intricate designs. There are just tons of bright colors they use to pretty much just scribble away. I can imagine that once the kids get older, they’re going to want something with a little bit more capability. But for now, this works and it’s free!

9. Toca Band – iOS/Android – $2.99

Kids can put together their own bands and play an endless array of music they create with this app. There are thousands of instrument combinations you can make with this app; it can get pretty crazy. That’s a warning for parents, though, as the songs your kids come up with might be a little too catchy. You might find yourself wanting to play as well.

10. Photo Booth – iOS – FREE

This iOS app doesn’t need to be downloaded as it comes bundled with the rest of Apple’s standard apps. I can’t tell you how much time me and my kids have spent making faces and adding effects for this camera app. It’s even funnier when the kids learn how to use the app themselves. You never know what kinds of faces your kids make when you’re not looking.

 

There are other Sago Mini and Toca Boca apps our kids love that are worth to check out. Just go to either iTunes or Google Play and type in Sago Mini or Toca Boca.  At the toddler age, they aren’t too interested in playing games on their devices just yet, and these apps provide just the right amount of fun and creativity to keep them entertained for a while. Enjoy and safe travels!

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Has Homeschooling Ever Crossed Your Mind?

When I had my first child, I never thought I’d be a homeschooling mom. My goal back then was to get a medical degree, work diligently to help provide a financially stable life for my family, and give my daughter a life full of possibilities. That meant I had to go to school full-time with extra courses during the day, work the graveyard shift at the hospital for some experience, and sleep for a few solid hours in the morning while my daughter spent the day at her preschool. My husband usually picked her up after work so I could see her before I left for work until the following morning. It was difficult. I missed my daughter, and I barely saw her when she was only so little. But I was so determined to give her everything she deserved-the best life possible-that I was willing to sacrifice our time together.

How quickly things changed after I found out I was pregnant with my son, only seven short months after I gave birth to my daughter. In another nine months after that, I was to have another child. The thought of it troubled me so deeply. How was I to mother another child when I’d barely known my first? There was a complete mental shift in my perception of motherhood. It was so palpable; I knew something had to give. To me, it never felt as if I gave up a career path. It always felt as if I gave up on an opportunity to provide for my family, to be better off financially. This was because I didn’t know then what I know now about money. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Regardless, it was a clear sacrifice in so many ways. Living on a single income is not easy, but it is possible.  After a while, it became clear to us that there were many families who not only thrived on a single income but actually lived life the way we envisioned it should be: full of travel, discoveries, opportunities, and just full of time and moments spent with each other. Now, after being inspired by so many other families out there living a similar lifestyle, we’ve expanded our dream to one day allow my husband to work remotely just as I do now. Hopefully one day we can slow travel and really find ourselves and our children immersed in other cultures. For now, traveling in bouts and as often as possible will make do.

Homeschooling happened to us not by accident or because we didn’t have any other choice. My husband and I made the conscious decision to become the primary caregivers of our kids all day, everyday. There are many, many, MANY reasons why we choose to do our learning from home. That’s also a discussion for another time. But ever since we decided we wanted to be our children’s educators, the research has been nonstop! The amount of information available to those who are looking to go down the homeschooling path is unbelievable. There are hundreds upon hundreds of curriculums to choose from, a number of philosophies you can adapt or combine, and a multitude of resources at your reach-both free or not. It only makes sense because once you take learning outside the box of an institution, you can really see how high the sky is and how far the horizon stretches.

IMG_0005If it’s ever crossed your mind to homeschool and are faced with so much doubt, let me tell you that you’re not alone. Our children are still young, and we’re already asking ourselves if we can really pursue this for the long haul. We’ve already faced the usual judgments and criticisms from our small circle, and we expect there will be more as we go. That’s okay because people generally judge what they don’t know or understand. But you know what? The more we travel, the more we are convinced that this is absolutely the lifestyle for us. We want the world to be our classroom. I really can’t explain that any other way.

So if you’re thinking about homeschooling or are struggling with homeschooling, don’t give up on it-whatever point you’re at with your children. We understand your plight and commend you for what you do. If homeschooling is just an idea you keep playing in your head, I suggest you read up on what it is about and the opportunities you and your family can have with home learning. I promise you’ll be inspired whichever way you decide to go afterwards with your kids’ education.

 

 

Hiatus

The site reminds me each time I’m on it that it’s been two years since my last post, one that was just a string of a few words that barely made a sentence. Two years. Life can change dramatically in a span of 730 days. What drove me to stop blogging here is not nearly irrelevant but needs its own entire section, so I’ll get to that when the time is right. I didn’t stop writing. I wrote mostly for work purposes, and I still managed to find some joy in it despite the lull that surrounded me. I’m slowly getting to a point where I can find balance in my life again.

As delicate as it may be, life gives us so many reasons to be bold and empowered in the way we live it. I’ve come to realize in the last year or so what it means to live each day exactly the way you want to, with your own purpose and vision to realize. I’ve learned not to be scared to say no, and I’ve also learned it’s okay to say yes. I’ve learned that I have just as many strengths as weaknesses, and I’ve also learned that I’m not completely robotic and cold. Man, can these eyes cry.

With so many things to say, I’ll leave it at this: the hiatus is finally over. Time to get up and get moving, or we’ll miss the train. It was like a balloon popping. One day I couldn’t, and the next day I could. I’m looking forward to finishing up the site update and beginning to write again about our adventures and failures, discoveries, and dreams as a family.

I hope to reach some of you, as many of you inspire me everyday.

Go eat a live frog.

xo
Jenn


Tackling the To-Do

I like lists.  I make at least three everyday.  At the very least.  Lesson plan for my toddlers.  A chore route for our meek 1000 sq. ft. apartment.  Things needing to be picked up at the store.  Creative projects for the day.  Household logistics that need to be taken care of.  What to do tomorrow or next week.  Community events for the month.  Wedding guest list.  Bills.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  I laugh at myself.  I use Notepad and Stickies.  Word, Excel, Wunderlist.  My iPhone. My iPad.  My iMac.  My Macbook.  Multiple pads of paper in different colors of varying sizes scattered all over my house…in the kitchen, in our bedroom, the living room, in my purse, on my work table.  I HAVE LISTS EVERYWHERE!!!

I suppose I write more bullet points than I can actually cross out.  Am I setting myself up for failure, or is it okay to dream large?

Here’s my solution for the obsessive and equally unsuccessful lister such as myself: just pick one.

One list to rule it all.

For the techie, list-taking apps might work best since the same lists may be accessible to most forms of technological device.  I can access all my lists via Wunderlist: on my phone, my computers, and my tablet.  I haven’t tried any other list apps out there, but the one I have works fine.

For the old-fashioned, try finding the best planner/organizer you can find for what you need.  I’ve been using Punctuate now for a few years, but it really lacks some things I’ve begun to need in my planning such as a budgeting section or meal planning calendar.  I’m on the course to designing and creating my own.  I’m listing all I would need in it!

Lastly, when writing daily to-do’s, try limiting lists to fewer tasks.  It’ll feel better having accomplished all out of your 10 to-do’s rather than 5 out of your 20.  And when you’ve finished your 10 and feel the urge to do more than what you’ve done, by all means, go ahead and be awesome at what you do!

Remember, trying to squeeze so much out of a day is great.  Just don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

photo: jessicasimien.com
photo: jessicasimien.com

Don’t Let the Budget Dictate the Day

It has been just over 9 months since my beau and I got engaged.  I remember how it felt when marriage finally dawned on me days after his proposal.  I was nervous, ecstatic, anxious, elated, and just simply happy.  I was purely happy!  We spent the next few days celebrating our engagement.  Maybe a few weeks.  It was like we fell in love with each other all over again.  Yeah.  It was great.

Shortly after we came back, I started to do some minor wedding planning.  Wedding colors were picked.  We decided we wanted to do a beach ceremony versus a church one.  We thought of possible locations and started a rough guest list.  I started browsing through Pinterest and created a board to help me visualize the wedding I wanted to have.

The planning excitement was short-lived, however.  Next thing I knew, I was planning my son’s first birthday party in May.  My father was diagnosed with his second bout of cancer in June.  He was hospitalized and cut open shortly after diagnosis.  I gained another year of wisdom.  We moved and relocated closer to my beau’s work.  Packed and unpacked and still unpacking.  October brought Halloween in a rush, and before I knew it, I was cooking a Thanksgiving feast for what seemed like a whole town (okay…roughly fifty people!).

Each day just went by so quickly; I had forgotten I had a wedding to plan.

With four months left before the big day, we were almost forced to start thinking about it, since family started asking questions.  And why not go ahead and ask me if we’d been saving for it?

Big fat no.

wedding-budget-planningI really believe that money shouldn’t be the driving force of a wedding.  I still acknowledge the symbolism of a wedding ceremony, and that simply is marriage.  We could easily keep it much more subtle than what it’s sometimes beginning to seem like, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting a “dream” wedding.  Each person’s dream wedding is different from the other.  Once I thought I wanted to have a cathedral wedding a la Lady Di, super long train and all, 500 guests on the pews.  But thank God that’s all changed now!  A wedding ceremony should be all about the marriage of two people, two souls, two separate groups of families and friends.  It’s easy to forget that with all the glamour of glitter and gold, so I try to remind myself constantly.

And this leads to our budget.  There’s no reason not to have your dream wedding with whatever budget you may have.  I’ve spoken to so many wedding vendors, and I’ve found that most of them genuinely want to give you what you deserve on your day.  If they can’t work with the number you’ve given, then the next steps are to simply hang up the phone and move on to the next.  These days, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t know someone that knows someone who can either DJ or take awesome photographs or do DIY decorations on the side.  This is ultimately what we’ve resorted to in order to really stretch our budget.  From doing the decor ourselves and resorting to minimal floral work to reaching out to our artistic and talented friends for people in their circles who might be willing to do our wedding for a lower cost, the savings are just everywhere.  We really just have to cut the coupons and use them.

Whatever your budget may be, your wedding will be fabulous.  You are having a celebration, and as long as you’re happy, your family and friends will be.  The most important thing is still what goes on inside and not what goes on the tables.

I’ll post some of our budget ideas here as we get closer to our spring wedding.  If one person can have a dream wedding on a budget, so can the rest of us!