How to Have Actual Fun on the Family Road Trip

Cars stuck in traffic

By Meghan Khaitan,

Pretty much every family takes a road trip by car with their kids during the  holidays. And whether those kids are toddlers or teens, the actual trip itself  can be a wonderful bonding and learning experience for the entire family.  With a little forethought and preparation, you can sidestep the dreaded travel  fiascos and keep everyone content through through those stretches of  highway!

1. Make it a Fun History Lesson. Build some excitement around your trip by getting together as a family a  couple of weeks beforehand to plan your road trip path with an old-school paper map. Talk to kids about  the different cities and states you’ll be driving through. Then jump online together and do a little research  on a few that look interesting. Learn about their history and pick some prime sightseeing destinations.  This opens your trip into a journey of exploration—all the more inspiring if you give kids a disposable  camera they can later use to make a trip scrapbook.

2. Expect the Unexpected. Keeping a first-aid kit and tools for a flat tire in your car is a no-brainer, but also be sure to bring along items like a flashlight, garbage bags, paper towels, big pack of wet wipes, and cell phone car charger. If you have young children that are new to potty training, it’s a smart idea to also pack a portable plastic potty in case your little one can’t wait for the next rest stop. Kids also tend to rest better with a few items from home, like a stuffed animal and blanket. You can also pick up an inexpensive travel pillow to make car-sleeping more comfortable.

3. Pack Healthy Snacks & Drinks. Truck stops, gas stations and fast food joints are okay in a pinch, but if you bring a cooler filled with your own healthy foods, you will save time and money on the road. Think granola bars, sandwiches, fruit and nuts, yogurt tubes, pretzels, cheese and crackers, baby carrots, packs of sliced apples, cereal bars, and any of the (non-sticky) foods your family usually likes to nosh on.

4. Create a Road Trip Adventure. Instead of just looking at the trip in terms of its end destination, make the whole trip an adventure. This will give the kids something to look forward to and break up the travel time. Take a family selfie in each city or state in front of a sign with its name or something it’s famous for. Also look for rest stops with playgrounds where kids that can burn off some pent-up energy.

5. Make Each Child a Travel Activity Kit. To help pass the time, buy inexpensive totes and pack them with things like new crayons, coloring books, story books, white boards, magnetic travel and card games, and other small games or toys, like Matchbox Cars and small dolls. Anything that’s inexpensive and new to your kids is sure to please—both of you.

6. Check Out At Your Local Library. Before you embark,  head to your local library and check out DVDs, books on CD, and chapter book collections for your older reader. They’re free! You’ll have new movies to watch that your kids haven’t seen yet, and when quiet time becomes mandatory for saving your sanity, put in a book on CD for the entire family to enjoy.

7. Don’t Forget the Electronics. If ever there was a perfect time to bust out the electronics, the  car trip is it. Load up iPads and Kindles with new apps, books, and movies, making sure you put different apps on each child’s device so they can swap with for more options. And whatever you do, don’t forget the headphones! A few of my family-favorite apps: Waze (the superhero of navigation apps for parents), RoadsideAmerica (find the weird and wonderful across the U.S.), (the Netflix of audio books), MadLibs (old school road trip fun meets the digital age), and VisitedStates (kids can mark the states they’ve been to and upload photos they’ve taken).

8. Pack Classic Travel Games. Electronic games are fun, but don’t forget about the old school travel games to help fight boredom on the road: I Spy, 20 Questions, The Alphabet Game (work together as a family to find things along the road that start with each letter of the alphabet), Who Am I? (take turns trying to guess the famous person in history or pop culture), and the good old License Plate Game.

9. Pick Mile Marker Treats. If you’re okay with a little bribery, plot a few places on the map for the kids to get special surprise treats. Among other things, this will encourage them to learn to read a map. The treat can be something small, like sweets or a little something they can play with in the car. The only requirement to earning them is that kids be kind, get along with each other, and be patient for the trip. You might be handing out fewer of these than you’d feared!

10. Consider an Overnight Stay. If the trip is long enough, consider an overnight stay halfway through at an affordable hotel with a pool. If you book the stay right before you leave or on the way, you’ll find the best deals.

Photograph by Nabeel Syed, via Unsplash

Meet Kendall: Chicago-native, Vanderbilt Student and Babysitter!



With over 35 glowing reviews on UrbanSitter, it comes as no surprise that Kendall has an upbeat and bright personality. Now studying child development at Vanderbilt University, Kendall hopes to transition her people skills and passion for helping others into a full-time career after graduation.

Here, Kendall shares with us what life is like as a student at Vanderbilt, how she first got into babysitting, and her perspective on the parent-babysitter relationship.

You go to college at Vanderbilt, what are you studying?

I’m studying child development and English and sociology, so I have a major and two minors. Honestly, most kids at Vanderbilt probably have some combination of that: multiple majors and minors. I started as a special education major and then realized I wanted to work more with people in general, not just kids, though I had always babysat and worked with kids. It’s been interesting to learn to what makes people tick and how people interact and work with others.

Right now, my part time job on campus is in the admissions office, so I’d love to work as an admissions counselor after college. That would be working with 18- year-olds instead of two-year-olds. There is a lot of travel and meeting people and reading applications, taking care of different tasks at a time in the same way I keep up with my UrbanSitter account.

What drew you to Vanderbilt, specifically?

I’m from Chicago—the suburbs originally—so I’m about an 8 hour drive away from home while I’m at Vanderbilt. There’s 5-10 kids per year that come specifically from my high school to Vandy, so I always figured it could be an option. I liked the balance of rigorous academic curriculum and a community of people that are supportive, but not so cut-throat or competitive.

How did you first get into babysitting?

My very first sitting job was down the street from my house and I was a mother’s helper, but then she started leaving me with the kids. Through high school I sat on weekend nights, but I was also very involved in high school—I danced and participated in a lot of activities—so I just started right on my block where my parents could watch me walk there and walk home.

Who first introduced you to UrbanSitter?

When I came home after my freshman year of college, I had set up a full-time nanny job but it fell through. My dad actually had heard of UrbanSitter and he was the one who encouraged me to go for it. That was summer of 2014—and I was a Brand Ambassador with the UrbanSitter team in Chicago, which was a great way to get acquainted with the platform. And now I have a great basis to explain to parents how [UrbanSitter] works.

Has UrbanSitter helped you achieve any specific monetary goals or ambitions?

All of my spending money for when I studied abroad came from UrbanSitter! There are things that I’ve been able to do—I go to a school where people have a lot of money—and experiences and trips can feel really inaccessible to people who don’t have that kind of money. I went to Amsterdam and Prague and all over Europe because of the money I saved from UrbanSitter.

What do you love most about babysitting?

I have loved babysitting, not only because I love working with kids, but because the parents that I work are for are generally the generation between myself and my parents. So getting to know those parents and seeing how they are adults, without being exactly like my parents or other college students, has helped me see what life is like 5-10 years beyond college. . I see a lot of value in making relationships with parents, too, because you can learn or be exposed to other experiences through them.

What would your babysitting style is like?

I would characterize my babysitting style as pretty warm, though I will enforce rules and boundaries because I know how a lack of boundary-setting will affect a child developmentally. I don’t like to skimp on rules for one night just because I’m the babysitter, not only because it makes it harder on the parents when they come home, but also because it makes it harder on me if I come back to watch the kids again. I try to view my relationship with families as being part of a team. I establish myself as someone who will lay down the law if I need to, but if the kids don’t make me lay down the law, then they know we can have fun.

What tips would you give to sitters just getting started on UrbanSitter?

I would say it’s important to wait for the families that you feel like you’ll vibe with. I’ve worked with families that weren’t a good fit for me and the difference between that and the families I’m really great with, is almost worth more than the money. I would say waiting for families that you feel value you and what you bring to them, and care about your time and experience, there are those families on UrbanSitter; and it’s worth making sure that you are clicking well with anyone you work for.

Hire Kendall today on UrbanSitter!

Sign up to be a babysitter today for free at!

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Sun Smarts 101: Teaching Kids Sun Safety


Part of raising kids to be mindful of their health and safety is teaching them the importance of protecting themselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Nearly a quarter of the damage they receive from the sun in their lifetime will happen before their 18th birthday. Since they are under your care during those childhood years, you can limit their exposure and help them to build healthy sun protection habits that will stick with them a lifetime.


Here are the ins and outs of proper sun protection and helpful tips for giving your kids a healthy dose of sun smarts.

Mastering Sun Protection

  • Everyone – regardless of age, race or color of skin –  should use sunscreen daily. Even on cloudy days, skin can burn – one bad sunburn in childhood is said to significantly increase chances of a melanoma later in life.
  • The exception to applying sunscreen is babies under six months. Keep them out of direct sunlight until they are old enough to safely wear sunscreen.
  • Look for sunscreen that shields against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (rather than chemicals that are absorbed into the skin) will physically block the harmful rays by acting as a shield.
  • Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside, so that a layer of protection can form. Don’t forget to cover lips, hands, ears, feet, behind the neck, and the top of the head.
  • Make a habit of taking a break every two hours while you’re outside so you can reapply sunscreen. You’ll need to reapply more often after swimming.
  • Wearing sunglasses is important, even for kids. UVA light can damage the eyes and the skin around them, even on overcast days.
  • While we feel protected from the sun when we put on a shirt, we’re not giving ourselves much more than a SPF of 4. You can better protect by buying clothing with extra SPF protection, such as the Coolibar line.
  • Keep kids hydrated. They can’t sweat like adults do, so they are more prone to dehydration, especially when they are in the hot sun.
  • If your child gets a sunburn (despite your best efforts), avoid over-the-counter pain relievers, which can cause sensitivity to the sun – rub aloe vera gel on the burned areas, instead.
  • Give a sunburn time to heal by keeping your child out of the sun for three to four days.

Tips for Teaching Your Kids Sun Safety & Building Healthy Habits

  • Talk to kids about the importance of protecting their skin and eyes from the sun and remind them to incorporate sun protection into the every day, not just on sunny days or during the summer.
  • Get them in the habit of applying sunscreen as part of their morning routine and make sure they have extra sunscreen on hand to re-apply throughout the day. Stash a stick of sunscreen in their backpack and make sure childcare providers are well versed in the importance of applying it.
  • Teach kids to avoid being outside during peak UV hours – 10 am and 2 pm. Schedule visits to the park or pool in the morning or later in the afternoon so that they relate those times of day when the sun isn’t its strongest as the times to play outside.
  • Encourage kids to take shade breaks when they are outside for long periods of time.
  • Wearing sun-protective clothing, like rash guards, is an effective way to reduce sun exposure. You can find really cute SPF clothing for kids, too. Make sure their swimwear includes a protective option.
  • Be a good role model by practicing what you preach. Let kids see you apply sunscreen regularly, wear sunglasses and opt for a hat and long sleeves when you’ll be in the sun for long periods of time.
  • Tell your sitter to have sippy cups and water bottles handy and get your kids in the habit of packing a water bottle for school and daytime outings. Kids can quickly learn that sunscreen and water go with them when they leave the house.

Practicing sun smarts doesn’t have to be tedious or complicated. Kids can learn to enjoy the sun while being protected with just a few easy steps added to their daily routine. Don’t forget to share your family’s sun protection routine with your sitter, and make sure she’s well prepared to protect your kids while you’re away. They’ll all enjoy the sunshine a lot more if they don’t have to worry about a burn!

Summer Entertainment for Kids – Free Printables

Once the final school bell of the year rings, keeping the kids engaged and occupied for the next three months lies solely on you and whatever childcare you’ve lined up for the summer. Fear not! We’ve found 6 totally free, downloadable printables, guaranteed to be welcomed diversions on more than one rainy day, long car ride or when you simply need a moment to yourself.

ABC PracticeThis letter tracing sheet will keep beginning writers sharp and help ABC newbies learn and practice their letters before the start of preschool or kindergarten. The clean, watermark-free file is also nice to frame as artwork or at least to keep in the baby book. (via Back House White Shutters)

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Travel Bingo: There are six of these save-your-sanity bingo cards that are beyond perfect for the family road trip. They have pictures along with the words, so even little ones can play. You can print them on card stock and have them laminated or place each in a page protector. As kids find an object on the card, they can mark it by placing a sticker on it or use a dry erase marker. (via Simple As That)

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Coloring Pages: Take your pick, depending on your audience – coloring pages from Disney’s much adored Frozen movie or super cool color-by-number sheets. If your kids are as obsessed with Disney’s Frozen as much as ours are, they’ll melt to pieces over these fun coloring pages. (via The Kids Coloring Pages)

via Kids Coloring Pages

Reading with Kids: For older kids or for those who like a bit more of a challenge, Reading with Kids provides dozens of color-by-number and color-by-letter printables. Simply use the code at the bottom of each pages to determine how to color each space. A picture is revealed when all the spaces are colored. (via Reading with Kids)

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Dr. Seuss Word SearchWord searches are fun, attention-grabbing and just the right activity to bring to a restaurant, on a road trip or as a quiet activity for rest (in lieu of nap) time. Here’s a cute word search with words from the popular author. If you’d rather make your own, providing the words and controlling the difficulty level, check out Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker. (via Jinxy Kids)

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For more great printables, including finds to keep your family entertained, organized and sharp, check out our Pinterest Printables Board. You, your kids and your sitter will be glad you took the time to download a few sanity savers! 

Mommy Beach Bags to Boost Your Summer Style

It’s time to ditch the diaper bag for a fun beach bag or fresh tote to get you and your kids to and from summertime excursions. Whether you’re headed to the beach or the pool, the playground or just around town, be prepared with summer necessities that will keep everyone safe, dry and well hydrated.

Check out our handy list of summer essentials to carry for babies, and load your supplies into a fun, easy-to-grab tote so you’re always ready for some summertime fun. It’s nice to leave a packed bag for the sitter, too. You’ll be able to rest assured that she’s well prepared while she and your kids are away from home. Our picks for the best summer totes and beach bags are family friendly and fashionable, too.


Simple Tote in Riad Weave ($58): Stylish details like tiny mirrors and a row of tassels add interest to this bag without looking too fussy. The cotton/acrylic tote with leather straps and interior pockets makes for a great everyday bag, especially for those who’d rather their bag not scream, “I’m loaded with kids stuff.”



Pacific Tote in Azalea ($148): Here’s a sporty tote that travels well. It’s made of heavy-gauge, ripstop nylon (the stuff of yacht sales) and is designed to withstand sun, salt, sand and spills. Five interior pockets and a magnetic closure keep contents in place.


Beach Small Zip Tote ($150): You can’t go wrong with a simple, classic carryall that’s just right, any day. This Tory Burch tote is as durable (made from cotton canvas) as it is stylish. $195 for a larger version that’s ideal for bigger broods or longer trips.

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Splendid Byron Bay Tote ($148):Here’s an awesome bag for the girl who doesn’t want to waste change switching between bags. Spunky, color-blocked canvas carries from work to the farmers market to the playground. A concealed magnet secures the top,  interior pockets hold your stuff, and it has both a short strap and a removable, longer shoulder strap for an easier commute.



Baggu Dipped Tote ($45): Love the durability of a canvas bag but hoping for something a little livelier, yet subtle enough that it won’t clash with your clothes? Baggu’s two-toned tote is just that. It’s basic, yet dipped in a bit of neutral color, including metallics, a golden yellow and a brick red. And it’s super kid-friendly, thanks to the adjustable strap that allows you to throw it over your should and free your hands. Did we mention that it’s also machine washable?

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Calypso St. Barth ($189): Here’s an oh so lovely, soft bag for carrying the kids’ beach towels or for your own solo trip to the poolside cabana or even to the farmer’s market. Natural colored raffia in a tight, squishy weave is accented with metallic leather wrapped handles for a hint of glam.

What do you think of these beauties for carrying your kids’ gear and yours with style, comfort and convenience? Tell us which bags you’re choosing for summer!

Let’s Hear It For the Red, White and Blue!

The 4th of July is nearly upon us – get the party started with fun treats and decorations that’ll pump up the patriotism at your house. All you need for a fantastic July 4th BBQ is good company, good food and these fun, festive decorations and sweet treats.

julia-Kid with flag - 4th of July


Red, White and Blueberry Yogurt Popsicles
No food coloring or added sugar in these patriotic treats. They are made with blueberries and raspberries or strawberries and Greek yogurt for the delicious white stripes. (via The View from Great Island)

the view from g island 2

July 4th Cake Toppers
Free printable cake toppers take the all-American Rice Crispy square or any cake, brownie or cupcake up an impressive notch. (via Kara’s Party Ideas)


DIY Rocket Garland
Rocket poppers are a fun craft for the kids and are great fun when filled with confetti or make an adorable decoration when hung together as a festive garland. (via Simplified Bee)


Firecracker Favors
Adorable candy-filled firecrackers make a great centerpiece and a simple take-home for your guests. (via Crafts Unleashed)

via Crafts Unleashed

Patriotic Silverware Holders
Spark up your tabletop with silverware holders made from craft supplies and a free printable. (via Lil Luna)

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What other crafts and treats are you serving up this 4th of July? Share them with us below.

Yummy Summer Treats to Make With Kids

Before you open a box of popsicles or round up the kids for a trip to get ice cream, consider surprising them with a summer treat they can help create. Kids love to help in the kitchen, and everyone loves a summery treat to share on a hot afternoon or at the end of a long summer day. These delicious desserts make the most of summer’s fresh fruit– berries, watermelon, and cherries – and ingredients you likely already have in your pantry or can easily pick up on your way home. They are so simple to make, we can hardly call some of them recipes.

julia-Kid eating giant heart made of bread


The World’s Easiest Pudding
Choose a healthy packaged pudding cup (or make your own) and scoop it into a waffle bowl. Top with berries. Voila! (via A Dose of Pretty)

via A Dose of Pretty

Watermelon Frosty
Add 2 1/4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
 (freeze the night before), 1/2+ cup water, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 large lemon, squeezed (lime juice also works very well! use 2 limes), and 1 fresh banana to a blender. Blend. Add more water as needed, but as  little liquid as possible to keep your frosty thick and frosty. Garnish with frozen watermelon/rind slices. For a grown-up version, turn this super smoothie into a margarita by adding tequila! (via Lunchbox Bunch)

via Lunchbox Bunch

Super Easy Strawberry Shortcake
Shortcakes, strawberries and whipped cream, oh my! Dip tops and sides of biscuits in margarine (or butter), dip into sugar
. Place onto un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes
. Combine strawberries and sugar in a mixing bowl, set aside. 
Beat whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form
. Split biscuits, layer on cream and strawberries
. (via Tammilee Tips)

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Pretzel Nutella Ice Cream Sandwich Bites
You can whip up these mini sweet and salty sandwiches with little more than a bag of pretzels, ice cream and a jar of nutella. Place a sheet of wax paper on a small freezer-safe plate or pan. Place half of the pretzels on the wax paper. Smear some Nutella on each of the pretzels. Working quickly, top with about a teaspoon of ice cream and place a plain pretzel on top. Freeze for about an hour, or until they’re solid. Working quickly, smear a little Nutella on one end of each sandwich and dip in crushed hazelnuts. You may want to return these to the freezer for a while to re-harden them. Or you can eat them right away. (via Tasty Kitchen)

via Tasty Kitchen

Cherry Pie Bars
A little more work, this recipe is a good one to tackle with older kids. These bars would be  sweet to pack for a picnic or bring to a BBQ. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a separate bowl, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, then blend in vanilla and almond extracts. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Reserve and set aside 1 1/2 cups batter then spread remaining evenly into prepared baking dish. Top with cherry pie filling spreading into an even layer. Dollop small spoonfuls of the remaining batter evenly over top. Bake in preheated oven about 30 – 37 minutes. (via Cooking Classy)

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These treats are the perfect way to make a play date extra fun or to leave with the sitter for special surprise to enjoy with the kids while you’re away. 

Beach Trip? What Every Parent Needs to Know

By the time your kids are grown, you’ll have it all figured out. You’ll know exactly what to pack and not to pack for a family vacation, know how much to plan ahead and what to just let spontaneously happen – and will have finally mastered deflecting vacation meltdowns. No need to wait that long. Here is helpful advice, weaned from mistakes we as parents have learned along the way. From our collective family experiences, we bring you helpful tips to make this summer’s family trip to the beach the easy going, hassle-free family time you dream for.


Bring a meal for the night you arrive.
If you’re staying in a house or condo or have a hotel room with a kitchenette, plan to bring dinner to feed your family the first night of your stay. After traveling, especially if you are traveling with small children, the last thing you’ll want to do is fret over what to make for dinner. It may sound nice to celebrate the first night of your vacation at a local restaurant, but it’s not the night to expect children to sit quietly in another confined space. Stay in and enjoy a meal you’ve already prepared and transported with you in a small cooler, such as lasagna or a cold pasta salad. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, call for take-out and enjoy a picnic on the beach.

Plan for some time alone and book childcare ahead of time.
Although you’re undoubtedly looking forward to cherishing your time together as a family, it’ll be really nice to also have time to yourself or with your spouse, friend or other adults joining you on your vacation. If your family trip includes a nanny, grandparents or other family willing to help out with childcare, you’re golden. If you don’t have family along to help, check to see if your hotel has a kid’s program or find a sitter. UrbanSitter makes it easy to find a trusted sitter, even when you’re away from home. Book in advance so you have a night out to look forward to as part of your much deserved vacation. Sitters are also great for freeing up time to enjoy a round of golf, game of tennis, a spa appointment or even just quiet time poolside.

Bring quiet time activities.
Everyone is excited to be outside building sandcastles, playing in the waves, hanging at the pool or taking a family bike ride. Trust us – everyone will need a break from the sun. Bring activities for older kids to do while younger siblings nap, or for the whole family to do indoors or under a beach umbrella. Board games, a puzzle, printable word searches or coloring pages, a deck of cards, art supplies and plenty of good books will come in handy.

Don’t skimp on packing the toiletry and medicine bag.
In your effort to pack lightly – it is, after all, the beach – don’t go without items that make everyday life easier or more comforting. For instance, it’s far easier to comb a toddler’s windblown, pool-drenched hair if you have a detangling spray and shampoo designed to remove chlorine. It’s also nice to have a cooling aloe lotion for sunburn relief, your eye gel that makes you at least feel human after sleepless nights with an infant, and any other little luxuries you’ve come to rely upon. You also don’t want to be without a smartly packed first aid kit for any bumps, bruises, splinters, stings or fevers.

Make a stop en route to pick up healthy snacks and perishables.
Take full advantage of any refrigerator you have at your disposal by stocking it with healthy snacks, such as cheese sticks, milk and juice, fruit, yogurt and veggie sticks. You’ll appreciate having good food readily available to feed hungry kids, and won’t get caught relying on the mini bar selection of snacks or pricey restaurant choices. It’s also helpful to have quick breakfasts on hand, such as mini boxes of cereal or instant oatmeal packets, granola bars, bananas, and yogurt.

What are your beach trip must-haves? Share them with us in the comments!

Tips for Summer Reading

Summer is all about unwinding and taking a break from the routine and demands of the school year, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to take a vacation from reading. Experts tell us that kids lose core reading skills and are at risk of falling behind when they don’t read over summer break. Reading keeps them sharp and improves skills to prepare them for the next school year, and it helps to foster a life-long love of reading and learning. Whether it’s scheduled quiet time for toddlers or emerging readers to look at a book, young readers to read alone, or for a parent or sitter to read to a child, time with books is time well spent.



Here are helpful tips for encouraging kids to stick with the books this summer:

  • Schedule time during your day, at least an hour, for kids to spend with books. The quiet time will be a welcome break for all of you.
  • Be a good role model. When your kids see you read, whether it be a newspaper, magazine or a book, they see that reading is enjoyable and rewarding.
  • Ask your sitter to spend time reading with your child.
  • Have kids keep a reading journal. Keeping a record of the books they’ve read will give them a sense of accomplishment, which is a great motivator.
  • Join a library story hour or reading group to make the time social and a good way to connect. Many libraries have parent/child story time or book discussions or programs for older kids to read to younger children.
  • Make a visit to the library or book store a regular part of your summer routine. A weekly visit allows you keep your selection fresh.
  • Encourage (and incentivize!) older siblings to read to younger siblings. They’ll both benefit from the time.
  • Start a book swap with neighbors or friends so kids to share favorites and expand their reading choices. They may discover they enjoy genres they never would have chosen on their own.
  • Join an online summer reading program or challenge to motivate kids. There are several good national programs, or find one locally: Barnes and Noble Summer Reading: Read 8 books, record them in a journal and win a free book. Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Kids Read for the World Record, enter sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes, and earn digital rewards when they complete weekly reading challenges. Scholasic provides an excellent app for recording reading time.
  • Make sure books are easily accessible throughout your home. Make it as easy to grab a book as it is to turn on the TV or reach for the iPad.
  • Make a habit of packing books to read on road trips and vacations, and keep a few in your car for easy reading while traveling. Many parents swear by audio books for car trips.
  • Keep your Kindle or iPad well stocked with books for each of your children, and encourage them to read or look at a book, rather than choosing a game.
  • Keep up the bedtime routine you have during the school year, including reading together at the end of the day.
  • Spend some time exploring books that are age-appropriate so your child has choices that are engaging and a bit challenging, without being too difficult and frustrating for early readers. Amazon provides a good list of summer reading picks, divided by age groups starting with the baby – age 2 set.

We’re betting these tips will help even the most reluctant readers and the busiest toddlers learn to appreciate the joy that comes with reading a good book, even when the summer sun calls!

What are your tips for getting kids to read? Share them in the comments!

5 Books for Your Beach Bag

For those few brief moments you have a alone in a beach chair, poolside chaise or on your own sofa, there’s nothing quite as nice as losing yourself in a good book. Whether you’re a fan of romance, crime fiction, mystery or sci-fi, there’s a book here for you. Download or pick up a copy at your local bookstore so you are locked and loaded for a lovely summer escape.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
It caused quite a stir when last year’s debut novel by ex-military man Robert Galbraith was revealed to be the work of J. K. Rowling. It’s the story of a legendary supermodel, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, who famously fell to her death. Detective Cormoran Strike investigates the supposed suicide, diving into a world of multimillionaires, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers.



Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Hilariously funny, multi-narrative story about a private school mom with a Microsoft guru of a husband whose life in Seattle goes completely haywire. It’s a witty story about Bernadette’s disappearance that’ll have you laughing and shedding a few tears over the mutually adoring mother-daughter relationship any mother would covet.


Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews
A light, comic choice that’s a quick read and especially appealing if you like chick lit romance like The Bridget Jones series. It’ll give you a dose of romance and relief with fun, likable characters and an easy plot.



The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
A psychological thriller is the story of Nora, a 42-year-old suburban schoolteacher and her entanglement with the charismatic family of a new student. It’s an intense, thought provoking read and a good choice if you’re looking for something with more substance and power.



The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
 by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys, here’s one for sci-fi and fantasy fans. It’s an adult fairy tale that promises to be an absorbing, enchanting read that is quick, yet poignant.


Wondering how you’ll ever find a free minute to crack open one of these riveting reads? Why not bring a sitter along to help with the kids at the pool or beach? Head over to UrbanSitter to find the perfect babysitter or nanny for summer.

What other recommendations do you have for a summer read? Share with us in the comments!