Author Archives: Julie Meyers Pron

About Julie Meyers Pron

Julie Meyers Pron is a parenting and education writer, who relies on her experiences as a teacher and parent for inspiration. A mother of three children (ages two, six, and eight), PTO Director, former MOMS Club President and Vice President, and a (non-practicing) elementary school teacher, Julie has both experience and knowledge about parental involvement in education. Blogging at a variety of Websites since 2005, including her personal blog, the Julieverse at Just Precious, Julie is a founding partner of Vlogmom and a Principal at Splash Creative Media.

Back-to-School Lessons: Being Kind to the New Kid

kindness

Recently, I asked Facebook friends, “What are the things you do to prepare your kids for their first day of school?” I expected answers like get started on the back to school routine, buy a new lunch box, clean backpacks and get haircuts. But the first answer from a mom, Nicole, threw my entire purpose:

Boom! She said it. This mom shared the single most important thing parents can do to help their kids get ready for back to school: learn to be kind.

More than anything that first day, the lunch hour, the very first social experience of the new school year, is horrifying. For everyone. Lunch room horrors include being terrified about buying lunch, talking to the lunch lady and spilling a tray of hot mac and cheese. Students are scared of sitting in someone else’s seat and of eating wrong. And, most important, having no one to sit with.

I’m inspired to talk to my kids about being the kind-kid. Every day until school starts, and then after, I’m planning to discuss the beauty in making new friends and inviting new friends into their lives.

It’s really easy to be a returning student. Someone who knows everyone’s name and just what makes the crew work. It’s easy to sit down at the table and be surrounded by smiles of people who already know you.

Help your kids to seek out the one that no one knows, that no one is sitting with that first day or two at lunch. Chances are exceptional that that lonely person would have the best of ideas to add to your conversation, a great smile and become a fabulous friend.

The quotes in this post are from the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and if you and your older elementary or middle school aged kids haven’t read it yet, stop whatever you are reading and read it. It’s a short read, it’s a great discussion. It’s a life changer.

How to Set Screen Time Rules as a Family

screen-time

My kids will tell you there should be an exclamation point at the end of this title. The way they use it, Screen time really does rule. They’d much prefer that we had no rules and allowed them on their game consoles, computers, tablets and iPods anytime they please.

But as a parent who is concerned about the amount of time they spend staring at their screens, I want to encourage a more balanced day with some time allotted for the screen, and other time for cooperative, physical and creative play.

But how do we balance it all? Last summer I initiated a program where the kids created their own balanced schedule. Their days were planned in 30-minute increments and, each Monday, they completed their weekly plan to include a pre-determined allotment of learning, creativity, screen time and more. As the school year approached, we shifted gears a bit, and scheduled just 90 minutes of balanced schedules each week.

But we quickly learned that with school taking up six and a half hours each day, followed by homework and after school activities, those 90 planned minutes were, sometimes, hard to fit in, so we looked to reassess and find new balance.

The school-year screen time rules last year worked for our family: each morning, as long as they were dressed for school and their rooms were (somewhat) clean, the kids could have screen time in the morning until 8 am. At 8, all screens were off (including mine) so that we could have breakfast and the kids could complete a “morning math” worksheet before school.

After school, if were weren’t immediately out the door for swim, baseball or soccer, the kids had creative or physical playtime (which left it really open-ended) along with snack time for about an hour. Following, we’d do homework and have dinner. On rainy days, we’d allow for screen time every other afternoon.

But tracking every-other rainy afternoon became a nuisance, so we tweaked the rules a bit, and the kids shocked me by accepting. Last winter, unless school was closed, we outlawed gaming screen time during the week. We still allowed for limited TV (sports competition and shows such as Wipeout). On the weekends during free time the kids were permitted to play on screens.

What’s important here isn’t how much time or how balanced we were. We didn’t come up with these rules based on some recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, or because Mary Marvelous Mom said to. We created our rules because they worked best for our family.

How does your family plan screen time? Do you have rules and expectations?

image: chomnancoffee at FreeDigitalPhotos

5 Back to School Items That Aren’t On Your School Supply List, But Should Be

school supply list

It’s a prized possession or an abhorred asset. Either way, it’s the back to school supply list, and it has to be filled, fast. Fast because you’ll want to buy all the things you’ll need before the stores run out of stock, and you’re left running around trying to track down the specific kinds of pencils and erasers your child’s teacher asked for.

But before you run out the door, add the following to your child’s list so you’re fully prepared to start the school year.

An extra lunch bag

Lunch bags are easily tossed around, trampled on and spilled on, so you’ll be better prepared if you have an extra at home. Even if we try to empty the lunch bags as soon as the kids’ get home from school everyday, there’s bound to be a time or two when schedules overwhelm us and we fail to empty at 4 o’clock. It seems like that’s always the day that there’s a spilled applesauce sticking to the sides. With an extra lunchbox, I can clean and set the messy bag out to dry while still sending my child to school with a fresh lunch bag the next day. Lands End lunchboxes fit nicely into traditional backpacks, are insulated and the right size to fit all my elementary school and preschool kids’ needs.

Water bottle

Our school doesn’t have air conditioning, but even if your’s does, there are bound to be days when your child will appreciate a water bottle to hydrate–whether they’re fighting off a cold or just ran several 50-yard dashes in PE. Refill a fresh water bottle for your kids each day to help make sure they’re staying hydrated, as well as teach them a healthy-water habit. We like ours to have a double-close system so that leaks are less likely.

Ice packs

With three kids, we go through about 6 ice packs a day, and each takes about 24 hours to refreeze, so I purchase at least 18 ice packs at the beginning of the school year to keep the kids’ lunches cold.

Labels

You’ll hear a million times to label everything, but teachers rarely recommend that you actually buy labels. Which, often, means you’ll be reaching for a Sharpie the night before school and writing your kids’ names until your hand falls off. Take advantage of the time you’re taking to shop early and order labels asap. While researching this post, I found that Mabel’s Labels Back-to-School is offering early bird pricing on their back to school packages, so order asap.

A new reading book

It’s a great idea to have a reading book your child loves tucked into her back pack on the first day of school. Some kids are a bit more hesitant to fight for space (or a popular book) in the classroom library on the first day, so giving her one she already knows she loves will give her confidence to start reading during quiet reading time. She’ll also feel better knowing she has a book she can read, if together you’ve previewed or started reading it at home.

Desk organizer

When my friend installed this inside her daughter’s desk during the school open house last fall, all the moms stared in awe. Her child’s already looked neater and more organized than the rest of our kids’. The NeatNook gives your child the opportunity to access her items as she would a drawer, rather than stuffing things inside the black-hole of a school desk.

Family Organizing System

Whether you’re uber-organized or still trying to figure it out, now is a great time to recheck your program and tweak it to work for your new school year. Once you find a system you think will work best for you, take the time to adapt it, and then keep at it. Nothing will work unless you make it a habit so push yourself to follow your system each day until it becomes natural. Some great family organizing systems include momAgenda, Go! Mom, and Buttoned Up.

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Grant Cochrane

25 Last Minute Activities For Your Family This Summer

summer-activities

As Olaf so cutely shared, “I just love summer.” And I do. For about three days of unstructured fun, I love the idea of lazing away my summer days with my kids. And then, usually, reality strikes and I need a list of things to do.

As a group, we usually create a Summer Bucket List (here’s a Pinterest board with several other family’s lists.) But I also like to keep a list list of last minute activities we can do in a moment’s notice in my back pocket. Things that need little to no supplies, but can get us moving on an unstructured day over the summer when we desperately need something to do.

The Best Last Minute Activities To Do with Your Kids Over the Summer

  1. visit the library
  2. go to the zoo
  3. find a semi local small town you’ve never visited and explore
  4. go to a museum (Child friendly museums usually have treasure hunts and activities for children.)
  5. create an ABC summer book
  6. make an obstacle course
  7. draw masterpieces on your sidewalk or driveaway, leaving no space un-colored
  8. prepare and host a neighborhood “carnival”
  9. host a lemonade stand
  10. paint faces
  11. tie-dye
  12. turn on the sprinkler
  13. go on a nature hike
  14. ride bikes to a nearby park
  15. go to a different park than usual
  16. bake and decorate cupcakes
  17. have an ice cream sundae party
  18. call a few friends and host a kickball game at a local baseball field (check to make sure it’s open to the public)
  19. go fishing in a nearby stream, pond or lake
  20. Make a movie or write a play
  21. create “happy day cards” for a local senior center
  22. weed the garden
  23. clean the closets (we host a cleanest closet contest amongst our kids each season)
  24. build a fort (inside or outside–or one that goes inside to outside)
  25. Do a few easy kitchen science experiments

Is your kid ready for sleepovers?

Is your child ready for a sleepover?

 

It’s not like there’s a magical age that a child becomes ready for sleepovers. Just like so many things in life, every child becomes ready at the time he or she is, well, ready. There are, however, a few things to do to help determine whether your child is ready to accept that first magical invitation.

Does he sleep walk or have many nightmares?

While sleep walking and sleep talking do become less as children get older, some parents are very concerned about their child walking or talking through the night at a sleepover. Just because your child walks or talks in her sleep occasionally doesn’t mean you can’t schedule a sleepover, but it is definitely something to bring to the attention of the hosting parents upon invitation.

The same goes with nightmares. As most adults know, nightmares continue to occur through adulthood, but frequent nightmares are often of concern to parents of young children heading to a sleepover. Again, just because your child has frequent nightmares doesn’t disqualify your child from a sleepover event, but you should definitely talk to the host parent.

Does he still wet the bed?

Some kids are wet at night because they’re deep sleepers and their bodies don’t alert them to wake on their own, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. While, bed wetting makes it a bit more difficult to schedule a sleepover, it doesn’t have to not happen. There are plenty of alternative underpants for bedtime for kids. I recommend talking about this with your child first and reminding him that he can keep his bed-wetting a secret within your family, but that he’ll still need to bring the underpants with him.

If your child continues to be wet at night, talk, in confidence, with the hosting parent before the sleepover and ask him or her to limit the amount of drinks before bedtime as well as to remind all the children to go to the bathroom one more time before lights out.

Has he shown interest in a sleepover?

If your child is completely disinterested, don’t push it. Some kids know that they really aren’t ready, even when they seem completely mature and ready for a sleepover. There could be dozens of thoughts and concerns cycling his mind that he isn’t ready to discuss with you, and there’s no need to push it. Hold off and wait until your child is asking for a sleepover because he, more than anyone, will know when he is ready.

Schedule a tester sleepover

Scheduling a test is particularly helpful if you have a neighbor with kids about the same age. Suggest to a friend that you test each other’s kids for sleepover readiness by either trading (I’ll take your youngest, you take my oldest and all 4 kids can get a sleep over!) or switching weeks (you take my kid this Friday, I’ll take your kids next Friday.) Because the kids will be at a familiar place with familiar adults, they’re likely to feel more comfortable. And, if they need to go home because they’re not yet ready, it’s easy to call and pick up.

Once they make it through the test, you’ll have a strong idea as to whether your child is ready for a sleepover elsewhere, and so will your child.

Is there a  health condition that makes it difficult for your child to sleepover?

One of my son’s best friend’s is diabetic and has to have his blood-sugar levels checked in while sleeping each night. His parents feel better about having him sleep at their home so that they can check. Rightly so. Instead of sleepovers, he’ll come over for dinner and a movie, and his parents will pick him up at lights out so that he can be a part of the fun until bedtime.

How to decline a sleepover

If your child has been invited and isn’t ready, you can always suggest that you host instead, or that your child comes over for dinner and is picked up at lights-out time. Parents could even drive the child back over for breakfast the next morning.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Ways to prepare your almost Kindergartner this summer for school

get ready for kindergarten this summer

While wrapping up your child’s final year in preschool and getting ready for summer, here are a few things you can begin doing now to prepare your child and give her a fresh, exciting start in September.

Learn Independence

Separation anxiety occurs just as much for a kindergartner as it will for the parent. Whether your child has been in full-day day care or or playgroups, she’s likely been away from your side for a few hours in the past. But over the summer, it’s easy to fall into the side-by-side habit.

To prepare both of you for drop off at an unfamiliar new “home”, find a few places where you can drop your child for a few hours. She’ll learn to cooperate with others, engage in new surroundings and listen to a different adult voice, while you’ll get a bit of time for you, and raise faith that your child can survive without you, and you without her.

A few places to play and learn:

  • Local gym play areas offer drop-offs for members and non-members. Most offer unstructured or structured time, and many will offer short term camps. Try the YMCA, MyGym, Gymboree, or The Little Gym, or a place local to your area.
  • Local art centers are great for children who thrive on using their creativity. Most offer drop-off classes during the summer for a few hours at a time, often during weekdays and weekends. These programs offer excellent opportunities for kids to learn to respect adults and other children, as well as learn to follow directions and create on their own.

Visit the library

Whether your child is already reading, sounding out her sounds, or continues to figure out the alphabet, the library is a must-visit this summer before kindergarten. Here she will be reminded of rules similar to school, such as inside voices and walking with purpose. And, of course, the opportunity to select books of her interest will help to prepare her for making choices and learning more about herself, so that she’ll know a few new favorite things when it’s time to meet others.

Schedule playdates

Even those attending neighborhood schools won’t know everyone in her class, so this summer plan to find a few new friends to schedule a playdate with. Ask neighbors if they know of others who will be in kindergarten with your child, put together a Facebook group for local moms to join and start planning. The park is a great place to plan a weekly meet-up to get to know the children.

Also, call your school guidance counselor before she leaves for summer break. She’s likely heard of a few other incoming kindergartners who would like to make some new friends before September.

Stay on a schedule

Certainly, it’s necessary to be on a sleeping and waking schedule the week before school begins, but it’s not a bad idea to start that schedule sooner. A natural cause for stress, children notice when things are changing, and a sleeping schedule is a big change. If you enforce a steady sleeping schedule all summer, it will be one less change to make come fall.

Learning is everywhere!

Remember that there are teachable moments everywhere. Whether you’re grocery shopping (math in price tags, reading in brand names, social studies and community in the store and environment and science in mixtures!) or taking a roadtrip (maps! directional signs! “how much farther?!”), consider the questions you’re asking and the ideas around you and right in front of you, all the time. The more you look for opportunities to learn with your child, the better prepared she’ll be.

Kindergarten is a fun year that packs a lot in, but, most important, it’s a year of growth for both the child and the parent. Remember that your child will feed off your emotions, so do your best to be excited for your child’s first day and first experience with school.

You can do this!

Copyright: letyg84 / 123RF Stock Photo

Teach kids to persuade

young_woman_pointing_187489

I learned something about my kids this weekend when we played a new game for Family Game Night–they have a lot more persuasive power than I thought. Given the time and circumstance, they wowed us with their creative story telling methods to convince us to “buy” their products.

I realized, too, that the kids’ conversational vocabulary has blossomed… when they became “sales people,” they became very professional, choosing bigger words in their presentations than they use everyday.

I’m used to them attempting to persuade me to buy the sugary cereal or let them stay up an extra hour, but this was a different type of persuasion. This involved creative energy, a bit of acting, and a lot of presentation. This weekend’s game opened my eyes to what they can do.

4 ways to encourage your kids to be more persuasive

Create fictional situations and make it a game

When children play games, they may not realize they’re learning (or, if they do, they’ll admit to enjoying it.) Set aside some time and introduce a new family game. Given basic supplies, the kids have a task ahead of them. Use your creativity here and come up with some tasks. Some ideas include:

  • baking the best cookies,
  • creating a home for a fake pet,
  • creating a product to solve a fictional problem–these problems can be simple or completely off the wall like
    • We ran out of bandages! Create something we can use.
    • The three footed-monster needs new clothes, what will he wear?
    • An astronaut wants to bring something to space that will make his life easier up there. What can you create for him?
    • The traffic controller keeps spilling his coffee. Invent something to help him.

Now that everyone has his assignment, carve out some planning time. Whether people create things with supplies or their minds, they’re working to creative solve the problem. Then, after an agreed upon amount of time, everyone has a chance to present or “sell” their creation with the team, trying to sell it as the best solution to solve the problem.

Use real-life situations, teaching kids to remember who they are selling to

How badly does your 8-year-old want a new bike, an iPod or the latest American Girl Doll? If she wants it badly enough, she’ll sell you on it. Give her some time to determine 3-5 reasons she wants to have this big items and let her present her pitch to you.

Ahead of time, be sure to remind her that “everyone else has it” and “I really, really, really, really, really want it” aren’t usually good enough reasons. Also tell her that she should remember her audience (you) and think about what you’re thinking while you sit there listening–what will you want to hear?

This isn’t an easy concept for younger children to grasp as they often see the world from just their eyes. It’s helpful to begin with the creative examples, like those, above. It’s also useful to be a roll-model first–convincing your child of something by putting yourself in his shoes. (It can be as simple as convincing your child to wear sneakers rather than flip flops, making sure to relate to your child’s interests rather than your own. “It’s a great idea to wear sneakers today because it hurts so so so badly when you step on a pebble in flip flops. Ouch! That always makes me cry!” versus “You should wear sneakers because it’s the rules at the park.”

Use real-life examples

Discuss ways that commercials and advertisements persuade (or attempt to persuade) people every day. Select one and pick it apart, identifying the techniques used such as they tell you why you need it, rather than want it or the advertisement appeals to the shopper by making the product something they can’t live without. Also discuss who the shopper is that they’re presenting the advertisement to? What words did they use to help convince the buyer to buy it? (A great example is the Wow Cup advertisement. That mess across the rug would convince any mom she needs this cup!)

A quick YouTube search of “persuasive speech kids” gives examples of real life kids giving real life speeches on everything to stopping smoking to letting a child play sports. Select one or two (watch it first to make sure you approve of it) and watch it with your kids. Did they persuade you? Why or why not? What could they have done to be more persuasive?

Here’s a great video where a 4th grade child convinces adults to stop smoking. Watch it and ask your kids who she is trying to convince and how did she do it?

Play Persuasive Games

Persuasive games allow your family to be creative and compelling while enjoying time together. Here are a few games that will help your kids become stronger at persuasion while having fun:

 

Interview your kids and watch them grow

questions to ask your kids on video

A few years, my aunt and I were chatting about kids and memories. She shared that one of her most favorite traditions was Birthday Videos.

“Birthday videos?” I asked.

“Sure,” she explained. “Every year, on their birthday, I ask the kids a series of questions, recording the video.” She shared that they later enjoy watching these videos of the past. Now that the kids are over 21, they have a collection of memories and voices, so you can imagine the mix of loving emotions when they watch the quick videos.

I loved the idea, but having already missed at least 6 birthdays combined, I wasn’t as on the roll with starting the videos. What’s more… I just, sadly, never got around to it.

But with YouTube, I do have the opportunity to capture their ideas and thoughts on video and save them for the future. And, oh, how I love watching videos of the kids as they grow. Not to mention sharing with others. Just this weekend, I made my husband watch this video of my Little, when she turned the tables on me and pulled a little Oprah, interviewing me instead.

questions to ask your kids on videoI spent some time today filing my numerous videos into different YouTube lists. After about an hour or so of reliving memories, I found this video of Big, five years ago this week. I’d collected a list of questions to interview Big for my birthday. What a gift he’d given me 5 years ago. Oh, how different his answers must be now. Or would they be? And how different he’ll appear on video now.

Naturally, this inspired me to prepare a new video. If I can’t do it every year, perhaps every 5 years will give me an idea of how much the kids have grown, and how much their thoughts and ideas have changed.

Interview questions to ask your kids on video each year

What’s your name?
Where do you live?
Who do you live with?
Who are your friends?
Where do you go to school?
What do you like to do at school?
Do you like sports? games? art? Which are your favorites?
What is your favorite food?
What do you like about you?
What do you like about your mom?
What do you like about your dad?
What do you like about __________ (sibling, friend, family member)?
Where is your favorite place? Why?
What makes your mom/dad happy?
How big is your mom/dad?
How big are you?
What makes you happy?

Earth Day activities and lessons for young children

earth day activity water bottle recycle piggy bank preschool kindergarten

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), we’re sharing quick, easy lessons to use with young children to tie-in to your day. These lessons are suitable for children in grades pre-kindergarten through second grade.

Introduction to Litter for Young Children with The Wartville Wizard

Prior to reading about litter, I was surprised to learn that not all of the four year olds I was working with knew the word “litter.” Together, we defined the word and think of other words that may also mean litter. (Kids will likely list garbage, trash, mess, and junk.)

teaching kids litter earth day

One of our favorite stories, The Wartville Wizard, features an old man who is tired of tidying up the Earth to keep it clean. But when Mother Nature provides him with a special power, he learns he has what it takes to keep the Earth clean. This is a great read-aloud to engage children and begin a conversation about litter and picking up after yourself.

Discuss litter

Next, discuss what we think of litter. Ask the kids why litter is bad and what we can do to stop littering. We created charts with the kids’ responses.

Create Earth Day Posters

trash litter earth day activity kids

Collectively, take the information you shared and create ideas for slogans, posters and poems with the kids. Older kids can work independently or in small groups.  Younger kids can color pictures and get help from teachers and parents to write their thoughts on the paper.

litter earth day poster kids

Go on a Picnic

earth day picnic science littering

What better way to enjoy and appreciate our Earth than to spend time with it? Before Earth Day, plan a picnic with the kids. Create a list of everything you’ll need (include an extra trash bag). Older kids may be prompted to discuss the merits of plastic vs paper.

When you arrive at your picnic spot, take time to look around and identify the nearest garbage cans, reminding the children that it’s their job to clean up after themselves. The “leave no trace” campaign, reminding everyone that when you leave, there should be no trace that you were ever there. For resources, activities and more information, visit the Leave No Trace webpage.

Picnics are always a great time for games and activities, but while there, take a break and have quiet time. Let the children spread out and observe with their senses. What do they hear? See? Smell? Touch? After a few minutes of observing, gather together to discuss the kids’ observations.

Next, ask the kids to look around at the animals in nature. Who else enjoys the Earth when you do? (Look for answers such as other people, babies, birds, dogs, and squirrels.) Discuss why taking care of the Earth is important for everyone in nature and how we can help to take care of the Earth.

Before leaving, play a clean up game and make sure that you Leave No Trace of your picnic and learning time.

Art and Science Activity Using Don’t Throw That Away

recycling earth day kids preschool kindergarten first grade second

Another favorite story, Don’t Throw That Away!: A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books), gives us great ideas of what we can do with products that are often thrown away, and helps little minds brainstorm many recycling activities. A few days before Earth Day, ask families to collect reusable products such as cardboard boxes, egg cartons, plastic bottles, jars and containers, as well as old buttons, hair clips and nearly anything they’d usually throw away or recycle that’s clean. (Request that families clean out the bottles and jars before sending them to school.)

egg carton art preschool kindergarten elementary crafts

Just two of the cute creations made with recycled egg cartons.

Gather supplies into a box or on a table and read the book, Don’t Throw that Away! with the kids. After reading, discuss what the kids learned about recycling. Ask them about items they throw into the garbage that could be reused, then share the collection of recycled materials and allow the kids to create freely.

earth day activity water bottle recycle piggy bank preschool kindergarten

This piggy bank was created from a recycled water bottle and scraps of tissue paper.

7 More Earth Day Books for Children

Picnic image used with permission from Hillary Chybinski, My Scraps. Book cover images are publisher images. All other images from Rusty & Rosy contributor Julie Meyers Pron, Julieverse. This post contains affiliate links.

Want to get the most out of a family trip? Ask questions

among goals on our trip last year: a day on the lake to do nothing but play.

We spend so much time each winter, planning our year ahead. It usually starts with a Saturday afternoon lunch date, where my husband and I relax by a fireplace, tablets in hand and opened to our electronic calendars, discussing open weeks for vacation and family events.

We share what we want to do for our vacation time, what our goals are and how we can do as much as we can. We brainstorm for a bit. We vaguely look at prices and budgets.

And then I go home to research and, in time, bring it all back to the table to discuss progress and planning. Finally, we book our travel time, and I begin dreaming of all the fun we’ll have as a family. Usually, it works.

But we’ve learned to do it a little differently. We’ve learned to listen. Last year, on our road trip to our family vacation in Maine, we asked the kids to each make a list of ten things they wanted to do on our trip. As luck had it, most of their lists overlapped and, through the 10-day trip, we accomplished 9 of ten things on that trip. A success!

But on the way home, something unexpected happened. Our sons (ages seven and nine at the time), sat in the back of the minivan with a map, plotting out a future road-trip. When we arrived home, they transferred their vacation ideas to a dry-erase USA map that hangs on their walls. Unbeknownst to us, the boys had planned an elaborate trip, flying in to Las Vegas, renting an RV that would take us to Carson City for a night, then travel east through Idaho and North to Montana for a few nights to explore. The trip would then move south to Wyoming, with a visit to Old Faithful (which one of the kids learned about while reading). Next, we’d visit family and friends while exploring Colorado and finish the trip in Zion National Park before returning the RV to Las Vegas.

Their rationale for such a trip? Besides Nevada, no one in our immediate family has ever been to any of the mentioned states, and they wanted to change that. In addition, many of these states had been mentioned in the Percy Jackson series, so they were also plotting stops along the way that matched with the explorations of the demigod. Carson City made the list because Big tells everyone he’s named for it and we were traveling in an RV because Middle has always wanted to.

While they truly wanted to extend the trip and also travel to California, Oregon and Washington, it was agreed that a vacation of six states was easier to plan than nine, and that we could do the coastal range on another trip.

This year, as my husband and I consider vacations, we’re smiling at the boys’ elaborate plans. While we were dreaming of vacationing ocean-side in an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, we’re taking into account the boys’ wishes. They have big dreams, those dreams might tell us a few things about our kids and what will make our future vacations enjoyable.