American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Engaging Kids with GeoPalz and Wikki Stix
Over the past few years of writing this blog, I've often discussed packing essentials for travelers, including navigational tools, on-the-road diversions, RV-specific needs, and other must-pack items. Even the five-part holiday travel gift guide that I posted before and after Christmas featured a few specific packing suggestions. Well, since two of my most recent posts were focused on tips for traveling with children and travel guides specifically crafted for kids, I thought it might make sense to consider the kinds of items that you might need when traveling with younger travelers.
Naturally, adults and children require a lot of the same stuff while traveling, such as snacks, toiletries, refillable water bottles, and versatile clothing. Kids, however, also need distractions – especially if the family vacation includes plenty of travel time, such as long flights or train rides, lengthy road trips, and a lot of walking. In such cases, it helps to have age-appropriate books, toys, games, music, and, if necessary, videos to keep young travelers engaged and entertained.
Two such distractions have recently come to my attention – GeoPalz and Wikki Stix – and as with the items included in my holiday travel gift guide series, I admit that both were sent to me for the purpose of reviewing them for my readers. Luckily, though, it turns out that both are pretty cool, not to mention helpful for parents who often struggle to keep their little ones occupied while traveling.
GeoPalz, for instance, are activity trackers that were created in 2010 by parents Rich Schmelzer, Sheri Schmelzer, and Alexandra O'Leary to inspire kids to get up and out of the hotel room – and keep them moving all day long, thereby helping to prevent inactivity and childhood obesity. Essentially a decorative, digital pedometer (also known as a “3D Tri-Axis Accelerometer” and guaranteed to be 98% accurate), each GeoPal ($25) comes with a hip/shoe clip, a leash, a secret eight-digit code for online registration, and, of course, helpful instructions. After choosing a specific GeoPal (featuring one of an assortment of unique designs, such as ladybugs, peace signs, soccer balls, global footprints, and, as on the sample that I received, teeth-baring smiley faces), your kids must register their pedometers online, which is, incidentally, free and fairly simple to do. At that point, your children's GeoPalz are linked to an online rewards platform, which tracks their “MVPA” (moderate to vigorous physical activity) throughout the day, such as walking, hiking, and running.
With GeoPalz – which are intended for ages 5-12 (though older folks can use them, too) and available both online and in more than 250 retailers nationwide – kids earn points based on the overall steps that they achieve and subsequently log in each day (basically, one point per mile). As they add up, these points can unlock awards and certificates, earn kids extra time in the online arcade, or be redeemed for prizes, such as games, frisbees, soccer balls, hacky sacks, and gift cards. In addition, the company encourages kids to compete with other GeoPalz members, keeps parents apprised of their children's progress, and features educational tidbits in weekly emails.
Wikki Stix, on the other hand, are a durable, no-tech, reusable alternative for long trips that require no computers or cell phones (Imagine that!), no batteries, no glue, no paint, and, ultimately, no mess. Fashioned from non-toxic, wax-infused yarn, these colorful “twistable, stickable, buildable, playable one-of-a-kind creatables” can be bent into any shape that your children desire (including three-dimensional animals, planets, cars, etc.), pressed onto most smooth surfaces (such as paper plates or dry erase boards), easily rearranged to fix any creative “mistakes,” and quickly pulled apart and stowed once your family has reached its destination.
Ideal for stimulating a child's imagination and analytical skills, Wikki Stix come in a plethora of hands-on craft, educational, and seasonal kits, from the Create-A-Card Fun Kit ($14.95) to the DNA Double Helix Kit ($7.95) to the Easter Egg Decorating Kit ($7.50). The two that I had the chance to review were the Travel Fun Kit ($4.95) – a small, easy-to-stow packet that features 24 Wikki Stix, an eight-page booklet of travel-related activities, and a lightweight playboard – and the Tons of Fun Kit ($16.95) – a handy, kid-sized tote that contains 96 Wikki Stix, several lightweight playboards (including cards and blank faces), and oodles of activities (such as Road Trip Bingo). Wikki Stix, which are available online, are ideal for any boy, girl, or adult over the age of three and, given their versatility, can be a wholesome distraction for one person as much as a whole group.
So, which toys, games, or other distractions have you used to engage and entertain your children while traveling?
Of course, whether or not you have kids of your own, I hope that you have a wonderful Valentine's Day – wherever you happen to be!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below, contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.