Wanted: Help Entertaining Kids For Hours With Very Limiting Criteria

So! Yesterday was Donnie’s half Ironman and it was a trial run of sorts for how the kids will do at the Full Ironman. We’ve cheered at 70.3 races before but we usually sit in one place all day and have a bathroom and a car nearby. The full Ironman in three weeks will have tons of walking, take twice as long, and I’m not positive we’ll have anything but port-o-potties as bathroom options. (IF WE EVEN HAVE THAT at some times.)

I learned two things yesterday.
1) The gear we have is perfect. Easily portable and light and I can stop worrying about that. (YAY!)
2) Bringing along games or technology causes an infinite loop of fighting or bickering over who gets what. (BOO!)

My kids don’t have iPads or iTouches. Wes has a Leapster and an Innotab 2, Nikki has a Kindle. Yesterday they fought over the Kindle ALL DAY. When it finally died (thank god) they started fighting over the other items. It’s not even consistent as to who gets what – it basically just seems like if ONE person looks like they’re having more fun than the OTHER person, then they want THAT item. It was hours of me looking at my watch and telling them when to switch and that MADE ME CRAZY.


1. Give Them Both Phones With The Same Game.
Donnie and I both have iPhones. We could put the same game on both of them and they could play the same game all day and not fight. The downsides of this:
1) We would need battery packs for those phones.
2) Their faces are in screens all day. WHICH I HATE THAT.

2. Remove the options of technology all together.
Come up with portable projects/crafts/activities like card games (Which sometimes still causes fighting) that they can carry around and pull out relatively easily. It needs to be the kind of thing they can either do together or that they can each have in their own back. MUST BE LIGHT AND EASILY PORTABLE. We won’t be jumping up and relocating every 30 minutes, but there will be several points in the day we need to quickly pack up and jump on a shuttle to move to another location. The downsides of this:
1) Might not entertain them as easily as the technology does/did
2) Might be less portable/easy to clean. Phones are one item easily thrown into a bag

I guess in the perfect world we do it BOTH ways? Maybe? And I give them time limits? I don’t know.

So! This is what I need for you:

  • Recommendations for iPhone5 battery packs.
  • Portable crafts/games/projects. Think THINGS YOU DO ON A PLANE

Basically this trip takes the toughest parts of Flying and Camping and puts it into one 13+ hour day from beginning to end. And that’s if Donnie finishes between 11 and 12 hours.

If you live in Chattanooga and think spectating an Ironman could be fun, let me know. I could ask for your services a bit either as transportation (we’re kinda stuck without a car for various reasons that day) or as a resource for questions OR especially for emergencies. I have a basic idea of what we’re doing, where we’re going but there are a few points I’d love to ask a local about.

18 thoughts on “Wanted: Help Entertaining Kids For Hours With Very Limiting Criteria”

  1. If I lived closer, I’d lend you my Kindle Fire. Do you have a friend that could let you borrow one for the weekend?

    Books? Old-fashioned board games? Homework? Frisbee? Corn hole?

  2. My kids are a bit younger, but I get decent mileage on planes out of pipe cleaners (build anything….shapes, jewelry, tiaras, etc), wikki stix, highlights magazines and puzzle books. I’d alternate phone time with activities (and throw in random exercises-10 jumping jacks!). Relying on any one type of activity too much will create fights. Good luck to you and Donnie! A friend of mine’s husband did an ironman yesterday!

  3. I banned a lot of technology while we were doing a lot of traveling a few years ago. It cut down on a lot of arguing which I did not want to hear while my kids were lucky enough to be having a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower or at a cafe in Croatia. Also, data plans don’t travel from country to country so it was easier just to turn them off. Anyway, two games that they loved…and so did I were the Rubik’s race game (based on Rubik’s cube idea) and this one called the IQ puzzler (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001MWRYJ0/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1). They both fit easily into a backpack, so those games went everywhere with us. Good luck! I’m so amazed by all your alls athletic successes!

  4. When we did a fourteen hour (each way) road trip we definitely used screen time, but we also had time limits. It worked well to tell them how long they got, ahead of time, and when they could have them back. (You get an hour with the iPads, that ends at 3:30. Then, at 3:30, we told them they could have them back at 5:00.) They could have snacks when screens were OFF only, so that gave us something to do during that time. In between we used a lot of audio books. They still used the ipads for that, but their faces weren’t in the screens. My son can play lots of solitaire games by himself, so card games like that work well. Also, maybe some sort of incentive for playing a game together without fighting would help? Extra screen time or something might work well. My kids bicker ALL. THE. TIME. too.

    These sticker puzzles were a hit with my kids, and they’re portable: http://www.amazon.com/Disney-Pixar-Cars-Sticker-Puzzles/dp/B0014CABI4/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1410183686&sr=8-4&keywords=sticker+puzzles

    Maybe road trip game books would work? There are a lot of those on Amazon.

    As for an external battery – I’m using a myCharge and I really like it. Full disclosure, I did a sponsored post for them, but I’m still regularly using the charger (and not being paid to do so.)

  5. I hate seeing my son’s head in tech all day too, but for one day I am willing to make an exception. You could take the books and activities/games people suggested above and tell the kids they get tech time based on how long they read/play nicely: for every half hour they read, they get a half hour of gaming on mom’s and dad’s phones. Switch back and forth throughout the day and maybe they won’t have time to fight (ha!).
    My son loved mazes and word search books when he was Wes’s age. They have all levels of those on Amazon.

  6. That is a LOT to prepare for! I only have the one kid, and the prep work for traveling with him is a lot. We work on it together: can you ask them what they think will work, and start with that as a template? Maybe draw up a schedule and fill it all in together, with half hour blocks. Somehow knowing what’s coming next helps to alleviate some of the issues “yeah, he’s playing with that now, but I get it in 15 minutes so I’ll just do __ until it’s my turn” It doesn’t have to be super structured, but maybe just post a piece of paper now where they can jot down ideas for what to do as they think about it, and a bin that they can place items for you to pack as you think. When we do this with Joe it has the effect of getting that toy/book out of the current rotation, so that it’s a fresh experience when he sees it again. I’ll also hit up the used bookstore or library to stock fresh books/dvds before trips. And always special snacks!

    You were also recently writing about putting joy out there – is there a way that you can do some of those projects while you spectate? Writing cards & letters to people, and decorating them? Hit the store w the kids and get a special craft project for them to work on, and then save it for holiday gift giving?

  7. Maybe they could work together on some kind of spectator scrapbook? Or a memory journal kind of thing? As a present for Donnie, maybe? And/or a good memory book for them? Writing notes of encouragement for their awesome runner dad, their feelings about having an awesome runner dad? Things they’ve learned from observing their dad (and you!) devote themselves to health and fitness?

    They could do an interview project if they’re not shy and you’re good with it: Talk to other spectators in the area, find out who they’re cheering on and why? Write it down? (My children would never be able to do this. They’re so, so shy.)

    I dunno! I took my kids to spectate their dad’s marathon and they hated just about every second of it. But I didn’t have a PLAN. Or any experience as a spectator. Or anything.

    Good luck!

  8. I LOOOOOVE Amber’s idea of creating a memory book! Give them cameras to take photos, have them interview other spectators, write stories of their own experience, draw pictures, write down some silly cheers they make up. It’s something they could keep coming back to throughout the day.

    What about a scavenger hunt? Race number bingo?

  9. Stephanie and Amber – I never even THOUGHT about using the RACE as entertainment. This is GENIUS. I have two smaller cameras they can use (and hopefully won’t fight over) and I think I’ll even come up with a game. If they can write down race numbers, Or capture them in pictures, I’ll tally them up the next day and figure out a reward based on how many they cheer for! Or photograph! Or something like that! Genius!!!!

  10. That’s a pretty big challenge. But, I can see where getting them off the technology would actually be better. Are your kids crafty? Michaels usually has basic craft kits (and some are really portable, like friendship bracelets or that black paper to draw on where you scratch it off and its rainbow underneath) really cheap. You could also make up scavenger hunts for them to do. That would just be some paper and a pencil. Maybe books of word puzzles or sudoku. (They’re getting old enough for those, right?) It also seems like you need a quiet activity for when they start getting tired, because that’s a looong day. All I can think of right now is the obvious, a book. Or headphones and an Ipod to chill out to music for awhile? Good luck!

  11. Takes a bit to learn but I think this would occupy them for a while…they can play against each other but they could also play without keeping score just for fun: http://www.amazon.com/Set-Family-Game-visual-perception/dp/B00000IV34 I also get a lot of mileage out of this card game: http://www.amazon.com/Pictureka-Card-Game-Bonus-Offer/dp/B0036RRTO4/ref=sr_1_5?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1410209210&sr=1-5&keywords=pictureka …both are games where they have to concentrate and quietly stare at the cards so bonus quiet time for you?

  12. We accidentally invented a game many years ago to entertain a young Sydney in a restaurant. My husband made his hand into an elephant (his index finger is the trunk) which walked around on the table. This game has stuck and at times their hands are birds, spiders, etc, sometimes augmented with small sticks, rocks, pipe cleaners, or stick on sequins or googly eyes. They can entertain themselves for a remarkable amount of time with almost no accessories with this game.
    I’m not sure if your kids are too old to introduce a silly imaginative game like this or not. Mine were much younger when we started it.

  13. The race book is genius (stealing it for the Athens, GA half in Oct which you should travel too someday because we have excellent vegan food in town).

    Also, the game LRC (left, right, center) which moves fast – is totally luck based, and let’s you write on their hands (cuz if I remember correctly ya’ll like that sort of thing).


    usually available at target near the Uno cards.

  14. I love the interview/camera idea too – they are big enough to roam a little bit. We have a similar situation with all day events and technology is very frowned on so we have a special box of stuff ONLY for events. Maybe a backpack for your portability? Little figures and blocks etc entertain my kids for an oddly long time. I also have luck giving them a small bag to pack themselves for their entertainment. Good luck for you and your racer!

  15. We take our daughter (same age as Nyoka) to a lot of triathlons – between me and my husband we are at 4 to 5 tris per month all season long. From our experience, treating it like a long airline flight to keep her entertained doesn’t work. We use the races themselves as entertainment – especially longer (IM) races. We work out a schedule – such as, here’s the time we’ll watch the swim start. She and my husband will watch me start, come out of the water and then head out of T1. Once I’m out of T1 and on the course, they’ll go get breakfast. They have plenty of time and the bike isn’t the most exciting to watch/wait for since it goes by so quickly. After breakfast, they’ll catch me someplace on course and then be back at transition for bike in / run out. My daughter likes the run portion the most. She and my husband will setup camp near an aid station. The aid stations ALWAYS can use more help and my daughter will start volunteering and she loves it. She’ll happily spend the rest of the day at aid stations (with a break for lunch and some snacks) handing out water, sponges, towels, cleaning up and doing whatever is needed. You’ll see at IM races (or at least the ones we’ve been too) that lots of kids will congregate at the aid stations. It keeps the kids entertained, they meet other kids to hang with and they can help the athletes. That’s how we get the most cooperation / patience from our daughter.

  16. I live in Chattanooga and my husband is competing in the Ironman race. We have two boys 8 and 10. My boys will not be there most of the day as I am volunteering. If you have any questions and /or concerns about Chattanooga and surrounding area please send me an email. I would love to talk with you. Thanks 🙂

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