Sprinkled Sunshine


Surviving a Road Trip with Toddlers

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Pictured above is a parent’s dream case scenario when it comes to taking a road trip with small children.  I mean, don’t they look so peaceful?!  I snapped this picture on our way from St. Pete Beach, Florida to Orlando, Florida, just under a 2 hour drive.  I think it was a little before 6AM when we left, it was still dark out and the boys quickly fell asleep in the car. If I could only say that were the case for our drive to St. Pete Beach, Florida from Central Illinois and back.  The drive straight through with no stops is just shy of 16 hours, so a total of 32 hours.  Yes, I am aware that airplanes exist and furthermore, we did briefly look at flying -there were some reasonably priced flights that we could have booked but in the end we decided to drive.  We knew going into it that it was going to be rough.  We expected some fighting, some complaining, and the “are we there yet” question over and over.  However, we liked the idea of some of the freedoms that come with driving your own car somewhere with kids (especially since we were going to be staying in multiple hotels at different locations):

  • Having the ability to come and go as we pleased.
  • Being able to pile as much stuff in our vehicle as possible, no restrictions.  Think double-stroller, beach toys, snacks, coolers, etc.
  • Having car seats with us already.
  • Having our own space.

So we went for it.  Originally I had mapped out a plan for us to leave early in the morning on a Saturday with a stop in Cave City, Kentucky at Dinosaur World and then again in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the early evening.  The plan was to head through Atlanta, Georgia after 10PM and stay in a hotel in either southern Georgia or northern Florida depending on how long we could make it.  The day before we were going to leave, Ben came up with a different plan to leave around 4PM with ideal stops in Nashville, Tennessee and Valdosta, Georgia after making it through Atlanta around 1:30PM.  Ultimately we’d stay in Lake City, Florida with a hopeful arrival time of 5:30AM.  In either of the above scenarios we would then leave the following day to drive a few hours to St. Pete Beach, Florida. So with all of our planning, guess which option we went with?  Neither.

We ended up leaving Friday evening around 10PM instead.  When we decided to leave Friday evening, we had actually been aiming to depart more like 9-9:30PM but that didn’t happen.  I’ll spare you all of our back and forth conversation about how we decided when to leave, but our 10PM departure meant we’d be going through Atlanta, Georgia at one of the times we were actually trying to avoid going through…who needs plans anyway???  With that thought, we took a route that went through Alabama instead, automatically making our drive longer -but we accepted this to avoid the likelihood of being stuck in Atlanta traffic.

Within about 15 minutes after pulling out of our driveway, Chase was asleep.  [Sidenote: why can’t my eyelashes be at least 1/2 the length of his??].  Jack on the other hand lasted a little bit longer, but nevertheless was quiet and fell asleep within a reasonable amount of time.  Like many parents, we figured driving through the night would allow for our kids to sleep a good chunk of the way.  The downside was us being exhausted the next day, but we alternated and had our fair share of caffeine.  Mountain Dew for Ben and Starbucks Double Espresso and Sugar Free Red Bull for me.  Let’s be real, we don’t really get a ton of sleep regularily anyway.  Our kids apparently don’t get a ton of sleep either because they were up hours before the sun came up.

This is when the electronics came in handy, strictly speaking a portable DVD player with DVDs.  We actually don’t own one of these yet, we’ve just never had a need before.  My parents have an older one that we borrowed and it did the trick.  We could have benefited from bringing more DVDs with us (somehow we forgot Polar Express and that was a mistake) but we were running low on space and I also hate to have them watching the screen for too long at a time.  I might be able to make an exception in the future for trips like this though…just saying.

Road Trip Electronics for Kids I foresee us purchasing one of these in the future for road trips, Amazon has a slew of options to choose from if you are in the market and don’t know someone that you can borrow one from -you can check some of the options out below.

We also brought a kid’s tablet and Leaptop which would have proven useful had we made sure to download what we needed on the tablet and had we remembered that we even brought the Leaptop.  I just found the Leaptop stuffed at the bottom of a bag while unpacking yesterday -oops!

In an effort to limit screentime I packed a number of other non-electronic items: coloring books, crayons, and books are timeless go-tos.  I brought along all “new” items that the boys hadn’t seen before to keep their interest longer.  I say “new,” but you can get these items for next to nothing if you want to -which is what I did.  I bought 4 new coloring books at the Dollar Tree and then checked-out a pile of books from the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library at the University of Illinois.  We already had the Usborne Sticker Book as well as the 1,500 Stickers Adventures book (similar one linked).  I did buy the Learn to Write Your Letters book for the trip.  I tried to find things that were going to be interactive for the boys.  They will look through regular story books and make up stories to themselves or I of course will read to them…but the goal was to have a healthy amount of items that they could look at and be entertained with all by themselves.

Coloring Books and Sticker Books
Library Books for Kids

I’ve linked most of the books that I checked out from the library below so you can see them more clearly (view from a Desktop to see all options; not all available on mobile version). Many of the books prompt children to do some sort of action whether that is finding an animal on the page or deciphering what picture does not belong with the group.  For many of the books I took a picture of the page with my phone so that I could tell them what to look for without having to get up out of the front seat.  You’ll notice there is a Christmas book in there…as I noted earlier -not bringing along the Polar Express DVD was a mistake -the boys LOVE anything Christmas!  The 2 Photicular books were something different to have too -each page has 3-D moving objects on it that are entertaining to look at.  Dan Kainen has wrote several of these -we took along the Ocean and Jungle versions and will soon checkout some of the others.  There is a Dinosaur one that I know the boys would love.  The boys really liked the Atlas of Animal Adventures book too -however, this is one where I needed to read to them for them to really enjoy it.  This large book is super educational -I learned multiple things on each page and it would honestly make a really nice gift for any child that loves books.


Lol -yes, those are cookie sheets that the boys are coloring on.  They worked perfect as a hard surface and if your car seats have cup holders they double up great for holding crayons!  I bought 2 new cookie sheets, also from the Dollar Tree, for this purpose.  For some more fun -bring magnetic toys to stick to the cookie sheets.  I whipped up some Dinosaur magnets in no time (check back soon for a quick tutorial :-)).

DIY Magnetic DinosaursWe also bought some alphabet magnets from Target for super cheap and my parents bought the boys the mini magnetic animal puzzles.

Alphabet Magnets for Road Trip
Puzzle Magnets for Road Trip

I loved the idea of magnetic toys while traveling so much that I grabbed a few other things that I stumbled across – Magnetic Fire Fighters, a Magnetic Train Station, and Take ‘N Play Magnetic Bingo.  The magnets ideally make it easier to keep track of little toys that otherwise would slide off and fall to the floor.

Kids magnetic books for travel
Kids Magnetic Bingo

The Magnetic Fire Fighters and Magnetic Train Station come with a landscaped, magnetic board and magnetic pieces for little hands to play all sorts of make believe.

Train Magnetic Book for Travel
Firehouse Magnetic Book for Travel

Take ‘N Play Magnetic Bingo was an easy win for a traveling game.  The game comes with two boards which is perfect for families with 2 kiddos.  I took the spinner and called off animals from the front seat.

Road Trip Magnetic Bingo
Road Trip Magnetic Bingo

You may have noticed the two small, personalized tote bags in some of the pictures.  I bought a three pack of these from Hobby Lobby probably about two years ago.  I had made Chase a Disney-ish Trick or Treat bag with one of them.  The other two have just been gathering dust ever since so I thought I’d personalize them with their favorite colors and use them to stash some of the smaller things we took along.  I had the bags sitting out about a week before the trip and wouldn’t let them touch what was in them…another strategy to try and get them excited for the long car ride.  I put the magnets and crayons that I referenced earlier in Ziploc bags and then divided them evenly in each bag.  We also had some cheap sticker pads from Michaels, some Water Reveal Activity Pads, Imagine Ink Activity Pads, and Wooly Willys (courtesy of my parents -flashback to my childhood).

Lastly – tons of snacks!  We brought along strawberries, blueberries, peppers, apples, and peanut butter sandwiches.  Our kids love fruits and veggies.  We also had granola bars, fruit snacks, mini bags of chips, peanut butter crackers, and some bottled water and Gatorade.

With all of the above our trip was a piece of cake…NOT!!!  Remember I titled this post “Road Trip Survival With Toddlers” so this is just what we did to get ourselves through…to try and make it easier on everyone.  Had we not prepared with any of this our trip would not have been bearable.

I don’t think I mentioned this earlier, but we ended up driving straight through from Central Illinois to Tampa, Florida…with everything combined the trip lasted about 19 hours.  On our way back, we drove straight through from Orlando, Florida to Central Illinois…with everything combined the trip lasted about 17.5 hours.  That is A LOT of driving, I was dying to get out of the car so I can’t imagine how it felt being a 2 or 4 year old.  We had one hour long temper tantrum from Jack on our last stretch to Tampa, but otherwise the trip there wasn’t too bad…considering.  On the way back I lost count of his temper tantrums…I’m talking screaming at the top of his lungs and kicking his legs with more strength and aggression than one would imagine a 2 year old having.  Our 4 year old on the other hand was a trooper, I don’t think he cried once.  Of course, gotta keep in mind there is a 2 year age difference here.  Needless to say, I felt like I spent the majority of my time on the way home leaning over my seat to accommodate to these little people more than I spent actually sitting regularly in my seat.  Would we do it again?  That is a good question…lol.  Allegiant flights were calling my name on the way home, I’d be lying if I didn’t say so.  Nevertheless, we finally squeezed in a family vacation and created a lot of memories that are keepers in my book.  I hope to share some of these soon!

Are you going on a road trip with kids???  Pin the below image for use later to help make your trip a little easier!

Road Trip Survival with Toddlers

More importantly, please share other ideas in the comments to help those of us out making travel plans with kiddos!  Thanks for stopping by everyone!


St. Patrick’s Day Counting Game

Before making Lucky Puppy-Chow last week in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day we started painting prep for a St. Patrick’s Day Counting Game.  I was home from work with the boys and wanted to do something where we could all actively engage, much oopposed to what we are currently doing today.  I think you need a balance of both.  Today we’ve got 2 napping while Chase and I lounge on the couch.  He’s currently downing a bag of leftover bacon from this morning, Ben will be so proud.  Anyhow, as the name suggests, we made a game that encourages learning numbers and counting with a St. Patrick’s Day spin.

St. Patrick’s Day Counting Game

The boys love to paint so making this game was just as much fun for them as it is to play it.  They helped paint all of the large gold coins and the rainbow.  What’s the point of the game?  See all of the large, gold coins with numbers up there?  The same number is written underneath on the poster board (you can see an example of this on another picture below).  We hide all of the large, gold coins with numbers and then have the boys find “x” number.  Once they find the correct coin, they match it with the same number on the poster board.  Then they count that same number of the smaller, gold coins with the clover on them and put them in the pot to fill it with gold. That is it my friends!  It encourages number recognition and counting skills.  I especially like that they don’t have to be sitting in once place the whole time to achieve this.

There are a number of ways you could make this game, but we used the following items:

  • Crayola Washable Kids Paint, specifically bought gold separately
  • 20 Wood discs from Michael’s
  • St. Patrick’s Day gold coins from Michael’s
  • 1 Pencil to trace outline of rainbow and pot
  • Large thick blue poster board
  • Sponge brush for the rainbow
  • Small paintbrushes to paint the wood discs gold
  • Sharpie Oil Based Marker to write the numbers on discs and poster board
  • Black Satin Acrylic Paint for the pot
Art Supplied for St. Patrick’s Day Counting Game

St. Patrick’s Day Painting

Painting Rainbows

Let me know if you have any questions about how we did this and happy counting!

St. Patrick’s Day Counting Game


Pretzel Hide & Seek

Valentine's Day - Chocolate Covered Sprinkled PretzelsWhich one does not belong?  Remember that exercise?  Maybe you currently use it with your kids as a parent or as a teacher, perhaps both. In any case, I bet you can pick out the pretzel that stands out from the bunch here.  Actually I can’t even really see the pretzel at all.  While Chase and I went on sprinkling the table of warm, chocolate covered pretzels with reds, pinks, and purples, little Jack spent the entire time decorating the one pretzel.  Both boys had different decorating agendas, but they enjoyed their time all the same. Note the next picture – no sprinkle left behind!

Valentine's Day Chocolate Covered Sprinkled Pretzels

Chocolate Covered Sprinkled Pretzels:
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips
  • 1 bag of pretzels
  • Sprinkles of choice
  • Parchment paper

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is silky, smooth. Dump the pretzels in a large bowl and pour the melted chocolate over them. Softly stir together until the pretzels are covered in chocolate. Roll out parchment paper, spread the pretzels out on the paper, & let the kiddos get to work!  Once all dressed up you can throw them in the fridge to harden up more quickly.



Run out of TP?  Don’t sweat it, let your cuties stamp their little hearts out!

  • Scrap paper
  • Paint
  • Binder Clip
TP Heart Craft Project
TP Heart Craft Project

Two very simple activities that will keep your little ones occupied for an hour or two!

Ashley Gorman Signature









Hearts & Dinosaurs

12…11…10 days left until the ONE day of the year where you show your loved ones that they are loved!  Or, maybe you choose to do so the other 364 days of the year too.  Significant others, family, friends, pets…or maybe you cheers it up to being single.  In any case the National Retail Federation anticipates that for 2018 the total spending for this day will climb to $19.6 billion, holy smokes (Smith, 2018)!?  No worries, my post tonight is not near that pricey.  Tonight I bring a few ideas of ways to get in the “spirit” without buying a diamond ring or an oversized teddy bear that costs $100+ (the teddy bear, not the ring).  Saturday, while Ben started to tackle a DIY project in our living room, the boys and I spent a good chunk of the day doing Valentine’s Day related activities.  After running some errands, we made:

  1. Teddy Grahams Sweethearts.  Got this darling idea from hello, Wonderful, these are so cute!  I forgot to buy frosting so we just mixed up some butter, vanilla almond milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla until it was at the consistency and taste we wanted -just use your preferred frosting to stick these cuties together and you are good to go!  I was feeling lazy and we almost used peanut butter.  
  2. Mini Frozen Smoothie Hearts.  At Michael’s we found a heart silicone mold for a steal!  $4.99 regular price…40% off of that, plus I had a 20% off my entire purchase coupon – – winning!  I love this frozen treat because it is healthy and totally customizable to your liking.  I just made a single smoothie with vanilla almond milk, frozen berries, a banana, and honey…dumped it into the moldings and put it into the freezer until frozen.
  3. Dino Valentine’s Day Houses.  Another steal from Michael’s!  The boys and I wandered around Michael’s trying to figure out what craft to do…I saw mini wooden birdhouses in a bin for a $1/piece and bam, I had it…love themed dino homes!  Chase & Jack love dinosaurs so this was the perfect match.  A+ craft because 1) they loved doing it…painting and putting stickers on and 2) they can actually use it after the fact…they have been playing with the mini dinosaurs (also from Michael’s) all weekend.  

That is all folks!  Apologies in advance, tonight’s post was interrupted by hops from Triptych Brewing, JT’s Super Bowl halftime, Tide, Budweiser, & Dirty Dancing Giants ads!

Ashley Gorman Signature

Sources:  Smith, A. (2018). NRF Says Consumers Will Spend Near-Record $19.6 Billion on Valentine’s Day. Retrieved from https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/nrf-says-consumers-will-spend-near-record-196-billion-valentines-day.