I’m glad you found The Trip Clip® blog! I’ll post here about new activities and clipart, fun ways to use The Trip Clip products, and about life as a Tech Mom.  I love to hear from others, so leave a comment any time!


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Embrace Screen Time This Summer – Connect

Are your kids asking for screen time all the time now that school is out?  Surprise them and tell them yes!  They can pick from any one of these activities that help them connect with others using screens:

Say YES to screen time! There are lots of good ideas here, or you can edit these to add your own.

Although kids can sometimes seem to disappear into their screens, we shouldn’t forget the wonderful way computers have helped us stay connected.  I love how much easier it is to stay connected to my family, compared to when my only choices were long distance phone calls or snail mail (which we just called “mail” back then).  Embrace the screens by using them to keep your kids connected to their friends and family.

I also firmly believe that our kids’ generation will be working remotely (rather than in person) far more often than our generation has. The skills they gain by learning to communicate and collaborate via voice chat, video chat, and texts are going to serve them well in their work lives down the road.

Skype With Family

Skype is a wonderful tool – you can use it to text chat, voice chat, or video chat. There are other similar options you can use as well, like FaceTime or Facebook Messenger. Your kids can have a conversation with Grandma that will make everyone feel much closer together. I still get surprised by how much more connection you can get from a video call. My college roommate moved recently, so we used FaceTime on our phones so she could show me her new house even though I wasn’t able to visit. It makes a huge difference to be able to visualize where she lives now.

Email Relatives

I love having my kids use email – not only do they stay more connected with relatives, but they practice their writing and typing skills as well.  They prefer to use email instead of handwriting thank you notes to their grandparents, and it’s a nice way for them to keep in touch with relatives who don’t live nearby.

This year one of my son’s good friends moved away, and we plan to have them become email pen pals so they can stay in touch. They will be practicing writing and typing skills, as well as learn about how to maintain a friendship even when they no longer live near each other.

Connect With Friends

I’ve read many articles that talk about how excessive screen time is making kids less socially capable. I see the opposite with my kids. They use Skype to chat with friends on the computer. My older son uses his phone for group texts with friends which let them share jokes, be silly, and arrange to meet up in real life. I think this is the future of how people will communicate, and I’m glad my kids are learning and practicing these skills now when I can help provide some oversight.

Instead of restricting all screen time, notice the ways that those connections with others are strengthened by their devices. And take the opportunity to have lots of conversations with your kids about good ways and bad ways to communicate electronically!  We stick to two primary messages at our house:

  1. If you wouldn’t say it to your friend’s face, don’t say it digitally.
  2. Everything you share on the Internet is permanent. If you don’t want a future college admissions officer or boss to read it, don’t post it.

Play Cooperative Games Online

I was worried at first about letting my kids play online games with their friends, but after dipping our toes in years ago, we’ve expanded their online game experiences and have been very pleased with how it has gone. They aren’t sitting alone in a dark room getting lost in their screen all alone, they are chatting with their friends and working together to coordinate their efforts and solve problems.

Minecraft in particular has been an especially popular online game at our house, though there are others they enjoy (like Portal, Ark, Terraria, and Clash of Clans). Over the years playing Minecraft, they have worked with friends to build things together like roller coasters and underwater houses. They have built communities where each person specializes in a skill or resource requiring them to trade and barter. We’ve watched them handle the situation where one friend in the group stole resources while others weren’t online.  They are interacting with each other, creating things, and dealing with different personalities and conflicts, all in an online setting.

When my kids are adults and need to work with people at other companies in other states or even other countries, they will have some good skills under their belts already about how to effectively communicate, collaborate, and be productive online.

And if you are worried about their safety when playing games online, here are a few things we’ve done to make sure our kids stay safe:

  • We always try the games ourselves so we know how violent they are, and whether or not the community playing the game is a good, friendly community.
  • When possible, we set up our own, private server that the kids can invite their friends to, so that they are only playing with people they personally invite, not with the Internet at large.
  • When they do play on public servers, we evaluate the online chatter. If it’s inappropriate, we either say no to the game, or we allow the kids to play but we turn off the ‘chat’ feature for the game so that they are not exposed to inappropriate language or behavior.
  • We talk to them often about the kinds of things they hear online, and whether or not they are comfortable with the language and tone of the chatter.  This is helpful both for limiting games that have too much inappropriate content or chatter, and also as a teaching tool for online behaviors that they don’t like shouldn’t emulate.
  • We talk to them often about what is and is not OK to tell people online.
  • They only play games within our earshot, so we can always hear their side of any chatting they’re doing.

Coordinate School Projects

There might not be school projects to coordinate over the summer, but you can encourage your kids to use their devices to work on a joint project with a friend. Help them think of something they might want to make together – a movie, a summer business to earn some money, or even a LEGO creation. They can use screens and online communication to make progress even when they can’t be together physically. Give it a try – you might be surprised by how much all of you learn!


Say YES to screen time! There are lots of good ideas here, or you can edit these to add your own.

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Embrace Screen Time This Summer – Make It Educational

Are your kids asking for screen time all the time now that school is out?  Surprise them and tell them yes!  They can pick from any one of these excellent educational activities using screens. You can also easily edit this list to make it just right for your family.

Say YES to screen time! There are lots of good ideas here, or you can edit these to add your own.

Math Games

Digital devices were practically made for enabling fun math games. There are tons of good choices out there – the real problem is finding the good ones. You have to be careful because some of them are too focused on the game and not enough on the math.

Here are 3 compilation websites that have good suggestions for math games. I recommend trying a bunch of them, and bookmarking the ones you and your kids like the best:

Math Game Time

Cool Mom Tech


Current events

Many adults these days get their news on their devices, so this is a habit we can begin teaching our kids now. Here are some good current events websites for kids.  Have your kids pick one article each day to read and then tell you about it.


Teaching Kids News

Tween Tribune

Science discoveries

If your kids want screen time, tell them to use a screen to learn about a latest scientific discovery. Amazing things are happening in the world of science all the time, and teaching kids to use their screens to keep abreast of the latest developments is great for them and for society!

You can start by simply following NASA on Instagram. The images and information they post are wonderful.

I also recommend the website Science News for Kids. There are lots of videos to watch, colorful pictures, and easy to read articles about all things science.

Read an eBook

Your kids will feel like they’re getting away with something by getting to use a screen to read a book. Many libraries will now let you check out eBooks, so this doesn’t need to break the bank.  You can also teach your kids about the wonders of using the Internet to find great new books to read. Check out my blog post about this.

If your kids need more encouragement to think this is fun, let them have screen time in the dark by reading at night on an iPad. They can even build an eBook fort for special reading time on their special device. Seriously – this works!


In the future, more and more jobs are going to require a basic knowledge of how to use and even program a computer. You can easily get started at home with some fun games and software.

Avatar Generation has some fun apps and games to try that promote coding skills.

Scratch is a great tool for kids who are just starting to learn to program computers.

Code.org is a wonderful website to learning coding skills.


The Internet has a wealth of great information on virtually any subject you can think of. Have your kids use a screen to research any topic they’re interested in. They will be practicing their research, skimming, and reading skills, while learning about something they care about. Ask them to name something they’re interested in – horses, archery, trains, basketball, whatever they want. Then tell them to go learn three new things about that topic and come back to you with what they learned.  If they need more incentive, have them create a board game about the topic, write a children’s story about it, create a photo story with captions, write a skit about it, create a trivia game to play at dinner – play to their interests and you’ll hit on something that won’t feel like work to them.

Kids can definitely get too much screen time, especially time spent vegging out or playing endless games. But screens can also connect your kids to a wealth of information that just wasn’t available when we were kids. Learn how to harness those screens and teach your kids how much more there is out there than games!

Say YES to screen time! There are lots of good ideas here, or you can edit these to add your own.

Posted in Summertime, Teach, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Embrace Screen Time This Summer: Be Creative

Are your kids asking for screen time all the time now that school is out?  Surprise them and tell them yes!  They can pick from any one of these excellent creative activities using screens. You can also easily edit this list to make it just right for your family.

Say YES to screen time! There are lots of good ideas here, or you can edit these to add your own.

Although my kids do spend a lot of time on screens, I comfort myself with the knowledge that many of the skills that they are gaining really are skills that they can use in the real world. With a little encouragement, they can be geared towards screen time that will help them gain the right kinds of skills. This blog post is all about how digital devices can promote creativity.

There are plenty of artists who still paint with paper and brush, take pictures with film cameras, or write music using a guitar or a piano. But as our world becomes more digital, more and more artists are enhancing their art digitally, or even creating it digitally.

In the business world, presentations, videos, marketing materials etc are largely created digitally.

Even at school, my kids are using their computers to create materials for presentations and reports online more and more often.

So instead of saying no to screen time, try asking your kids to use a screen to be creative, or to enhance their creativity. Just remember, art is never wrong! Let your child explore these tools and their personal vision to create whatever they want.

Painting and Drawing

There are many ways kids can use digital tools to create visual art.

  • There are lots of great drawing apps on the iPad. Here are some recommendations.
  • Drawing games can be fun and educational. My family likes to play Draw Something on the iPad. It might seem like just a game, but expressing yourself visually so that someone else can understand what you’re drawing is actually a good skill to gain!
  • Understanding how to use digital paint tools like Paint.NET (you can download it for free here) is a great skill to have. Kids can use this tool for homework projects too. Ask them to create a picture on the computer, or make a hybrid picture that they draw on paper, transfer to the computer (by scanning it or photographing it), and then adding digital effects online.
  • You may also want to start with a picture they create on the computer, print it, and then add to it with crayons, markers, or any medium they like. This could be as simple as drawing a picture on the computer and then coloring it on paper. But your kids may have wonderful ideas about to extend this concept in ways that never even occurred to you.

Taking Pictures

Photography these days is one of the art forms that has become the most digital. If your kids want screen time, send them on a walk with your phone to record their outing. Give them a goal (take pictures of 10 living things,) or just let them snap away at whatever they find beautiful. Teach them about framing a picture, taking close-ups, lighting the shot. With a phone they can take as many pictures as they want to get practice and find the beauty in the world around them. There are also lots of apps for having fun with and manipulating digital photos. Your kids can also learn about editing photos for color, brightness, red eye correction, cropping, and much, much more! There are so many photo editing tools out there you won’t have any trouble finding a good one.

Making a Movie

Digital devices have made movie making accessible to everyone, even very young kids!

  • To start, they can simply record video using your phone or an iPad. Have them write a script and try to tell a story with the videos they record.
  • For something a little different, have them make a stop motion video using an iPhone or iPad and their toys – LEGO works great for this. Stop Motion Studio is a really good app for making stop motion videos that even young kids can master.
  • Help them move their videos to a computer, and use an editing tool like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie to edit their video.
  • Encourage them to find or create their own audio for their movie. You may all be surprised by how much difference good audio makes! And they’ll have a blast searching for and listening to all the crazy sounds they can choose from to make just the right ‘kersplat’ sound.

Write a Story

Having your kids write a story on a computer when they ask for screen time is a great compromise. It can feel like screen time to your kids when really they are working on their language skills, story telling ability, and even their typing! Give them a lot of free rein to help make it fun – they can play with the fonts, colors, and page layout, or use an online thesaurus. Scholastic.com has a wonderful story starter website to help get your kids on the right track. Taking the time to turn their creation into a physical book they can hold, draw pictures for, and make a cover for (on the computer of course!) will also help be more fun for them. You can find good instructions for doing this here or here.


Making digital music is a little trickier because you need more tools, but there are some easy ways to get started:

  • Your kids can play an instrument, or simply sing, and record themselves using a mobile phone.
  • Many digital keyboards can record the music you make, or upload it to the computer.
  • A microphone can be plugged into your computer to record voice or any instrument. Here’s a digital microphone that might help you get started.
  • You can use apps to compose music.  Try Notation Pad on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Kids can use software to mix tracks.  Some high quality free tools are Pro Tools | First and Audacity.

Play a Creative Game

And finally, even video games can promote creativity. Anyone who has listened closely to an involved story from a kid who has been playing Minecraft can attest to this. For many reasons (see my post about working collaboratively online for more on this) I do not consider time playing Minecraft equal to time spent watching a TV show. Not all screen time is equal. TV watching is very passive screen time, but games like Minecraft that don’t necessarily have an end goal are wonderful for encouraging creativity. Minecraft is a building game (think LEGOs), except it’s online, and the only limits for what you can build are your imagination. Like LEGOs, you are limited by the blocks that are available in the game, but if you can think outside the box (literally), you can do crazy fun things. Check out this list of impressive creations, including a playable guitar!

Say YES to screen time! There are lots of good ideas here, or you can edit these to add your own.

Posted in Summertime, Teach | 3 Comments

Step 6: Summer Schedule

Step 6 is about making a loose schedule for your days.  You can plan time for all the things you want to fit in this summer – fun activities as well as reading time, or chores, or whatever is important to you this summer. You don’t have to follow it to the T every day, but a little structure can be great for everyone.

If you haven’t yet, look through the first 5 steps so that you know what things you want to include in your Summer Schedule:

Once you know what your goals are, you can set up a schedule that gives your days a little rhythm.

Whether you're trying to accomplish learning goals, or make sure you have time to work, or just save your sanity, a summer schedule, even a loose one, can work wonders.
For me, I want to make sure that chores like walking the dog and emptying the dishwasher happen early in the day. And I like to use the mornings to get some work done, so I put screen time and play outside time right after chores so that I will have time to focus on the things I need to do. I also really wanted to schedule in time for the kids to help with dinner so I can get them into that habit which I hope to continue during the next school year.

Whether you’re trying to accomplish learning goals, or make sure you have time to work, or just save your sanity, a summer schedule can work wonders.  You can use The Trip Clip Custom List to create a schedule that’s just right for your family.

If a daily schedule isn’t your thing, you might trying setting a weekly plan instead:

With The Trip Clip’s weekly schedule, you can easily create your own version of this chart with ideas of all sorts of fun things you can do this summer – use it to set goals, make a bucket list, or encourage them to find their own entertainment!

With The Trip Clip’s weekly schedule, you can easily create your own version of this chart with ideas of all sorts of fun things you can do this summer.

If you create a summer schedule that works great for your family, send it to me at molly@thetripclip.com.  I’d love to see it!

A little planning and organization can turn a good summer into a great one.

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Step 5: Boredom Busters

For all those moments over the summer when your kids can’t think of a single thing to do, try one of these free, printable Bingo Bored Boards.

For all those moments over the summer when your kids can't think of a single thing to do, try one of these free Bingo Bored Boards.

I created these by generating a random Bingo Board on The Trip Clip, and then brainstorming ideas for things they can do based on each picture.  I recommend printing out the boards, and when your kids say they’re bored, hand them one of the Bored Boards and tell them they have to do enough things on their board to earn a Bingo (5 in a row).

You can also easily make your own! There are over 800 images to choose from, and you can choose any image and edit the text for all the squares.

As an alternative, if you want them to work on making their own fun, try simply removing the text under each image, and ask them to brainstorm their own fun based on the picture. You may be surprised by how creative they can be!

I also wrote a post last year about other ways you can use the Trip Clip Bingo Boards to help keep the boredom at bay over the summer.  Check it out!

A little planning and organization can turn a good summer into a great one.

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Step 4: Summer Reading

A summer reading plan is so important that I made this topic separate from Summer Learning. Of course ideally reading is a year-round activity, but summer offers a great opportunity to get into a reading habit or accomplish new reading goals.

How you set your reading goals for the summer should be dependent on your child and what they need the most.  If you have a kid who isn’t much of a reader, summer is a time to learn to love reading.  I highly recommend doing the work to find the right books for your kids. It can be time consuming, but it’s totally worth the effort.

How to find the right books for your kids:

  • kapowLet them read whatever they want. Never turn off a reluctant reader by telling them they’re not reading the right things. My kids’ kindergarten teacher loved to say that ALL reading counts – even comic books – and summer is the time to encourage any reading that a reluctant reader wants to do. There are also some great comic-based books available that have gotten many a reluctant reader going! (see some examples on this list).
  • smileyStart with something they like. If there is a book they enjoyed, find out why they enjoyed it, and give them similar books to try. Sometimes that’s as easy as more books by the same author. My oldest, however, was VERY PICKY. Even if he liked one book, we would sometimes completely reject the next 10 similar books I got for him. After asking him a ton of questions about what he liked about that one book, I learned that the book had to be written in the 1st person, it had to grab his attention with action on the first page (no long descriptions allowed), and it had to make him laugh on the first page. Those were pretty strict requirements, but once I learned what would get his interest, it was easier for me to find books for him. Thank goodness for Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature so I could read that first page myself.
  • amazonUse Amazon to find similar books. Although we try to use the library as much as possible and not buy books, Amazon is a great way to research books my kids will enjoy. I search for a book they really liked, and then check out the list of other books customers who bought this book also bought. With Amazon’s descriptions, the “Look Inside” feature, the reviews, and their age recommendations, I find Amazon to be the best tool for finding new reading material for my kids. I get the recommendations from Amazon and the borrow the books from the local library.
  • googleUse google to search for books like one your child likes. There are lots of parents and bloggers out there who are working on this same problem, so if there is a book your kid loves, trying searching for “What to read if my kid loves Harry Potter”. To that end, I also created a blog post with recommendations based on the books my kids have loved. If your kids have similar tastes to my kids, there are some great recommendations on this list: If your kid loved one of these books…
  • soccerballTry finding books by topic. If your child has never found a book that they actually liked, try looking for a topic they love. If they love sports, use google to search for “best books for kids about sports”. There are some great ones out there. If they love animals, search for “best books for kids about animals”.  My oldest son (the picky one) went through a phase where he was interested in the outdoors and survival. I found a surprising number of good books for him on that topic by searching for recommendations.
  • bookshelfLoad up your shelves. Join the library, and keep a large selection of books on the shelf for them. That way, no matter what mood they’re in, or how many books they reject, they’ll probably find something that appeals.

Set Summer Reading Goals

The most important thing to do over the summer is set aside time for reading.  Make it a whole family event and you’ll find it even more successful!  Most libraries have a summer reading program that comes with a prize, and I highly recommend you sign your kids up for your local program. It’s a great way to encourage your child read during the summer months.

Most library programs count the number of minutes, or pages, or books.  These are all great ways to encourage kids to read. But if you’re looking for something a little different, try one of these summer reading checklists I created with The Trip Clip.

The first list is the one I plan to use with my kids this summer. After some very picky years, my kids (10 & 13) are both big readers now, which is awesome. But they do tend to get stuck in a few genres, so my goal this summer is to get them to read things outside of their comfort zones.

Make your own summer reading list with The Trip Clip custom checklist maker. This list by book genre will encourage kids to broaden the kinds of books they read this summer.

I’m already getting some resistance from them on this, but the techniques I described above to find good reading material work here as well.  I wanted to get my 13-year-old reading more non-fiction, so I searched for ‘best non-fiction books for teens’, and researched some of the books on the list. My son had trouble putting down the first book we tried called BOMB about the creation of the atomic bomb.  Now I’ve put a bunch more non-fiction books on hold at the library by the same author.

Another idea is to try to make reading time more fun than just counting the minutes. With that in mind, I created a somewhat silly goal chart to use as a summer reading goal:

Try this unique summer reading challenge for kids. Use The Trip Clip Custom List to add your own fun ideas and inspire your kids to read in a fun and somewhat silly way. It just might work!

You can use the Custom Checklist at TheTripClip.com to create your own checklist that’s just right for your kids.

A little planning and organization can turn a good summer into a great one.

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If your kid loved one of these books…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched google for

  • What to read if my kid loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • What to read if my kid loves Harry Potter
  • What to read if my kid loves Rangers Apprentice
  • What to read if my kid loves Big Nate
  • What to read if…

It seems like I am constantly looking for more book suggestions for my kids.  Sometimes Amazon is good about making recommendations, but occasionally for these big series, all of the recommended books are just more books in the series, and what I really want to know about are OTHER series.

So here is my list of book series that your kids might like if they like any of the books listed above!  My kids are both boys, with an affinity for humor, spies, animals, and adventure, so you’ll see those themes appear a lot.

For kids who like the familiar, books series are a great choice. These are all excellent choices!For kids who like the familiar, books series are a great choice. These are all excellent choices!Excellent books for science fiction and animal loving pre-teens

On the Younger Side

  • Snarf Attack (4 in the series)
  • My Weird School
  • Encyclopedia Brown
  • Anything  by Andrew Clements, start with Frindle
  • Beezus and Ramona (and all of the related books)
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (and all the related books)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Warriors
  • Spy School (and related books)
  • FunJungle books

A Little Older

Series (these are all the first book in a series – I recommend the whole series for all of them!)
  • Harry Potter
  • Percy Jackson
  • Ranger’s Apprentice
  • Mysterious Benedict Society
  • Gregor the Overlander
  • Stormbreaker
  • H.I.V.E.
  • The CHERUB series
  • The Giver
  • The City of Ember
Comics/Graphic Novels
  • The Amulet series
  • Origami Yoda
  • Fox Trot
  • Calvin & Hobbes
  • Big Nate

Books My Pre-Teens Loved

  • Ready Player One
  • The Martian
  • Ender’s Game
  • Hatchet
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • My Side of the Mountain
  • Because of Winn Dixie
  • Dewey the Library Cat
  • The Hobbit
  • The Hunger Games
  • BOMB (non-fiction)

If your kids have similar taste and you have recommendations for ME, please leave them in the comments section below!  I am always looking for more good books for my kids to read.

If you want tips for finding more great books for your kids, or encouraging them to read, try my post about Summer Reading.

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