“Siri, Watch My Children.”

“Siri, Watch My Children.”

How to save the battery in your iPhone and your sanity.

While in San Francisco this past weekend I made a careless error that caused me to lose my sense of direction, my alarm clock, my sassy personal assistant, my entire music collection, and maybe even a few friends. The majority of Americans who are smart phone users have probably guessed that I am referring to the loss of my small, beloved device known as the iPhone. …out of my purse and into the hands of a fellow patron at the North Beach pizza restaurant my friends and I were enjoying.

The past few days of driving with paper MapQuest directions on my lap, sneaking away from work to take personal (…I mean business…) calls on my flip phone and learning the words to Justin Bieber’s newest ode to dubstep in my car have been eye opening. This wonderful device-free feeling has started me thinking. A lot. How did I let myself turn into such a slave to a phone? What are we teaching our children when we bow our heads to stare intently at a tiny screen any time we feel a lack of stimulation in our daily lives? How are we supposed to teach our children to actively engage in this incredible world around them when we are modeling just the opposite?

And we’ve all done it.

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It’s getting late on a work night. Your order is taking a little longer to come out of the kitchen than the last time you ate at this restaurant and the silverware starts clanging against the plate at a decibel just above comfortable. A spoon finds its way into your son’s water glass and you reach your boiling point when you watch him siphon Pepsi from his glass into your freshly poured water. “Hey! Look at my iPhone!”


On hour 3 of your flight to Maui the turbulence kicks in a bit heavy and the ears start to pop. The chances of your daughter napping seem dismal and Junie B. Jones has lost her attention somewhere over the Pacific.

How about the most convenient answer to the leading question asked by children in America?

“Can I see your iPhone?” Have you tried saying “no” to this one? How did that go?

What is a parent to do?

For whatever reason you find yourself using Siri, as a babysitter, I get it. Your iPhone is sitting right there in your pocket. It WORKS. But fear not. Before you lead yourself into a labyrinth of parental guilt, I am here to arm you with Adventure Nanny tested, kid approved methods for engaging (and maybe even educating!) without an electronic device.

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Do you remember back to your days at summer camp? Your camp counselor was the messiah of screen-free entertainment. Despite spending weeks, even months, without peeking at a screen (a feat I’m not sure I could accomplish today!) our faculties were employed at summer camp all.day.long.

One particularly engaging camp game that can be used to draw in the attention of any child (no matter how bored, hungry, or fatigued) in almost any setting is called Telephone. Remember this one?

Here’s how to play:

One person whispers a secret message into the ear of their neighbor. This whisper-chain continues around your group of friends until it meets the originator.

The challenge: the message may only be whispered 2 times—if the listener did not understand the message upon first delivery, they may say “Operator?” to have the message repeated. If they still can’t make out the words, the whisper chain must go on.

Of course, in this game, there is bound to be some hilarious human error—which is the secret to its fun-ness. One sneaky person changes the message to something ridiculous, or another person delivers the message through a mouthful of marshmallows.

This game works SO WELL around the dinner table– when children are hungry and forgetting every shred of manner training you’ve ever given them.  Try it the next time you’re in a new restaurant and want to showcase to fellow diners what an excellently intentional parent you are.

I will warn you—your kids will have so much fun with this game that you will have to be the one to end it at mealtime. Experiment with how to divvy up turns, and be sure to explain to kids that part of the fun is letting their secret message turn into something silly.

Mommy Needs a Nap

Maybe you need an activity that’s a little less… involved… Hey! You were out for after-dinner drinks with your spouse on your last night in Madrid and your travel nanny put the kids down promptly at 8 just as you asked. You’d like to get a little powernap in before your train rolls into Barcelona, but the children have begun poking each other in the ribs for lack of something better to do. Don’t worry! You can still be a good parent AND “check out” for a little while.

Logic puzzles are an intellectually stimulating and somewhat addictive way to keep kids occupied. There are countless free printables to find online. Web search: easy/intermediate/difficult logic puzzles, then print some off, keep them in an envelope, and stash them in your purse for times of need.

Depending on the age and experience level of your kid, this strategy may require some front loading. Give your kids simple logic puzzles before the trip at home. Keep it fun. Present it as a game or an activity to do together. Some easy beginner puzzles can be found here.

Looking for some more variety? USA Today’s Jumbo Puzzle Book: 400 Brain Games for Every Day is an awesome travel mate. It is highly reviewed on Amazon.com and is totally worth the $11.

Good Old Fashioned Playing Cards

How much better is it to sit in a restaurant with your kids, grab a glass of wine, and play a spirited game than to silently coexist with your phones or tablets?

Playing together encourages conversation and grows relationships among family and friends. As long as you can avoid playing 52-card pickup, a deck of cards is a portable and convenient entertainment center.  Your average Bicycle deck is inexpensively available at almost any corner store and contains an endless list of games in one little pack.

And it’s good for alone time too! Teach your kids to play real-life solitaire. It’s surprising how many children I’ve met who thought this was just a computer game.

Two other wildly popular card sets among young folk (nanny tested, kid approved):

  • Uno! Simple, fun, everybody loves it.
  • Rat-A-Tat-Cat Played similarly to the classic game of Golf. Easy to learn and engaging for all ages.

But wait! There’s more! This list of traveling nanny tricks of the trade is far from over. Check back soon for more battery saving ways to entertain the young and the restless.

By Holly Bammert

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