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Obviously, even though you're a parent now, you still want to get out once in a while. Going out to breakfast, lunch or dinner with the kiddos can be fun, a break from cooking and a good chance for conversation. Sometimes though, those lulls between ordering and the food actually coming can be a little long for an active kid. You could always hand over your iPhone, but do you really want to encourage technology filled meals? I'm sure you just said no right? That's where tic-tac-toe, doodling, hangman and other fun drawing activities come into play. Sadly, my son and I have defiled more paper napkins in our lifetime than I care to admit (until we got our reusable whiteboard). And why? All in the name of kid entertainment. I always have a pen on me, but often no paper. Paper menus work okay in a pinch, but only leave you so much space to work with so you move on to napkins. Face it, you can keep killing trees, or snag some great reusable boards that can be used for nights out with the kids. Take a look at these useful reusable boards that will help keep your kid entertained and calm in public eating establishments or anytime you happen to be on the road traveling. And find a wealth of game ideas kids will love, at the end of this post!
Chalk Powered Technology
This first item is a bit of a cheat in a screen-free post, because clearly it’s screen-based, though without all the glaring light, sounds and other negative aspects of a real laptop. This is old school tech with a modern twist that you can feel good about handing over to your child. Powered by chalk (and your child) this natural wood “laptop” is portable and equipped with a high-resolution chalkboard screen plus a fantastic sleek design. It comes with chalk for go-anywhere fun. If you’re looking for something a little smaller, check out the My First Smartphone – also powered by chalk.
We’re long-time fans of the beautiful artistic travel supplies made by Jaq Jaq Bird. Their original chalkmats are just about the perfect travel accessory for any child. Each wonderful Chalkmat provides a perfectly entertaining mealtime experience for kids, both at home and on the go! These mats are 100% free of PVC, BPA and phthalates plus waterproof, stain-resistant and simple to clean. The mat side can be used as a colorful placemat, but as soon as your child flips it over, it can be used as a chalkboard for drawing and writing. An attached pocket holds the chalk, making this the ultimate tote-friendly mealtime companion. All Jaq Jaq Bird products meet and exceed the CPSIA requirements and come in both girl and boy friendly colors and designs. Each Chalkmat comes with 4 pieces of Jaq Jaq Bird’s excellent Butterstix chalk which is completely dust free, lasts a lot longer than ordinary chalk, glides smooth like butter and has a pastel chalk feel. Another chalkmat option if you’re crafty is to make your own.
Bamboo Dry Erase Boards
Paperless, reusable drawing and writing has never been so attractive as it is with three by three’s beautiful dry erase boards. These boards come in a multitude of sizes, materials and colors that make on-the-go entertainment a breeze. The boards are made with safe materials like bamboo and sustainably harvested engineered wood from New Zealand. A foam pad or fabric on the bottom of each board even provides tabletop protection. A fresh natural wood look or lively colors are available, plus there’s even a super cool stainless steel board available if you want to go sans wood.
The Basic Whiteboard
As a rule, whiteboards are exactly made with sustainable materials. The real beauty of the basic whiteboard is it can be used forever, as long as you clean it regularly — and you can even find excellent low-toxin pens nowadays. My son and I have a very basic whiteboard we’ve been using for years at restaurants and it’s in great shape, so any old inexpensive whiteboard will do. Be sure to also pick up some recycled content pens and an eraser. If you want something with a bit more pizzazz, check out the versatile Crayola Dual-Sided Dry-Erase Board. This board has a dark side and a light side, unique bright low-toxin dry-erase crayon colors, a built-in sharpener and an eraser mitt, plus a handy storage bag. Crayola has many other travel-ready boards available too. If you like DIY projects you can snag some whiteboard paint and turn any old smooth piece of wood (or small surface) into a whiteboard.
If you must go with paper…
I get the allure of paper. It’s not reusable, but it is less messy than chalk or whiteboards. That said, you can make your paper-on-the-go experience more eco-friendly and reusable if you use recycled and if you recycle your paper again once you use it up. If you go the paper route, check out Ecojot, a company with an amazingly large collection of affordable totally 100% post-consumer recycled sketchbooks in sweet designs that will inspire your little one to get creative. Ecojot offers 6×9″ and 9×12″ sketchbooks, both sizes with 60 sheets of recycled paper. Blick also has a wide selection of eco-friendly recycled sketchbooks, but they’re less frilly and cute. If you do get a paper sketchbook, be sure to also pick up some recycled pencils or eco-friendly crayons.
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Games you can play with reusable boards
If you’re new to just saying “No” to handing over your smartphone to a bored kid, first of all, don’t take your board out of the car. Once you get that new reusable board into your house, you’ll forget it the next time you go out to eat. Keeping the board in the car is a must. Secondly, maybe you need some game ideas. Once you’ve got your reusable board there are countless fun games and activities your child can do alone, with a sibling or with you that will keep them entertained before the food arrives. Try the ideas below.