As a world traveling family (specifically, a digital nomad family), we don’t have a lot of “stuff” and we’ve been moving around at a fairly speedy clip. I aim for our future (2019) to slow-travel more. I’d like to land in a country and stay for 2 to 3 months before moving. But that doesn’t change the fact that we don’t carry a lot of things.
As you can imagine, this applies to our daughter as well.
We can’t bring bins of Lego blocks or multiple dolls and stuffed animals. She doesn’t have a lot of toys. Close to none pretty much. However, she keeps herself busy.
What in the hell does my young kid do without toys?
She survives. Heck, I like to think she thrives. We do the best we can so that she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on things.
Here’s what my digital nomad kid does for entertainment as she travels the world. The list applies to things she’s doing where we “live.” (That’s housesitting or renting an apartment via Air BnB.) It does not include the times she meets kids in the local neighborhood or parks or camps she takes. Those things happen regularly, too, but not always on a day-to-day basis. Below is what is daily.
iPad for the win!
The thing she spends the most time with is her iPad. She uses this many hours a day for various reasons. She will use it to play Minecraft and other games. She loves the iPad for Skyping and FaceTiming family and friends.
She watches YouTube videos both for entertainment and education. She regularly uses Netflix for movies and her favorite shows. And, although this is a post on entertainment (and not homeschooling), she does use the iPad regularly for school purposes (research, online classes, reading). She also uses the iPad for reading Kindle books.
Kamea is blogging on the iPad, too (she’s officially a digital nomad kid). I’ll share more about that in a future post.
Kindle for easy reading
She uses the iPad on occasion for reading Kindle books but we recently bought her a Kindle Paperwhite for reading. The Paperwhite was worth the price (not very expensive anyway) because it’s lighter for her to hold when reading than her iPad with it’s case. It has a great battery and frankly, it gets her off the iPad. I like her to have a separate device for reading, almost like she is holding a book.
iPod for music on short trips and pictures
I know, so many devices. We’re a digital nomad family and I think it’s helpful and important. We love music and want her to grow up loving music so the iPod is great for that. She keeps all of her music on it. Her favorite time to use it is in the car (or bus, train, etc) for short trips to run errands. I’m grateful it gives her something to do in the car and keeps her quiet. When we’re driving in foreign countries we need to concentrate on driving (especially the UK) and I like that she is happy sitting quietly in the back.
It’s also great for taking pictures so she always has it with her when we’re exploring new places around the world.
Toys Toys Toys
When we started the trip, we allowed her a small section of the one suitcase we brought to bring some toys. She also has a small backpack that she wears on travel days. The backpack must be small, however, in order to comply with discount airline regulations. Therefore, not much space in there other than for all of her technology devices, pens, pencils, notebook(s), and maybe a small stuffed animal.
When we first left Arizona, she opted to add a couple of stuffed animals to the suitcase.
The frustrating thing …
She rarely, if ever, plays with (most of) these things. Grrrr. And, when I point this out, she’s still not keen to let things go. Some things will literally stay in the suitcase from housesit to housesit without a thought.
I want to respect her desire to keep some things, especially as I know traveling the world isn’t always easy for her. She probably feels weird at having gotten rid of most of her toys, when we changed our life to move around the world. What we’re doing certainly isn’t common.
At the same time, I want to help her appreciate the beauty of living with less and not needing so much shit.
It took me a long time to learn that, I was in my late 30s when I finally did. I’d love for her to experience happiness without being attached to “things.” However, I think this “forced” letting go of things because we don’t have room to carry them is working against me at times.
Routine Small-Toy Shopping Helps
One thing we do, to keep things new and fresh, is let her pick something out in (almost) every new location we move to. Something small and relatively frugal (when possible).
But there’s a catch.
In most instances, she must let something go, of something old, in order to make room for the something new. I also take the opportunity to chat lightly about how the surge in pleasant emotions when thinking about buying something new and then buying it are so short-lived. It’s a never-ending cycle of satisfaction and dissatisfaction (for most items).
The other catch is that we also don’t pay for this new item all the time. Sometimes, we have her buy her own toys when she wants something more than we’re willing to pay for. That means she needs to earn money.
She earns money for reading and for learning new skills.
When she reads, we pay her. My mom did this with me when I was a kid, and here I am today … loving reading. It was a bit different back then. Mom would pay my brother and me each one music cassette of our choice per book we read. I can still remember the sheet of paper taped to the inside of the cupboard where we’d write the list of books we finished reading. This not only fostered a love of reading, but also of music. Win win.
It encourages her to read more.
We pay her about $1 for every 100 pages. In hindsight, it probably would’ve been a good idea to buy her iTunes music every time she finished a book. However, I want her to learn more about managing money, and the best way is for her to have her own.
Currently, I’d say she sucks at managing it because she blows through it. And, I’m careful not to be judgmental, because that backfires. Over time, I expect she’ll learn and we’ll
casually strategically discuss it with her, when she’s not in the process of actually buying something with it.
We also pay her to learn new badass skills.
This can be anything from learning how to tie certain kinds of knots to being brave in trying something new at the park. It’s usually a buck per skill, and it encourages her to learn more cool things, even if she doesn’t think they’re cool at the time (like we do).
It also includes things like when she learned how to tie her shoes or properly make her bed or learn how to always find her way home from inside a park of winding trails or when on a walk (she earns a quarter for that). Being in all of these new locations we want her to know her way around.
She wants to earn money.
She has a lot of in-app purchases she wants to make on her iPad. And, of course, she likes shopping for toys. So making money is of interest for her.
She can’t help with too many household chores, because we’re always moving, changing houses and apartments etc. So, I don’t need a lot of help with things like cleaning. She’s still not tall enough to do a good job washing dishes (and I don’t want her accidentally breaking any in these homes we rent or housesit).
Plus, I’d rather she learn new skills instead of always getting a bit of cash for just cleaning up. Though, I think I’ll offer her money to pick up the animal shit (while housesitting). :) I’d be happy to pay for that(!), and it is a shit job.
Toys at housesitting houses
A great thing about housesitting is coming to homes that already have toys and books. Many homes where we housesit have kids living there (or grand kids who visit) so she has access to those toys. We even did one housesit where the home owners bought Kamea a used bike to ride while she was there. Another housesit the homeowners bought her wellies (boots for muddy weather) so she could enjoy the outdoors better.
Reusing paper towel roles – toilet paper roles – egg cartons for building things!
Sometimes she just needs to get damn creative and tap into that imagination. I’m fine with that! It’s common for her to get crafty with empty paper towel roles, toilet paper roles, and cardboard egg cartons. She constructs cool things, paints and decorates them. The cute, albeit frustrating, thing is when she wants to take them with us from home to home. I remind her that she can make new ones every week because we always have those in supply.
We love playing cards as a family, and it’s a great way to spend time without spending money or having to carry a lot. We have one deck of Uno cards and two decks of regular playing card (we play Spite-n-Malice). It’s one of her favorite things we do. She’s always up for a game.
Art – drawing and staying creative daily
She loves making art and got that from her dad. We carry markers, pens, and pencils. (These are our favorite markers because they erase beautifully!). We always have notebooks and journals for her. We often get a new notebook in a new location because she goes through them quickly.
We also carry twine, thread, a roll of tape, and scissors with us.
We don’t keep the art because as you can imagine we can’t. However, she takes pictures with her iPod of her favorite masterpieces to remember.
Dungeon Crawl – a game that can entertain for hours.
Greg and Kamea play this and all it requires is a die, some kind of token for the character (a coin works), paper (to draw a map or floor plan – graph paper is best), and pencil. It involves story telling, creativity, problem solving, and adventure. One person is the dungeon master and the other person is the player venturing around the scene. There are battles, monsters, and treasures.
Housesitting animals are great entertainment.
One of the BEST reasons for housesitting: the animals! These cats, dogs, fish, chickens, and more become her friends and playmates. They keep her entertained and teach her responsibility as she helps us care for them.
Have you ever thought about housesitting?
If you’re interesting in learning about housesitting, you have to check out my book, How to Win at House Sitting. You can use this as a way to travel all over the USA and the world, getting “free” accommodations. It’s essentially a new way to travel, and we love it!