Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books!

litworldWRAD15logo-webToday is National Read Aloud day! Just in time for a post about books (because we love them) and planning some kid-entertainment for spring break trips. 

We are welcoming Erica of The Scholar Ship. She was on the blog a few weeks ago with some tips to Teach Outdoor Kids about Weather (which is a great post if you missed it!) There’s also a chance to get your hands on some great books and activities for travel ANYTIME, but especially as we head into Spring Break. There’s a chance to get $10 in free books at the end too.


Like many families with school-aged children, we are getting ready for a Spring Break trip. For us, family travel isn’t all about heading south in search of warmer weather and a much-needed dose of Vitamin D. It’s about bringing everyone together and sharing an adventure and experience. In our day-to-day, our busy family schedules can, at times, leave any one of us feeling disconnected from the ones we love. Going on a family vacation means we leave behind the many pressing needs of our conflicting schedules, extracurricular activities, long work hours, homework, youth groups, and volunteering commitments.


While on vacation, we spend time with each other and connect. We have a hard, fast rule of no electronics while on vacation. That means we ditch the televisions, iPads, laptops, and cell phones. By turning our attention away from electronics, we turn our attention on each other and our surroundings. We are active. We hike. We paddle boats. We swim and snorkel. These shared experiences are becoming the backbones of our family stories and, upon returning home, we often retell stories of these shared experiences and reflect upon them with great fondness.


In our down time, we read to each other. While reading to each other is a standard activity in our house, it typically happens at night before the kids go to bed. Reading on vacation means that we do it whenever we want – even if it’s in the middle of a work day since…We’re no vacation and (temporarily) there’s no such thing as a work day! Sometimes we pick up books through book exchanges as we travel and sometimes we bring a favorite book or two with us, on the road. This year our son and daughter both chose one of the Usborne Illustrated Originals to share with the family. Our son chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (because he recently read another of Carroll’s books in school, Through the Looking Glass in school) and our daughter chose Wind in the Willows. These books, like the other Usborne Illustrated Originals, are absolutely gorgeous! They’re both unabridged, complete versions of the story with stunning illustrations throughout the text.

Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books! Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books!

This Spring Break we’re leaving the U.S. and headed towards Latin America. In preparation for our trip, we’ve been using Usborne’s Spanish Dictionary for Beginners to learn new words. One of our favorite ways to use this book in preparation for travel is to use the book to quiz each other on the Spanish translation of the words we present to each other. This dictionary is perfect for early readers as well, since it contains about 2000 everyday words and phrases that are grouped thematically and illustrated with amusing pictures and busy scenes. Usborne also publishes aids to help learn French, German, French, Chinese, Polish, Latin, Japanese, Italian, Hebrew, and Russian.

Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books!

In addition to packing the two Illustrated Originals as well as the Spanish dictionary, we also pack “Brain Bags” for each of our kids. A “Brain Bag” is a small tote bag filled with fun, customized activities and books. We take them in the car while on long road-trips; use them while waiting at appointments; and for kid-entertainment while at restaurants. They’re also absolutely perfect for long-flights, like the one we’ll soon be on.


This past weekend, as we prepared for the upcoming trip, our kids spent quite a bit of thoughtful time planning which books and activities to include in their “Brain Bags”. The key is to include at least four varied activities and books so that at least one catches their eye and keeps them occupied no matter their mood. A parameter I’ve set in assembling a “Brain Bag” is to include:

  • one set of activity cards or an activity book
  • one coloring book or a drawing book
  • one sticker or wipe-clean book
  • one chapter book, non-fiction book, or a phonics book.

“Brain Bags” can be made for all ages. Here are some recommendations on the books and activities to include in your child’s “Brain Bag”:

Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books!

In my son’s “Brain Bag” he included: the Usborne activity cards, 100 Things to Spot in the Night Sky ; and the art book, Write and Draw Your Own Comics. This art book is awesome I’m personally really looking forward to using the activity cards while gazing into the night sky as a family.

Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books! Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books!

My daughter chose one of the many Usborne sticker books for her activity book, Sticker Dolly Dressing On Vacation, and the gorgeous First Encyclopedia of Seas and Oceans as her nonfiction book. I was particularly pleased (and impressed) with her choice of the First Encyclopedia because it presents awesome information that I know our whole family will love!

Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books!


And, in my “Brain Bag” – yes, I am packing one for myself! – I am including Usborne’s Rainforest to Color . The “…to Color” series are incredible coloring books for all ages. There are beautiful scenes in all of the books with colored pictures on the preceding pictures to use as a guide while coloring.

Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books! Preparing for Spring Travels with Usborne Books!

As you ready yourself and family for your upcoming Spring Break, The Scholar Ship is offering a $10 rebate on all orders that include the four components of a “Brain Bag”. Once you place your order under the “Mountain Mama” eShow event on The Scholar Ship’s website, post a comment below with the books that you’ve purchased and be entered into the drawing to earn an additional $10 rebate.


Please let us know if you have any questions at all!


© 2015, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

Beyond Old Faithful: Tips to Seeing Yellowstone

This post was written for the Sierra Trading Post HUB as my part of the #teamSierra group.

Beyond Old Faithful: Tips to Seeing Yellowstone

When people start planning a trip to Yellowstone, they’re often focused on the big attractions that get the most publicity and attention. However, there’s so much more to the Park than Old Faithful. As we head into spring break, I’ve chosen a few of my favorite places that are particularly in the Mammoth Hot Springs area or within reasonable driving distance.

I also feel strongly that way too many people only see Yellowstone from the window of their car or through the lens of their camera. It’s worth it to step out and hike or bike or just walk and enjoy Yellowstone away from the road and bear jams.

Finally – just because the kids came along too doesn’t mean you have to limit your adventures. I’ve compiled our list of activities that are kid-friendly too.


1. Beaver Ponds Trail – This 5 mile trail that starts and ends right in Mammoth Hot Springs is frequented by both trail runners and hikers. For locals, it’s a quick and easy way to get out on the trail and has some spectacular views of the valley. For visitors, it’s a great hike to get you away from the crowds. I prefer doing the trail counter-clockwise to get a good climb at the beginning and then a long gradual downhill. If you are walking quick, this one can be done in under 2 hours. Plan for much longer with kids. It’s also an easy one to go out and then turn back around when you need to.


Read the rest of it over at the Sierra Trading Post HUB!


Also definitely check out this post: Planning your National Park Vacation.


© 2015, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

Junior Explorers Review + Giveaway

We are always on the lookout for quality programs that enhance and supplement J’s kindergarten homeschool (and just learning in general for our whole family!) We’ve actually tried quite a few of them now – some definitely better than others.

Today I have the opportunity to share Junior Explorers with you. Geared towards children aged 5-12, Junior Explorers focusses on a study of the world around us – animals, nature and places. While there is a robust online portion of each monthly “mission”, I appreciate the fact that it also comes with an offline portion to help get kids off-screen and learning with tangible items. It’s a great way to get kids to supplement their real-life outdoor education with indoor “studying”.

The Arctic Mission this month proved to be the perfect “carrot” to keep J focussed on finishing his core school work knowing he could work on his mission when he was done. He learned about the Arctic in general, along with a variety of arctic animals. Throughout the mission he was gathering the gear he needed, learning some facts and playing some simple computer games (which are especially inciting to him because it’s not something he has ever done before.)

Junior Explorers Review Junior Explorers Review Junior Explorers Review

While the online experience was great, I had to stand behind him and read every single word that came up – I was wishing for the option of audio read-to-me so that he could do some on his own. I am definitely for supervised online time, but I also see the Junior Explorers as a little “break” for both of us and he was wishing for some independent time too. Not a huge deal as his reading gets more proficient, but something to note. That said – I’m very supportive of kids having to read too (and NOT being able to just listen). Note: Junior Explorers is working on changing this so children could do it on their own via audio.

Before kids log-on to the Mission, they have a whole checklist of items to go through. I love that the Mission included all of the following (as did both boys):

  • Pin and wristband for them to wear
  • Small arctic animal figures
  • Arctic postcards (we will be using these for handwriting practice and sending them out….)
  • Stickers
  • Tattoos (which is the best thing ever, apparently)
  • Flashcards and a fact sheet for the animals (chock full of great info)
  • Activity Sheet

The whole mission can be completed in a couple days (depending on the child), but all the little trinkets are great for further education and coming back to what they learned.

Junior Explorers Review Junior Explorers Review Junior Explorers Review


Give Back!

Junior Explorers gets better with a program to support front line conservation projects around the world. As kids learn about our planet with Junior Explorers, they now also learn about real-world projects happening around the world today! For every sign up through this program, Junior Explorers donates a percentage of its revenues to these projects. What a way to learn real-life giving.


Sign up!

A new mission to a new ecosystem with new animals is delivered each month. Junior Explorers offers four monthly subscriptions options:

  • 1 monthly mission, $19
  • 3 monthly missions, $49
  • 6 monthly missions, $95
  • 12 monthly missions, $185

Sign your child up for Junior Explorers today!


Win a 3 Month Subscription!

Junior Explorers has offered one of you the chance to receive a 3 month subscription for your child. They just require that you sign up to receive their emails (which you can opt out of at any time!)

As usual, please use the Rafflecopter Widget below to enter to win. The winner will be emailed and announced on this post in the Rafflecopter Widget. Have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at mountainmamatales(at)gmail(dot)com so I can help!  Sorry, this giveaway is open to the U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Junior Explorers


A few of these links are affiliates.  Thank you so much for clicking through them to make your purchases – it helps offset the cost of this blog in a (VERY VERY) small way! You can find my full disclosure here.

© 2015, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

Be Kind and Reach Out

Be Kind and Reach Out

This weekend we attended our third funeral in a year. One cancer loss, one murder and now one suicide. It’s heart-wrenching. As a parent, my heart hurts for my friend and my neighbor. I try to imagine the pain her and her husband are going through and I quite honestly can’t even let myself go […]

O.F.F.: Some of my Favorites + Giveaway

O.F.F.: Some of my Favorites + Giveaway

OFF = Outdoor Fashion Friday. Now you know!  Our (almost) weekly segment featuring our favorite  styles for the season. Everything I share are pieces that can be worn all day long and stand up to the “use and abuse” of serious adventures. While I am far from a “fashionista”, I appreciate clothing that is worth […]


Gear Round-up from the Outdoor Retailer Show

Every 6 months (depending on our own ability to travel), we get a unique opportunity to travel to Salt Lake and experience the Outdoor Retailer show. It’s overwhelming, really. Most times I spend at least a couple days walking around and never even touch the full extent of it. But, it’s a very good way […]