Tablets for Travel: Life-Saver or Horror Story?


It may only be the end of February, but we are already planning our summer trip to Europe. I was going back through some of my own travel advice and realized I had never written about a very important topic.

These days, it seems wherever you go, you can see a child with a tablet or smart phone. Frankly, I find it frightening. From everything I have read, they can do some serious damage to young brains.

But I am not here to judge.

I do, however, want to share some crucial advice about using a tablet while traveling with young children.

We have rules in our house about screen time for the boys. One of them is about how much they can watch. Usually no more than an hour in a day, broken up into two or three chunks of 20-30 minutes at a time.

I used to call these rules our “ground rules” … because they stay on the ground when we fly. Cute, huh? ­čÖé I figured one day a year, when we have a day flight home from Europe, it can’t hurt to let the kids watch as much as they want. It’s a real life-saver. Right?


When Froggy was 5, he watched for almost the entire 9-hour flight from Amsterdam. It seemed great at the time. He was happily distracted. Mama & Daddy got to rest or read or watch a film of their own!

We weren’t off the plane for 5 minutes when I realized our colossal mistake!! While the boys and I waited for PER to pick up the stroller, I watched in horror as my sweet 5-year-old disintegrated into the worst meltdown he’s ever had. He was crying and whining and carrying on like never before. I don’t remember what started it. But really, it doesn’t matter. Any little thing could have ignited the blowup.

For he was indeed like a ticking time bomb. And WE had created it. By letting him be mesmerized by the addictive images of the screen, it was like he turned into another person. His brain was fried. He had no coping mechanism. Within minutes of leaving the plane, the fuse had reached its limit. The ticking time bomb exploded. 


That was bad enough, but of course, the situation got worse. Seven planes – count them, SEVEN!! – had landed at the same time. And we were all squished in line to get through immigration. I’ve never seen a line that long. It snaked back and forth for an eternity and spilled over into the corridor. That’s where we entered the line, of course.

Hippo was pretty miserable, too. (Heck, we all were!) So even though I wasn’t supposed to by holding him (back injury left-over from pregnancy), there I was, holding him the entire time we were in line. I think it took us an hour-and-a-half to get through it.

Froggy was such a mess, he couldn’t even stand. So he got in the stroller.

Do you know the kiosks they have these days where you scan your passport and get your picture taken? Well, we FINALLY made it to one of those. PER and Hippo and I all got our pictures taken. But Froggy refused. I felt a panic coming on and snapped at him, “Seriously?! We’re NEVER getting out of here if you don’t do this!!” So PER picked him up to hold him in front of the camera. But Froggy held his arms up in front of his face. “Aaaaaaghh!!!” So while PER held him, I pulled his arms down. I can’t even imagine what that picture looked like!

We laugh about that part now. But it was no laughing matter at the time.

Of course, you could say he was just tired from the long flight. Sure. We were all cranky. But I am convinced that it was much more than that. It was as if he had really lost his mind. Along with the ability to make his body function. He was a miserable, limp noodle.

So… fast forward to a year later.

The next time we flew home from Amsterdam, we took one of our “ground rules” with us. This time, Froggy could only watch for 20-30 minutes at a time. Then he had to take a break for at least that long, preferably longer.

It was like night and day. Sure, we were all a little cranky by the end of our long travel day. But he was able to walk off the plane, up the ramp to immigration, stand in line, and get his picture taken. All with minimal whining. No crying. No drama. He was still my sweet little boy.

We learned our lesson the hard way. So I hope by sharing this story, you will avoid having to endure such a horror scene yourself. Take a lesson from our page. Do yourself – your child – and your child’s brain – a favor. Limit the time he or she spends on devices.

(For tips on what to do when your child is not using the tablet, check out my page of travel activities.)

Gute Reise!

Ich habe Hunger! German Song

Tomorrow, I’ll be giving a lesson on FOOD using Eric Carle’s book┬áDie kleine Raupe Nimmersatt. It has long been a favorite in our house! Since I know it so well, I thought it could make a good Story Listening lesson.

I have a number of activities to go along with it. I’ll post about each one of them.

To start, after I tell the story, we are going to sing “Ich habe Hunger!” Do you know it? It goes like this:

Ich habe Hunger, Hunger, Hunger
habe Hunger, Hunger, Hunger
habe Hunger, Hunger, Hunger
habe Durst!

I’m sure you can find it on YouTube if you do a quick search!

For teaching the song, I made a small poster with the words:

Ich habe Hunger SONGTEXT-page-002

You can download the PDF here: Ich habe Hunger SONGTEXT GitA

Viel Spa├č!

Olympische Winterspiele – Activities

I haven’t had time to come up with any of my own activities for the Winter Olympics. But I’ve found some nice worksheets and reading cards on other sites that I thought I’d share.

I really like the materials over on Lehrmittelperlen (you must subscribe to obtain access to their materials – about $20 per year).

Other reading cards about the various sports can be found at F├Ącher├╝bergreifend leicht gemacht.

KinderSuppe has a variety of materials and activities (search “Olympische Winterspiele”). You have to subscribe to obtain access to most of their materials, however they do offer some things for free:

  • Olympic Rings: Print out the page to color the Olympic rings. They suggest using paint and cotton swabs to color them in! There are two versions: one with a colored dot to indicate the ring colors; one with the color word spelled in the ring.
  • Summer or Winter? This activity has children sorting cards of various sports into summer and winter sport.

What are you doing to learn about the Winter Olympics in German?

Alles Liebe zum Valentinstag!

Looking for a quick and easy German Valentine card?

I like to give the preschoolers and kindergartners a little Valentine card. Just something simple. I print them out (4 to a page) and glue them to red or pink paper. Here is the one I made this year:

Alles Liebe zum Valentinstag blank GitA 2018

You can download the PDF here: Alles Liebe zum Valentinstag blank GitA 2018

Want to color the bear in yourself? Or print these for your little ones to make and color? Here is a version with an outline of the bear: Alles Liebe zum Valentinstag blank BW GitA 2018

Alles Liebe zum Valentinstag! Viel Spa├č!

Buchstaben: AU

I’m not sure how I feel about doing a vowel blend for the next letter. But that’s what comes next in my books: Mein ABC ├ťbungsheft. So we’ll run with it!

There are two types of objects for this letter combo: words that begin with AU and words that have the AU in the middle.

  • die Aubergine – eggplant
  • das Auge – eye
  • der Ausstecher – cookie cutter
  • das Auto – car
  • der Bauer – farmer
  • der Baum – tree
  • der Dinosaurier – dinosaur
  • die Maus – mouse
  • das Raumschiff – spaceship
  • die Sau – sow (pig)

I made up cards with both all caps and upper & lower case letters. Here’s what they look like:

Download the PDFs here:

I came up with some new worksheets to go along with the unit. I was trying to find some things that both Hippo and Froggy could do. So the worksheets go in order from easier to harder. A little one will probably still need help, even if it’s just reading the directions! Here are some ideas of the worksheets:

There are even two word searches, one easy and one hard! Solutions to both word searches are also included ­čśë

Download the PDF here: Arbeitsbl├Ątter AU – GitA

Let me know how they work out for you!

Viel Spa├č!

Die drei kleinen Schweinchen (Three Little Pigs)

I did my latest Story Listening lesson in the 1st/2nd grade class on The Three Little Pigs. To be honest, I think I focused too much on vocabulary. When you use a familiar story and try to teach too many words, the kids tend to lose focus and stop paying attention. A lesson learned for me!

Here is the simple version of the story that I put together: Die drei kleinen Schweinchen GitA (PDF)

Still, I thought I’d share my worksheets to go along with the story.

Download the PDF here: drei kleine Schweinchen AB GitA

I also sang the beginning of the song “Hurra, der Wind ist da” by Nena:

Hurra der Wind ist da-page-002

I made it nice and big, so I could hang it on the board, and all the children could see it clearly. Download the PDF here: Hurra der Wind ist da GitA

I also tried to teach a tongue twister with them. Tricky business! But fun ­čÖé

Ferkel Zungenbrecher-page-002

You can download this letter-sized poster here: Ferkel Zungenbrecher GitA

Viel Spa├č!


I’ve decided to start using tongue twisters in my 1st/2nd-grade class. But I need a place to collect some good ones. I’ll keep them simple to start. If you have any good ones, please leave a comment!

The first one we did was:

In Ulm und um Ulm und um Ulm herum

First, I had to teach them how to say “Ulm”. I also made sure they knew that Albert Einstein was from Ulm!