Discover: 8 Ways to Help Kids Cope with Travel Anxiety

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

barleyandbirch 2016 kids travel

I can. not. believe. Memorial Day weekend (a.k.a. the beginning of summer) is this weekend! As a kid, this was also the beginning of travel season. I grew up taking lots of summer road trips and always felt totally at-home traveling on the road. As an adult, I routinely take long, unplanned road trips, hop on cross-country trains, and use city public transit systems. Amazingly though, I didn’t experience plane travel until I was 18 and, although I fly fairly often now, I’m secretly terrified of flying. The imprints-left-in-arm-rests kind of terrified. Although its never stopped me from making a trip somewhere I want to go, and doesn’t bother me until I’m physically on the plane, it has led to some pretty rough hours-long flights and a lot of in-depth research.

To experience this kind of anxiety as an adult has made me so aware of how fortunate I was to completely avoid this fear as a kid. I was also lucky to have grown up parented by a psychologist and elementary school principal…very kid-knowledgeable and creative people who knew exactly how to make travel seem fun and easy for for my sister and I. So I polled the experts for some tips on how to help banish (or at least temporarily ease) anxiety for little plane, train and automobile-ers. Here are a few of the best ideas:

  • Record a story in your own voice for your kids to listen to on a trip.  This is especially effective if a parent won’t be traveling with their kids. There’s really no replacement for hearing mom or dad read your favorite stories.
  • Mediation and Breathing Exercises. Back in January we posted a DIY for magic zen jars , which is actually a great example of a meditation technique that is a little more physical for kids who have a hard time getting into the exercises. For some more great ideas, the Chopra center has posted some wonderful kid-friendly starter meditations.
  • Send along travel buddies. I can tell you from experience, when I’m responsible for flying with kids, like magic my anxiety disappears! Assigning a much-loved stuffed animal, new homemade tiny traveler (see the adorable travel mice below) or a little lego man as a travel buddy can give a child something to take care of and a sense of responsibility. Adding a list of “to-do’s” (“pack for your travel buddy, make sure they’re fed twice, get a nap, etc…”) can quickly turn into that perfect distraction that keeps them busy the entire trip if they’re invested in being a good caretaker.
  • Play breaks. This one is kind of a no-brainer, and yet, when you’re on the road and just want to GET somewhere it can be so easy to forget. A 15-20 minute runaround and leg-stretch break can do wonders for antsy travelers and wear off a good deal of pent-up physical energy.
  • Light Meals. An anxious child is not only more likely to actually have a queasy stomach – they have a much greater chance of *thinking* they have one if its full of heavy foods. Keeping meals and snacks light can help you gauge what’s really going on with their tummies. Checkout the awesome upcycled snack shaker below…such a good way to slowly dispense snacks, create limits and avoid spills.
  • Novelties. A classic in my household. When we went on trips there were things we ONLY got once we were on the road. All we were thinking about headed into the car was the coming excitement of our “save for the trip” new books,  special road trip snacks and car surprises. This doesn’t have to be anything major – a special snack or type of activity can be just as exciting as a new book or toy. We had something called the “pick bag” that was filled with dime store trinkets. They probably wouldn’t have felt that special on a normal day, but when we got to pick one out every so often on a car ride…or every night during a trip – WOW. Like winning the lottery! There were also a couple restaurants (+ a mini-golf course) that we made a point of stopping at every year. These little stops became beloved traditions…but were also fabulous distractions at the time.
  • Practice with Play Trips. If your kids are traveling via a mode of transport you haven’t used before, the way it all happens can often be confusing, disorienting and sometimes upsetting. I mean, airports have started having clowns, violin players, mimes and food samples in TSA lines. Frankly, this circus terrifies and exhausts me, and would have at ANY age. Practicing the trip in the form of playing is a great way to teach kids the process. We’ve created a set of free fully customizable travel play printables, complete with: plane and train tickets, luggage claim receipts, flight wings, a metrocard, a passport book and postcards, which we’ll be posting tomorrow. Letting your kids play out their future travel scenario is a fun way to learn the process in a setting that feels safe and comfortable.
  • Distraction. Keeping kids entertained & busy with engaging games, reading, stories and activities is really one of the best things you can do to ensure a happy journey for you AND your kids. Although movies seem like an easy choice and are sometimes very effective, for longer trips they don’t do much in the way of mental stimulation. I don’t usually do round-ups, but in between real life and prepping for vacation life there is zero time to peruse the internet looking for fun, yet simple DIYs, so I put together a quick list of our very very favorite travel DIYs. If you want more, be sure to hit up our Hit the Road board on Pinterest!

barley & birch - travel roundup favorites (1)

Upper Left: Travel Scavenger Hunt Printable via Little Monster 

Upper Right: DIY Tell Me a Story Rocks via Crafting Connections

Lower Left: Wee Mouse Tin House via mmmcrafts

Lower Right: DIY Mason Jar Snack Shaker via Babble


Upper Left: Magnetic DIY Travel Tangram Puzzles via Delia Creates

Upper Right: DIY Travel Lap Tray via Pretty Prudent 

Lower Left: Paper Chain Countdown Printable via Alice and Lois

Lower Right: DIY Travel Lego Kit via Mama Papa Bubba


Upper Left: The Great Alphabet Race Printable via Handmade Charlotte

Upper Right: Kids Travel Binder Printables via Living Well Mom

Lower Left: Travel Size Paper City Paris Printable via Made by Joel 

Lower Right: Magnetic Shapes Travel Game DIY via Brit & Co

If you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you, be sure to add them in the comments below!

Make: 10-Minute Honey Goat’s Milk Soap

Thursday, March 10th, 2016


It’s been rainy all day today, and in a quest to find a fun, quick activity I ran across a recipe I had saved for a shortcut homemade soap. I had recently purchased a HUGE jar of Manuka honey (semi-accidentally) and thought I’d take advantage of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and throw it in the mix. OMG – this was SO EASY to make I had to share. For kids (or adults) with sensitive skin, this is super soft and gentle, and I *swear* it is actually easier than shopping for a dye and fragrance-free soap that isn’t crazy expensive.


  • 1 lb Goat’s Milk Soap base (you can find at a craft store or online)
  • 3 Tbsp. Manuku Honey (or just whatever honey you have in the cabinet!)
  • A Mold (Soap/Cake molds, wood or ice cube trays all work – I found Silicone molds are the easiest and used this adorbs Honeycomb mold to make many smaller soaps)

Optional Additions:

  • Soap Colorants
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Oatmeal
  • Lavender
  • Grated Lemon or Orange Peel
  • Coconut, Olive, Palm or Avocado Oil
  • Essential Oils to Scent

Yields: Roughly 4 average-sized bars of soap or 10 smaller.

Cut your base into 3″ x 3″ cubes (anything manageable really). Place the cubes into a microwave-safe container and alternate heating for 30 seconds and stirring for 30 seconds until all the cubes are melted. Stir in the honey, and any other colorants or oils. If you’d like to add grated peels, oatmeal or lavender, place those evenly into the bottom of the mold/molds before pouring.

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Once you’ve evenly poured the soap mixture into the mold, the job is basically done! Put it aside and give it 2 hours to fully harden, then just pop them out of the molds. YAY! Soft and gentle soap for little faces and bodies. I specifically made mine fragrance-free – but even without aromatics and color,  there is a lovely barely-there honey scent and warm off-white hue.




If you decide that soap-making is your favorite new thing, here are some other ideas we love…

Goldfish in a Bag Soap

Lego Resuce  Soap

Soap Bath Crayons


DIY Confetti Soap 

Soap Gem Stones


Make: A Thingamaboard!

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

We are putting our safety goggles on and pulling out the power tools today! Admittedly, this DIY is one of my more random ideas, but while trying to use up some spare wood, I kind of stumbled upon it and – honestly – I have never had more fun!  You only need a few simple materials and 10 minutes to make this super versatile fun toy – we’re calling it a “Thingamaboard” and *you* decide what it can be…this is an imagination encourager for all ages! Here’s what you’ll need…



  • A piece of scrap wood
  • Dowel Rods (we used different sizes, you wouldn’t have to though)
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Drill Bits or Spade Bits (depending on the size of your dowel rods)
  • Optional: wood glue, non-toxic eco friendly craft paints, non-toxic wood stain or sealer

Instructions: I made this *especially* super-easy for myself and bought a bag of pre-cut dowels of different sizes. After drilling some random holes in my square of scrap wood and the tops and sides of some of the dowels, sanding the edges, and inserting the rods – BOOM! It was ready for some creative play! We didn’t paint it, but you definitely could, and we wanted our dowels to be able to be removed, but you could glue those in (or on, if you don’t want to mess with drilling holes).

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So, you’re going to make this, and sit down with your kids, and frankly, its going to look a little “meh” – but add just the teensiest bit of imagination and the possibilities for playing with this are ENDLESS! For instance, wth just a few added elements from around the house it can become…

A campsite in the mountains…


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A jungle paradise for some little monkeys…


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A game of ring toss for teams…


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You guys – we could go on and on!!! A few of the things we haven’t yet put together, but are on our list are:

  • A finger puppet theater
  • A pipe cleaner sculpture
  • A construction site with ropes and pulleys for our legos

We would LOVE to see what you guys think of! Don’t forget to take pics of your Thingamaboard creations and tag us (@barleyandbirch or #barleyandbirch) – we can’t wait to see and share the creativity of our b & b’ers!  Love this? Want to pass it on? Please, please do! Our only request is that if you repost somewhere, you include a shout-out back to us with the original link to this post instead of a direct link to the files – we appreciate it!

For more pics of our own Thingamaboard creations check us out on Instagram and for more  fun projects to inspire a little creativity and free play, visit us on Pinterest!


Freebie: Download a Spring Print!

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

We’ve been feeling spring lately, and in an effort to brighten things up around here, I did a little playing with my sumi brushes and ink. Having this little print right by the window where I work has been such a good reminder that spring will, in fact, be here before we know it, so I thought I’d share a little of the cheer with you!

BNB_SprintPrint_1_8x8_Framed BNB_SpringPrint_1_12x12_Framed

These are sized to 8×8 and 12×12 to fit perfectly within Ikea’s square Ribba frames (I had a couple to fill).

Just click to download and print!

b&b spring print 8×8

b&b spring print 12×12

Don’t forget to tag us if you post pics (@barleyandbirch, #barleyandbirch) because we always love to see how you’ve trimmed with b & b! You are welcome to get as creative as you want and share away –  our only request is that if you repost somewhere – could you please include a shout-out back to us with the original link to this post instead of a direct link to the files? We would so appreciate it!

(Copyright barley & birch. Prints are for personal use only and are not for reproduction or sale. For more information, please refer to our TOU). 


Make: DIY 2016 Art Calendar Printable

Friday, January 22nd, 2016


Just in time for a wintry weekend, we have a super cute printable for you! This one doesn’t require any instruction – just print out on a thicker paper or cardstock, cut the months apart, and let the kiddos go nuts filling in fun pics to brighten your walls (or theirs!) Add chill tunes + hot chocolate for a perfect snowy Saturday afternoon. Pro tip: print one out for yourself and scribble away – this is seriously relaxing after a long week. You don’t even have to worry about staying in the lines.

You can download the files here, and if anyone wants to get *extra* creative, here are some ideas that go beyond markers and paint:

  • Paste on some found items from nature
  • Recycle some old paper & collage
  • Create stamped patterns with vegetables, bubble wrap, or toilet paper rolls
  • Use up some scrap fabric
  • Punch some holes in patterns and thread with yarn



Be sure to take lots of process and finished product pics and tag us (@barleyandbirch or #barleyandbirch) when you’ve finished your mini works-of-art – we can’t wait to see and share the creativity of our b & b’ers!  Love this? Want to pass it on? Please, please do! Our only request is that if you repost somewhere, you include a shout-out back to us with the original link to this post instead of a direct link to the files – we appreciate it!

For more fun snowy day ideas head over to our Pinterest page – so. many. projects. !!!


Make: Magic Zen Jars

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Welcome to 2016! We have so many exciting things planned for this year – a new website is coming, new spring designs, new collaborations, new surprises in the store and, of course, BRAND NEW posts. Wow. So much going on.

With all the new in the new year, I’ve spent the last few days floating on a cloud of excitement and anticipation…but…(shhh…I’m whispering this part…) now that the week has REALLY begun… and I’ve finished twirling around the room shrieking and giggling…and I’ve played with all my new toys…and all the company has left…is anyone else starting to feel a familiar little pang of worry creep in? Anyone else get back to work and start to feel….overwhelmed…? Was your first day back in the routine a little…chaotic…?

Post-holiday time can be just as stressful for your mini vacation-revelers – and they can’t even choose to lose themselves in a Pinterest vortex. With that in mind, we thought we’d share a little meditation activity today for anyone looking for their moment of calm (and extra zen points to get everyone participating).


Magic Zen Meditation Jars

These magic jars are SO. MESMERIZING. Photographing these literally took 40 minutes longer than it should have due to being caught in a hazy, dazed amazement. Explaining the what, why and how of meditation to kids is one of those things that can quickly spiral into a “what even just happened here…?” moment for everyone. The idea is that after you shake the jar, you just watch and wait…by the time all the glitter reaches the bottom (I timed mine to take about 1 minute) you will have found your happy place. The great magic of these “magic” jars is that your kids will be be teaching themselves the practice before you even get started in on an explanation.


You’ll need:

  • A Jar or Plastic Container with a water-tight lid (we used a small plastic container)
  • Hot Water
  • Glycerin
  • Dish Soap
  • Glitter
  • Other fun stuff? (i.e. legos, little plastic animals, charms, etc)

These take about 5 minutes, so go crazy and make a bunch. I wanted a smaller, travel-size, travel-safe jar to give to a sweet little biscuit I know who has a fear of riding the bus – but you can use any jar you want (these were about 4″ tall and $2.99 for a set of 4 at our local craft store). Time to start throwing the goods in.

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Pro tip: the more glycerin you add, the longer its going to take the glitter to fall to the bottom – I’m going to give you MY recipe and you can alter accordingly….

2 parts water (I filled roughly 2/3 of the bottle)

1 part glycerin (I filled the remaining 1/3 with glycerin)

1 or 2 drops of dish soap (this keeps the glitter from clumping and staying at the top)

Glitter to taste  🙂    (I put in about a tablespoon of regular, fine and snowflake-shaped)

This is kind of an anything-goes project –  like beads? Put ’em in. Have some Lego people laying around? Yup, into the drink. Old barbie shoes? Sure, yes, let’s do it. Pretty much anything small, durable and light enough can be added. You can also color the water with food coloring. After some test-shakes, if you’re afraid of a mess or your jar isn’t quite water-tight, add some non-water-soluble glue around the rim and screw the lid on tight and let set.

After you’re done putting the jar together, kids won’t even need a prompt for what to do next. Sit back and watch them  shake these up then completely zone out watching the swirl-y, glitter-y amazing-ness (like I did). Fun game: see how many of your adult co-workers have exactly the same reaction.


This is a perfect opportunity to explain how these can be used – and actually, there are so many different ways to use them. They can provide a sense of calm and be time for reflection and quiet. They can represent worries or frustrations – a good shake and some consideration time goes a long way to help little ones with those. They’re a perfect time-out timer and can help divert angry energy, reset focus, and switch gears.

As much as we would LOVE to take credit for this idea, we were inspired by Angie Yingst and Kaley Ann – check them out for some more good ideas and happy thoughts! Happy New Year and cheers to learning ways to steal moments of chill in 2016 – for more meditation (& yoga!) ideas for your kiddos, check out our Pinterest board here. Suggestions? Questions? Pictures? Free Hugs? Leave a comment, send us an email or tag us on FB/Twitter/Instagram (@barleyandbirch, #barleyandbirch) !

PS – hey, you guys…? We’re so happy to start the new year with you…thanks for sticking around  🙂

Make Something Monday Part 2: Mini Winter Gardens

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Make Something/Green Monday continues with Part 2…


Mini Winter Gardens


I have a long list of people who do things for me on the regular, so every time the holidays roll around I try to keep an eye out for a simple & beautiful something I can give to quite a few without breaking the bank. I’ve always loved having clear vases of paperwhites all over the house come January – aaaaand there was an excess of mason jars hanging out in the kitchen – so there you go. This is the perfect solution for an army of giftees.

You’ll need:

  • Mason Jars (I used 1/2 pint & pint wide-mouth jars)
  • Potting Soil
  • Rocks or Pebbles
  • Live Sheet Moss or Peat Moss
  • Water-Blooming Bulbs (I used Paperwhite & Crocus but you can also use Amaryllis, Hyacinths, Tulips, Daffodils, or Dutch Iris)
  • Water

If you don’t plant your mini-gardens right away, store your bulbs in a cool dry place and your moss (if its live) in a cool, damp place. The roots of crocus and paper whites only need 3″ of room to grow, so I did a layer of soil for moisture and a layer of rocks for drainage, plunked the bulb down on top, then pushed some sheet moss in around it to hold the bulb in place (plus, this is what REALLY takes it from “bulb in a jar” to “mini winter garden”).


1 Narcissus bulb fits perfectly in a wide-mouth pint jar and 3 Crocus in the 1/2 pint wide-mouths. I used White Marble Rocks (love that fresh, bright white) and live sheet moss from the local garden store. I totally recommend buying the live stuff – its a cheery festive green, it insulates the bulb, holds just a bit of water (even when dried out) and a little goes a LONG way. I probably only used about a 5 in. x 5 in. square for the 20 I put together tonight.


Personally, I think they are super cute as is in the clear jars, but if you are feeling a dressed-up version, we wrapped some of ours in paper bags + twine and are loving the look. You could also use some of the sweet phonebook wrap you probably just made… 😉

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This is seriously a great thing for kids to make (so quick and easy) and give (especially to other kids). And its truly the gift that keeps on giving, because who isn’t ready for some fresh flowers come January?  REALLY.



Make Something Monday Part 1: Phonebook Wrapping Paper

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Happy Green Monday! To be honest, I didn’t really even know that was a thing until this morning – and I guess its just a…second cyber Monday? Hm-kay. Well, we’re celebrating “Green Monday” AND our usual Make Something Monday with TWO, count ’em TWO simple and lover-ly holiday projects that will leave you with the cutest darn eco-friendly gifts you ever did see. So if you by chance are not standing in a line somewhere waiting to see Star Wars tonight, grab your kiddos and make these with us!

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Tonight I’m finishing up  2 projects – one is a wrap and one is a gift, and they go sooooo well together!

While cleaning out the kitchen recently, I ran across a stack (not just one) of old phonebooks – the bane of my existence. Low on brown paper, and needing to get some gifts out the door, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and turn those lame old doorstops into something cool and useful. I loved the pattern the print on the phonebook pages made and using bright colors turned something dull into something bright and cheery!

Phonebook Wrapping Paper


THIS is SO EASY. And SUCH a good project for kids and SUCH a good way to repurpose an old around-the-house item.

Here’s what you’ll need:


  • An old phonebook (or even just pages you never use…the X’s?)
  • Paints (I used old samples of exterior paint – this actually worked way better than I thought it would! Any old paint that isn’t TOO water soluble will do though)
  • Paintbrush or stamping tool or even just little fingers!

So this isn’t a project that really requires any instruction, just have fun painting! I’ll share a couple quick tips though…

Although you can’t see through the paper once its on a package (which is kind of amazing) it takes just the slightest breeze to blow it around while you’re working on it. For kids especially, a little painter’s tape or some paperweights at the edges while  working and drying is a great idea. I paint on the back of old cookie sheets because they’re super easy to clean off. This also makes it easier to move them if I need to do that for drying. Also, leave PLENTY of time for that – there’s nothing worse than getting wet paint on a new gift. (*shudder!*) After they’ve dried completely, flatten out any crinkles by letting them sit underneath a few heavy books for about 20 minutes – the paint I used didn’t stick, but you may want to put some wax paper between pages when you do this depending on the paint). Use as is, or tape a bunch together for larger-sized gifts.

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VOILA – super fun upcycled custom gift wrap! And the phone company generously supplies you with a gazillion pages! 🙂  I like to “garnish” with some green clippings and twigs from the yard and twine – super simple and super cute.

Sit tight for Part 2, coming tonight: ADORBS mini crocus and paperwhite garden gifts!

Make Something Monday: Festive Felt Garland

Monday, November 30th, 2015

For all of you still celebrating a little break from over-excertion, we have the PERFECT weeknight activity to do with your kiddos. It takes only 3 supplies and 2 steps and in about 20 minutes (less with more helping hands) you’ll have a very fun, tres chic holiday decoration you can put just about anywhere and reuse the whole year round!

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How cute is that felt garland?? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • About 12 pieces of felt
  • Twine or yarn
  • Scissors

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  1. Cut each 8 1/2 x 11″ piece of felt in half length-wise, then cut every 1/2″-1″ to make about 20 rectangles from each piece of felt
  2. Knot each rectangle around a length of twine or yarn (I’d keep it on a big ball until you’ve used all your pieces, then cut at the end).

BOOM. That’s it!

Every part of this project is kid-friendly (except for maybe the cutting depending on age, because you’ll need some sharper scissors).  Its super fun for kids who want to pick their own colors and patterns, and is great practice for cutting, tying and pattern-planning. Best part: this garland can be reused for any special occasion! Happy garlanding!

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Make Something Monday: Gratitude Stones

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Things I am thankful for today: the fact that someone reminded me THIS Thursday would be Thanksgiving. WHAT??? Where did November go?? With all of the busy-ness and the 2,561 things to do, and food to make and events to plan, it is so easy to rush whole days and weeks away. There are Pinterest boards, Facebook posts, TV specials, greeting cards, even a whole DAY devoted to reminding us to take some time out to remember what’s important and express our gratitude and thanks – but, inevitably, the season goes by every year and I realize I’ve missed a lot of opportunities to slow down, enjoy and be thankful. That’s why when I ran across the idea of Gratitude Stones I thought it was a perfect answer.


This fantastic idea comes from Melissa at Fireflies and Mudpies and is such a great, simple way to start a tradition of taking a minute out to express gratitude everyday. She has so many meaningful suggested uses – many of which not only teach kids the importance of discusssing what we’re thankful for, but also learning how to express strong feelings, creating a time for relaxation, finding ways to pass our gratitude to others and the community. We’ve listed the materials below, but head over to the full post here for detailed instructions.

Its also a great activity for Thanksgiving day – especially if there’s someone in your family like me who knows ZERO about football, but can run a craft across the end zone every time (yeah, I just did that – I don’t even know if it made sense, because really – I know zero about football).


  • Stones (washed and dried)
  • Tissue Paper (or photos or anything!)
  • Scissors
  • Glossy Mod Podge
  • Paint brushes


Happy Thanksgiving! We present our happiest, happiest hearts to you and your families – we’re so grateful for all of you and the extra time you take (everyday!) to raise our future world-changers.