PDA with Your Device? GET A ROOM. The Unplugged Hotel D.I.Y.

So, about those New Year’s resolutions. There is one–but it’s really more of an every day resolution for the entire population in our ever evolving plugged-in world, and that is: REAL WORLD trumps online world. The people in front of you win over the people on your screen. The real life creative projects that are begging for your hands and attention win over the device that is competing for them.

I love the convenience, creative ideas and community that my phone connects me to, but I sure as hell don’t want my kids growing up with memories of a distracted mom. And as much as I love the quiet and space to get things done that handing my kids iPads grants me, I always want to challenge our family to maintain a healthy home environment with appropriate boundaries for time on devices. Let’s be honest, we’re facing major problems with device addiction in this country, and I’m guilty of it too. It’s a constant challenge, but one I whole-heartedly embrace. I love my phone but I love my family more. Balance, balance, balance.

A while ago, a family member mentioned that a friend they knew took everyone’s phones at a gathering once, demanding full connection, and assured everyone that their phones just needed to “check into the spa for a while.” I loved the reference, and it triggered an idea I’ve been wanting to do for our family–create a motel for devices in our home and a fun way  to encourage unplugged time. If anyone is showing too much PDA for their device, we keep them in line with requesting they GET A ROOM.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the newest lodging in Naples, Florida…The Unplugged Motel.

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A comfy 5-star resort for your devices to chill the eff out while you TALK TO EACH OTHER, LOOK EACH OTHER IN THE EYE, PRACTICE COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

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Not only is it easy to make, but we had a blast decorating it. I suppose any shoe box would work, but we used a heavy-duty photo storage box we picked up at Michael’s. It was already a nice Palm Springs pink, so we hardly had to do anything to jazz it up. What we used:

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I mounted the box to a cake board (baking aisle at any craft store) with a construction stapler to create a platform for our sign and palm trees. We made the sign by covering a flat wood oval (wood craft aisle, craft store) with some mint green scrapbook paper, cutting our “MOTEL” letters and arrow with pink glitter scrapbook paper and hot gluing pearls around it. The skinny dowel rods (wood craft aisle or bamboo sticks from baking aisle, craft store) can be poked into the cake board and hot glued in place. A little moss and some fun mosaic tiles (craft store) glued on to the platform completes the look along with a few miniature palm trees (craft store).

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Finally, we cut a hole in the back of the box for charger cords because everyone knows relaxing at a motel is the best way to recharge. Bonus? All your cord clutter gets hidden.

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I love that the motel creates a fun way to communicate device problems without nagging and can even be offered to guests or family members who seem to be distracted. “Mom, can I offer your phone a free guest suite at our motel for a little while? It has a pool! And plush linens!”

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I want our entire family to keep each other in check. I’ve told Brett to tell me “PDA, Get a room” if I’m not paying attention to the fact that maybe my phone needs to unwind at The Unplugged Motel. And the kids are on board (at least with the initial excitement–ha) with this fun new approach as well. “Your iPad looks tired. Let’s give him a vacation and check him into the motel for a while.”

And when all our devices are stacked up and checked in to the motel, that only means one thing: there’s more vacancy in our home for what matters most…us.

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Here’s to more balance in the new year. 


Leave a Comment
  1. Adorable idea! I challenge parents to not buy young children iPads and phones. Why start an addiction so early on?

    • I’m totally with you in that sometimes we shove them way too early (or too often :o), and I’ve wanted to throw ours out the window a few times. But I’ll pipe up with one little thing from a special needs perspective. Nella’s iPad has been HUGELY helpful in her learning. Technology clicks for her really well in ways that hands-on learning sometimes doesn’t, and there have been many apps that have sped along things we had been working on for ages, especially apps that promoted speech. Her speech therapist was using it when she was only a year old, and I couldn’t believe how much it helped. But I totally understand your point and am one of those moms who want to hold off on a phone for as long as we can without it truly benefiting our family’s schedule and circumstances.

      • What a great idea and love all the decorations!
        I totally agree with you about the learning apps. Our daughter (5) with Down syndrome has her own iPad and I really don’t know how we would manage without it. Would you be willing to share some of your favourite learning apps you are using with Nella with me? Specifically for speech?
        Thank you for your blog I have been following it since our daughter was born.

        • Fave apps we’ve used with Nella: Articulation Station, Describe It To Me. Our speech therapist used “My Play Home” with her a lot too–best with an adult next to child ask child to do things like “put the apple over the tree”, “put the apple under the tree”, etc. Very open-ended learning. There was another one that modeled mouth position for words, but I can’t remember what the name of it is! And one of our favorites is Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader apps.

          • Hi! I just wanted to offer some fun apps I use with my kids with a variety of special needs as a speech therapist :)
            I love the kindergarten.com apps for vocabulary development and receptive language. Engaging apps like Toca-kitchen, Toca (hair-xmas you can give Santa a buzz cut 😉 and Easy-Bake oven are great for sequencing and expanding language. Splingo and Boing for following directions. I often suggest Pictello for creating your own social stories and helping with routines at home.

            Love your blog, Kelle!


  3. Alexis Calabrese says:

    Love this! I’m scared of the DIY effort but so worth the effort vs. shoving in a drawer (using huffy mom voice) to get faces off of screens. Thanks for the idea!

  4. That is the cutest friggin’ idea. I love it!!! But I so agree with the not getting a 10 year old an iPhone. What’s with these kids? I blame the parents, though, for sending them to school with one, so as soon as other kids see their friend with one, they want one. It drives me crazy. They still need to learn responsibility & the value of these devices. They’re not toys. Ugh!!!

  5. I love, love, love this. We don’t even have smart phones yet, and we won’t until we are forced to get rid of our old plain phone call and text phones. We have a few rules similar in our house. Absolutely no electronic ever at the dinner table. We use camping, which we do about every weekend in the summer, and no electronics are allowed. The phones are allowed so we have a form of contact, but no texting or games allowed. We go back to card games, fishing, board games, trail exploring and family time. Another biggy is when we are doing something with the kids, no phones. You have 100% sole attention from the kid/parent. It’s been a good thing.

  6. Catherine says:

    Already started making mine! But I have a red box and fir trees so it’s a winter theme. Thank you for the great idea. It will also give me an excused to use my nice camera more instead of the iPhone.

  7. This is SO awesome! I have been wanting to do this for awhile now too. When the kids are awake and dinner time routines, do you guys put your phone away?

  8. Glitter glitter paper? OF COURSE. :) Fun idea for a really good reason.

  9. Isn’t tech great? I had no friends. Moved over 30+ times and got sick and too tired to go out and do the things that as adults help you meet people. I was about to delete FB because of all the drama about 3 years ago – and then I found THE most wonderful group of people – I have friends, dear dear friends, from around the world. As a former homeschool kid k-12 about to start homeschooling my oldest in pre-k, I am amazed at all the cool new ideas etc available and my mom is jealous lol.

    That being said, unplugged time is SO important. I am an amatuer photographer so the editing adds even more time spent on the computer. Plus I seriously adore Pinterest. However, our word for 2017 is Discipline. And the screen time is one of the areas. I want my children to understand balance, that it is great for ideas and connections, but if you don’t stop staring at the screen and execute the ideas, if you don’t translate that connection to the real world than all you’ve done is waste time out of your one wildly precious life! (not to say some casual unwind time where you just veg is bad either :) )

  10. Freakin’ adorable as usual!

  11. Holy moly that is adorable! I’m curious – does your oldest have a phone? My daughter was in tears just today about not having a phone (she’s 10 and in 5th grade) and I’m mulling over when to get her one. I feel so strongly about being engaged with the world and don’t want her to miss out on anything because she’s looking at a screen but I wanted to hear your thoughts because I think you’re a great Mom and overall excellent human. :)

  12. OMG this is fabulous! I love it and am making one this week. Thanks for the inspiration!!!!

  13. Kelle – I’ve been reading your blog since Nella was born. I also have your book. You are an excellent writer and have such great ideas to celebrate life with your family. This post is wonderful! I still have just a flip phone and only got it because my son insisted. I’m 66 years old, mother of 3 grown children and grandmother of 4. I have nothing against phones when used in moderation. But like so many other tech gadgets out there, they’ve become addictive. It’s hard to carry on a conversation in a room with everyone looking at their phones. What is the most troubling to me is being in a restaurant, looking over at a dad having lunch with his small son and being on his phone constantly. One can never get those moments back. I hope we don’t have a generation of children who grow up and look back on their childhood with memories of their parent being on their phone all the time. That would be sad. Excellent subject to address, Kelle!

  14. Love the idea, so fun! When my husband decides to enter the 21st century and let us get rid of our flip phones and let the kids use something other than his old Speak-n-Spell, which by the way totally caused the lady at the health department to crane her head from the desk and say, “I remember that voice,” then I”ll have to use this idea! Thanks!

  15. This is adorable. I had to link to it when I wrote about our new year and new tech rules on my blog. Thanks for this – I think it’s absolutely terrific.

  16. Genius and adorable. Love how this takes something that feels like deprivation and turns it into something everyone can laugh about! (Even if they’re rolling their eyes as they’re having to put their devices away. #ihaveteenagers)

  17. What a great idea! I love the fun comments you can make and it sounds way better than “get off your phone”

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