Posts tagged: travel toys

Summer Travel Unplugged

By , June 24, 2008 11:22 pm

Now is the time of year when most families embark on an overly-ambitious trip or two. Our main goal as traveling parents is to preserve our sanity and that of our fellow captive travelers by avoiding at all costs the inevitable “are we there yets,” whining, squabbling, seat kicking…well, you get the idea.

Of course you could plug the kids into a DVD player or video game. Personally I believe that when traveling: if it works, then go for it! Forget your principles and opt for The Easy Way Out (Dramamine anyone? Just kidding!).

If you are of a more solid constitution however, and wish to travel in an unplugged (and unmedicated) fashion – or if the battery runs out, what should you do?

Well as the proud Mama of two great unplugged travelers and one terrible one, I wrote this post (Traveling Unplugged) last summer after surviving a four hour plane trip.

I am not trying to “cheat” by republishing a portion of it, but just like in my kids’ rooms, stuff gets buried in the blog after a while, you know what I mean? Hopefully it might give you some good ideas:

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Originally written June 18th, 2007:

“My two oldest are now 5 and 6. They each pull their own little rolling suitcase packed with their activities, as well as a favorite stuffed animal or two. Note: I supervise the packing of the suitcase, or better yet, pack it for them when they are not there. This avoids us finding a suitcase full of rocks, scraps of paper, bits of string, and other “toys” that simply could not be left behind. I always try to include a few new “surprises.”

Here are some ideas that have worked for us:

Books:

An obvious choice. Try to pack lightweight, paperback books.

Crafts:

– A French knitter (easy for ages 5-6+ to do on their own – makes yarn “snakes” that can be coiled and sewn into various projects)

– Modeling clay (I squish one stick into a plastic Easter Egg which makes a great travel container)

– Wikki Stix (strings coated with wax, like candle wicks, can be bent into many different shapes)

Art Toys:

– Travel-sized erasable drawing board (Magna Doodle for example)

– Pocket Etch-A-Sketch

– Don’t forget the plain old pad of paper and crayons.

Travel Games:

Are We There Yet

– Haba Story Telling Tin (children make up stories based on the picture cards they choose-very creative!)

– Also look for travel-sized editions of other favorite board games, there are many out there, you just have to search for them. Beware of games with too many small pieces to lose if you have young (or unreliable) children.

Magnetic Playsets:

– Melissa & Doug Magnetic Farm Hide & Seek

– Smethport Magnetic Playboards (some examples are below, but search for “Smethport” at Amazon toys to see all the possibilities).

Toys:

Choose toys that are small, light, and don’t have a lot of pieces to get lost.

– Lacing block

– Zip-lock bag full of hot wheels cars

– Peace Ring

– Piece of string or yarn (for Cat’s Cradle)

Creative Coloring Books:

I like to find coloring books that are not your typical stay within the lines type of activity.

– The Anti-Coloring Book series is wonderful with suggestions for all kinds of imaginative possibilities.

– The Taro Gomi books are also very original but have a lot of pages so may be too big to pack easily.

– Here are also a few other suggestions for coloring books featuring abstract patterns that can be colored in many, many different ways.

Wipe Clean Board Books:

Tip: Stash away an airline cocktail napkin or two for wiping these off.

Find-It Books:

– Our favorite is the Look-Alikes series of books by Joan Steiner. These feature amazing, realistic photos in which the objects are almost always something else (sidewalks made of crackers or wheels made of buttons, etc.). Kids (and grown-ups too) enjoy looking through these books over and over as there is always something new to notice. It is also a fun activity to say to kids “I see a penny” and have them find it. You will tire of that game before they do! Of course there are also the well-known Where’s Waldo and I Spy books, but here are also some additional ones we like that are not so common:

Scholarly Pursuits:

Not fun for all kids, but my oldest loves this stuff!

– Workbooks

– Flash cards

– Brain Quest

Learn Some Games Yourself!:

If you are really desperate, buy a book such as Car Games: 100 Games to Avoid “Are We There Yet?”. This book offers suggestions for over 100 fun games to play in the car, airplane, or even while camping or waiting in line for example (not all games rely on spotting license plates or signs). A fun book. Parents could learn a few of these games in order to provide timely distractions at critical moments!

As for traveling by air with 18 month-olds: my best piece of advice is grit your teeth and remember that you will never see any of those people again!”

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Plus here are a few additional ideas from the comments to this post:

  • a zip pencil case filled with canning ring lids for little ones, a disposable camera for use during the flight, a preflight gift of colored pencils and a little travel diary in a zippered pouch (from Wishy the Writer)
  • a small wrapped present to be given hourly and a small snack surprise on the off half hour (Andamom)
  • A bag of magnet shapes from the dollar store and a metal tin lid as a magnet board (“girlcarew”-sorry I can’t find your link!)
  • A new toy for a new trip – pick one that is easy to transport but whose discovery will occupy for a while (Whymommy)

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BONUS!!: an extra special Pilot Trick (since I am a pilot) –

When you have a screechy kind of child that you must take on a commercial airplane full of other people, sit as close to the engine as possible since that is the noisiest part of the plane. Screechy child=bad, lots of ambient noise to help drown it out=good.

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What works for you? Good luck and happy travels!

Magnetic Farm Hide and Seek (Melissa & Doug)

By , October 18, 2007 7:53 pm

Open doors, close doors, open doors, close doors, etc. etc. etc. Toddler heaven!

These doors hide farm themed magnets that your little one can move around from door to door. I found this to be a great travel toy. There are magnets that could get lost, however they are not overly small and there are not many of them to keep track of.

The best age for this seems to be 2 to 3 (recommended for over 3 due to possibility of choking, so be careful). Ours has been on several plane and car trips and is still going strong. By the way, this is from Melissa and Doug Toys, so it is sturdy, wooden, and wonderful!

Unplugged Travel Games: Travel Connect Four & Haba Four-in-a-Row

By , August 11, 2007 8:40 am

We just returned from vacation and a great unplugged travel game that I discovered for the trip home is a cute travel-sized version of the game “Connect Four.” The goal, or course, is to get four pieces in a row before your opponent does. This is such a simple concept, yet it encourages the development of strategic thinking skills and can lead to quite a complex game. Plus I can also highly recommend it since it kept my 5 and 6 year-old entertained for the better part of a 4 hour flight (although we might have lost a few pieces on the plane).

Another really nice one (but a bit harder to find) is Haba’s 4-In-A-Row game. We have this one and my husband and I play it more often than the kids! I should have thought to bring it on the trip because the small size (a 4″ X 5.5″ tin) is ideal for travel. Plus, it is wood so it feels like it will last forever. You can buy it here for $6.99.

Traveling Unplugged

By , July 18, 2007 1:21 pm

WE SURVIVED!!! Southwest Airlines will never be the same again. No, seriously, a four hour flight with an 18 month-old (in my opinion-the absolutely worst age for travel!) is never fun, but it could have been much worse.

Yes, she screeched, shrieked, whined and only slept for half an hour out of the four hour flight…but she didn’t actually cry. I felt like I ought to have offered to buy drinks for my neighbors, or perhaps I should have passed out ear plugs. But actually, I was the one who seemed stressed and bothered the most I think.

Pilot trick: when you have a screechy kind of child that you must take on an airplane, sit as close to the engine as possible since that is the noisiest part of the plane. Screechy child=bad, lots of ambient noise to help drown it out=good.

My two oldest kids were fabulous. I would take them around the world without batting an eyelash. Even while travelling, they remain unplugged. Many people nowadays wonder how it is possible to travel with children without hauling along a stash of electronics to rival NASA. Unplugged children don’t have portable DVD players and Gameboys, but there is plenty out there to keep them occupied, and you don’t even have to worry about fresh batteries! Your fellow travellers may actually want to thank you for unplugging your children on public transportation.

Now is the time of year when many family vacations happen. So, how do you travel and keep your kids entertained, yet unplugged?

My two oldest are now 5 and 6. They each pull their own little rolling suitcase packed with their activities, as well as a favorite stuffed animal or two. Note: I supervise the packing of the suitcase, or better yet, pack it for them when they are not there. This avoids us finding a suitcase full of rocks, scraps of paper, bits of string, and other “toys” that simply could not be left behind. I always try to include a few new “surprises.”

Here are some ideas that have worked for us:

Books:
An obvious choice. Try to pack lightweight, paperback books.

Crafts:
– A French knitter (easy for ages 5-6+ to do on their own – makes yarn “snakes” that can be coiled and sewn into various projects)
– Modeling clay (I squish one stick into a plastic Easter Egg which makes a great travel container)
– Wikki Stix (strings coated with wax, like candle wicks, can be bent into many different shapes)


Art Toys:
– Travel-sized erasable drawing board (Magna Doodle for example)

– Pocket Etch-A-Sketch
– Don’t forget the plain old pad of paper and crayons.



Travel Games:
– Are We There Yet

– Haba Story Telling Tin (children make up stories based on the picture cards they choose-very creative!)
– Also look for travel-sized editions of other favorite board games, there are many out there, you just have to search for them. Beware of games with too many small pieces to lose if you have young (or unreliable) children.

Magnetic Playsets:
– Melissa & Doug Magnetic Farm Hide & Seek
– Smethport Magnetic Playboards (some examples are below, but search for “Smethport” at Amazon toys to see all the possibilities).

Toys:
Choose toys that are small, light, and don’t have a lot of pieces to get lost.
– Lacing block

– Zip-lock bag full of hotwheels cars
– Peace Ring
Piece of string or yarn (for Cat’s Cradle)

Creative Coloring Books:
I like to find coloring books that are not your typical stay within the lines type of activity.

– The Anti-Coloring Book series is wonderful with suggestions for all kinds of imaginative possibilities.
– The Taro Gomi books are also very original but have a lot of pages so may be too big to pack easily.
– Here are also a few other suggestions for coloring books featuring abstract patterns that can be colored in many, many different ways.

Wipe Clean Board Books:
Tip: Stash away an airline cocktail napkin or two for wiping these off.

Find-It Books:
– Our favorite is the Look-Alikes series of books by Joan Steiner. These feature amazing, realistic photos in which the objects are almost always something else (sidewalks made of crackers or wheels made of buttons, etc.). Kids (and grown-ups too) enjoy looking through these books over and over as there is always something new to notice. It is also a fun activity to say to kids “I see a penny” and have them find it. You will tire of that game before they do!
Of course there are also the well-known Where’s Waldo and I Spy books, but here are also some additional ones we like that are not so common:

Scholarly Pursuits:
Not fun for all kids, but my oldest loves this stuff!

– Workbooks
– Flash cards
– Brain Quest

Learn Some Games Yourself!:
If you are really desperate, buy a book such as
Car Games: 100 Games to Avoid “Are We There Yet?”. This book offers suggestions for over 100 fun games to play in the car, airplane, or even while camping or waiting in line for example (not all games rely on spotting license plates or signs). A fun book. Parents could learn a few of these games in order to provide timely distractions at critical moments!

As for travelling by air with 18 month-olds: my best piece of advice is grit your teeth and remember that you will never see any of those people again!

I wish you all happy unplugged travels!

PS. What works for you when your kids travel? Please let me know in your comments. I am always on the lookout for new ideas!

Look-Alikes (Joan Steiner)

By , July 5, 2007 9:55 pm

The Look-Alikes series is wonderfully clever! Almost everything in the picture is actually something else, for example a tree might be broccoli, or a fence post might be a crayon. I can’t imagine how long these photos took to set up.

There is a list of all objects in each photo at the end of the book, so you can see how you did (if you want to). Personally, I prefer to just be happy discovering new objects each time I open the book. Unlike many other find-it books where you quickly learn what’s there, you can look at this book a hundred times and still see something new.

There is also a Look-Alikes Jr.: The More You Look, the More You See! with less detailed photos that are easier for younger kids to search.

The books are great for travel since they seem to keep kids happy for quite some time. This is entertaining searching for children as well as adults. Our favorite traveling-on-the-airplane game is when the adult says: “I see a penny” or “I see a comb” for example, and the kids have to try and find it.

Also check out Look-Alikes Christmas: The More You Look, the More You See!. I have not personally seen that one, but it sounds fun. If anyone can comment on the Christmas book, I’d love to hear from you!

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