Back in the days before baby, I would always carry oversized handbags. Looking back, I have no idea what I put in them. Nowadays, my bag is just filled with all my son’s things and the only things that belong to me are my wallet, keys and cellphone. That is it.
And so the same thing goes for traveling/packing for a child. You are consumed with making sure they have everything they need so you ditch the little luxuries for yourself so that you have space to tote around their favorite blankie or stuffed animal.
I have been doing a lot of planning for the trips we will be taking this year. One of them will be a 13+ hour flight (first leg) and then a 3.5 hour flight to our final destination. My little one has recently been saying that he was afraid of going on the airplane. I am praying that that will change by the time we board!
Most of my planning has been centered around surviving the flight itself. I know the moment I step on to that plane, the countdown will begin as to when we can step off. I hate flying myself and to do it with a 2 year old is literally a nightmare!! But I’m hoping the time that I spend keeping him happy will make the trip go faster…
The most important thing is to keep your kids entertained yet quiet so it’s crucial to bring items that don’t make loud noises. What may already be white noise to you, is super irritating for someone else so be considerate. I will keep the obvious things off the list such as an ample stash of snacks, diapers, change of clothes and their favorite electronics.
One thing to keep in mind is to prepare a mixture of new and old toys. Take the things that you know they love but also bring new toys that they can unwrap on the plane. Perhaps make the gift wrap extra thick with extra tape to make unwrapping it a fun task in itself.
Other things to pass the time before busting out your stash of toys include: making barf bag puppets, find & seek particular items in the travel magazines, asking the flight attendant for a cup of ice and straw and have your child string the cubes through the holes in the ice. But of course those activities probably will just occupy them for a good 20 minutes, so here are the goodies I have prepared for my little guy.
Top 10 Travel Toys for Toddlers:
1. Foam Puzzles, Lacing & Peg Games-My toddler loves puzzles. He is at an independent stage where he wants to make his own decisions as well as be rewarded for doing something alone. He loves the foam puzzles that comes with this pack. We have both kits and they both come with a list of ideas to help parents play along. Click here for the second kit.
NOTE: The cardboard packaging will not hold up for travel. So, I ended up purchasing some pencil pouches from the dollar store to contain all the different pieces. So when he is ready for a different activity, I can just pull out a new pouch. They are relatively flat so it doesn’t take up too much space either.
2. Magnetic Games-There are a multitude of magnetic story books, play scenes and games out there. Here are a few that I particularly like:
Curious George Magnetic Tin Playset
My son is already familiar with Curious George so this was a good item to pick up. He loved popping the magnets out of the sheets. Beware that there are a lot of tiny magnetic pieces that are likely to get lost in transit. My suggestion is to just pick the big pieces and bring them. It comes in a handy tin. You could use this tin for other magnetic pieces, too.
Aquarium Adventure by Imaginetics
I thought this would be a fun game for him, we have a safari one that he enjoys. It’s the same concept as the play tin but the pieces are bigger and the board is much larger. There is plenty of space to put all the magnets on the board. I was considering taking a “fishing pole” so that he could also fish for the magnets, too.
Travel Bingo-For those opting to travel by train or car, magnetic travel bingo games are an interactive and fun way to pass the time. Who doesn’t want to yell “BINGO” and win a prize?!
3. Sticker Books-These sticker books by Phidal are by far my favorite sticker books but are hard to find online. I was fortunate enough to find a nice assortment at my local Wal-mart for just $1.00. These sticker books are both “reusable” and educational. If you have a toddler, it is definitely an activity that I recommend you do together. I see it as an interactive and fun opportunity to teach them about shapes, colors, numbers and words.
Here is a sneak peek of the inside:
At the Zoo reusable sticker tote-These reusable sticker packs are perfect on the go. If your child gets bored with the activity scenes provided, just stick them on the car, train or plane window ;) Peaceable Kingdom makes lot’s of great products for kids and the sticker tote comes in many different themes.
4. Coloring Books-I came across this awesome coloring book at a local Dollar Tree. A pack of 2 are selling for $13 on Amazon.com. What?! Anyway, they are great for toddlers because it focuses on one object and one or two colors at one time. I will be bringing my Melissa & Doug crayons because they are simply the best and I love the storage box it comes in. (You will always know if there is one missing!)
Color by Dots-This is another clever coloring book designed for newbies. The colored dots guide your toddler to picking the corresponding crayon, resulting in a beautiful masterpiece.
5. Nesting Cubes-My son adores puzzles and enjoys the act of stacking. These nesting/stacking cups from Playskool are perfect for travel. They nest into a small box but can provide literally minutes of entertainment! (When you find a toy that keeps a toddler occupied for hours, let me know because I haven’t found one yet and the iphone doesn’t count!) As an added bonus, the ABC’s are inscribed on the bottom of the cubes. For example, the biggest cube has “ABCD”, then the second largest has “EFGH” and it goes on and on. Anything that reinforces the ABC’s is an added bonus. You can use these cups to put little trinkets in or to hide little trinkets. Use your imagination and I promise, it’s something that will keep your child engaged!
6. Colorful Links-Sassy’s Ring O’ Links are the best on the market. For $2.99, you can’t beat this deal. There are other companies that sell similar products but are not BPA free. It’s a versatile toy. Teething babies can find enjoyment out of it, moms can use the links to attach toys to strollers, toddlers can attach the links together. This is one of the gifts I have wrapped up for my son and can’t wait to see him enjoy it!
7. Water Coloring Books-My little one has recently taken an interest in painting. He only plays with it for a few minutes but enjoys seeing how water and paint mix together. I think these coloring books are great because you don’t have to worry about carrying a bunch of extra things like paint and brushes or deal with the water spilling all over the place.
Magical Paint Books-I was at Michael’s earlier this month and picked up a couple of these for our trip. These require a q-tip and water but seems relatively low maintenance. The paint is formulated to be washable from hands and most machine washable fabrics so I say, paint away! You may be tempted to tear out a sheet and paint one along side your little one ;)
8. Free Printable Activity Packs-There is a wealth of resources online and I especially like visiting Home School Creations. I printed out the Transportation Activity Pack on card stock and then laminated them to ensure that we can use them for many more trips to come. The pack includes memory, tracing activities, number games and sequencing to name a few.
Here are a few pieces that I laminated:
If you don’t already have a laminator, this is the one that I use and it works well. For the price (under $30), it’s pretty awesome. Just remember to purchase the laminating pouches, too.
GBC Heatseal Inspire
9. Their own backpack-It’s never too early to put your kids to work. Whahaha. Sooo if you can walk, you can carry some of your own things. It gives your kiddos a sense of independence and hey, lightens your load by a few ounces! We got this DC Comic Superman plush backpack for our son on his first trip to Six Flags of Texas and he will be bringing it on our trips this year. I like that it is very light and quite spacious. It doesn’t overwhelm my son but it isn’t a toddler sized bag. I have already put a few of his coloring books and toys inside. He is going to look so cute carrying it!
10. First Aid Kit-If you currently carry a first aid kit in your bag, good for you! ,I however, have not until now. I came across these cute first aid kits the other day. (Available at Toys R Us and Buy Buy Baby-though BBB is a couple dollars cheaper.) They are super handy and include an assortment of items. I added some other things in there, too and now feel much more prepared should anything happen.
BONUS-This isn’t so much for your toddler as for your toddler’s neighbors. Just like the first aid kit, you want to be prepared so here is a thought, bring some cookies attached with a cute little note from your little one and hand them to the people sitting around you. This way if/when your toddler has a meltdown, they can eat their cookies and be a little more understanding and tolerant ;)
I hope this list will help tackle some of the challenges of traveling with little ones! Click here for a comprehensive travel checklist for baby/toddlers.
Wishing you happy and safe travels!