Activity bags for family travel


If you have travelled with young children then you know that preparation is essential for a relaxing holiday. While we don’t want to take a truckload of toys and activities, some are certainly necessary for those long car or plane rides or to pull out for quiet time in the afternoon to give everyone some down time.

Before our recent holiday involving quite a few hours of flying and driving, I spent some focus time with each child sewing up these simple drawstring backpack bags. We added pockets to the front and as a surprise I also added matching pencil cases and smaller drawstring bags for activities inside. The kids chose their own material and learnt some valuable sewing skills at the same time. They really enjoyed the project and it helped build some excitement and anticipation for the holiday to come. I filled the bags with activities but kept them secret and by the time we left they were looking forward to seeing the contents as much as the holiday itself!


The 9 to 12 year olds received:

  • a visual diary with their initial on the front in stick-on jewels, with a mechanical pencil.
  • a lined notebook (again with their initial in jewels) with a pencil, 4 colour pen and sharpener. (The notebook was the girl’s favourite item.)
  • some new books
  • travel game set
  • modelling clay
  • an open-ended puzzle. This puzzle can fit together in multiple patterns and be used to make picture scenes as well. It was more for the middle ages but all of the children had a go at some stage or other.
  • a roll of alfoil. There are heaps of things you can sculpt in aluminium foil and you will be surprised at how long it will keep the kids going; have a google for ideas before you go and perhaps include a couple of pictures to get the ideas flowing.
  • a matching pencil case with textas.


The 4 t0 8 year olds received:

  • modelling clay
  • sticker activity books
  • some new reading books
  • colouring-in books
  • a mosaic sticker activity
  • pencil case with pens, pencils, textas, sharpener


The 2 1/2 year old received:

  • some new books
  • sticker books
  • water drawing book. (These come with a pen that you fill with water and as you draw on the card pages the colours come out. Later, as the pages dry, the colours fade away and they can be re-used. I can see that these will wear out with a few weeks of use but they were loved by all the children up to the second eldest. In fact a couple of the older kids spent a long time doing it on several different occasions.)
  • crayons and paper. (Good quality crayons are a must. Cheap crayons don’t make a dark, vibrant mark on the paper and frustrate little ones who can’t press hard enough to make a good line. My little one loves textas because they are so easy to draw with but keeps ruining them by pressing too hard, banging them to make dots  or leaving the lids off. She doesn’t enjoy coloured pencils for the reason above. She did however love using these as they left a nice dark line and the $10 investment was worth it.)
  • mini magnetic drawing board.
  • magnetic pictures and metal tin. (This turned out to be her favourite activity and she went back to it over and over again. Not what I would have guessed!)
  • velcro balls. (I can’t remember the brand name of these but they are sticky all over with velcro style hooks and can be pulled apart and molded. Not a big hit though.)

If you are travelling with children younger than this, take a look at these posts for more ideas:

travelling with little ones – plane trips

travelling with young children 

travelling with toddlers


The obedience roller-coaster


Meeting and spending some time with the Ezzos was a highlight for the children.

We have just returned home from a week away at a national parenting conference run by Growing Families Australia. It was a week of wonderful family memories, special events and outings, great teaching and time spent getting to know other like-minded families. We have come home so encouraged and inspired to stay the course with our parenting. We have also come home somewhat poorer, with mounds and mounds of dirty washing and VERY OVER-TIRED AND MISBEHAVING CHILDREN! One week of late nights, missed naps, little to no routine and too many treat foods have taken their toll. Was it worth it? Absolutely yes!

In a way, these breaks from our usual routine and environment underscore the necessity for the schedules and daily systems that we have in place. It highlights the need for daily consistency in our parenting and gives us a glimpse of what it would be like all the time if we didn’t do what we normally do. It can be easy in the day to day grind of Motherhood to feel like we are getting nowhere, but those little, repetitive, daily steps are building the young people of Godly character that we will eventually launch out into the world.

It’s amazing really to see how quickly behaviour deteriorates when the backbones of our parenting are removed. Particularly for the younger toddlers and children, the daily routine is a must. The good news though is that it only takes a couple of days to get everything back to where it was, but only because the hard work has already been put in.

When we first start out though, it isn’t so easy. It takes a lot of hard work, persistence, training and consistency to instil the behaviours and values we want our children to have. And we have to keep on doing it; day after day, year after year. So Mothers, do not grow weary in doing good (Gal 6:9) because we are doing a worthwhile work.



My toddler is not impressed with having Mummy back in charge. Her routine started again today and for this tired little one, table time was hard to face. (She dumped her activity on the floor because she wanted something else!)

So, having said that, what do I do with my cranky and disobedient children?

  1. Stay home for a couple of days – no stimulation, no visitors, no outings. Rest and recuperation only.
  2. Focus on regaining lost sleep – early bedtimes and long naps.
  3. Get back into routine. Start playpen time, room time, mat time, highchair time and all those other scheduled times in my day that bring order and stability while teaching valuable skills such as focussing and concentrating.
  4. Detox – get back into healthy eating and let their bodies settle back down.
  5. Remove all the choices – holidays are filled with choices, from buffet line dinners to kids club activities. My toddler quite enjoys directing every moment of her day and is not giving back control to Mummy without a fight.
  6. Give good instructions – eye contact, Yes Mum and all the other little strategies that help children choose to obey.
  7. Use isolation as our prime consequence for now. If the children cannot behave in a respectful and kind manner, they will simply not be free to spend time with others until they can.

I could wade back in with strict consequences for wrong behaviour but in this context it probably won’t work too well and isn’t necessary. With a few days of implementing the strategies above, most of the children’s behavioural problems will have disappeared and I can start work on the few that are left.

For more ideas, see my consequences series that starts here.



Travelling with young children – tomorrow!

We leave for our 5 day holiday tomorrow. The bags are packed and carry-on luggage is stocked with snacks and activities to keep the children happily occupied on the plane.

I had a look back at my previous selection of travel activity ideas and packed several, added those the older children made for the twins, plus two new activities below.

This is our magnetic play set. I stuck a bunch of small pictures cut from old activity books onto adhesive magnet backing (found in the photo section at department stores for making photo fridge magnets or salvaged from the back of junk mail fridge magnets and glued on.) The underside of the tray has the entire collection and when the children have chosen what they want to play with they take them off and flip the tray over to play on the back.

They will also be great once we get home to use for keeping my toddlers interested while I homeschool the older children and could double as a highchair or mat activity.

Our second “new” activity is zip-lock bags with a pile of cereal to thread onto wool and make necklaces with, which of course will be eaten 5 minutes later. I threaded the wool with large, blunt, tapestry needles to make it easier to poke through the cereal, knowing that many of the holes were closed over. They could just eat those ones straight away I guess!

I think we are all set for a smooth flight with 5 happy little munchkins. Now I can’t wait to see the look of horror on the face of those we will be sitting next to! Hopefully by the end of the trip they will be pleasantly surprised.

Birthdays and travelling with toddlers

Our wonderful twins turned two today. It’s amazing to look back at their birth photos and remember how it all began.

Our three eldest chose to make gifts rather than visit the Mummy and Daddy shop and as we are travelling via plane to Melbourne this week we thought activities to keep the toddlers occupied while travelling were a good idea. They will also be good to add to the homeschooling activities for when school starts again as there will be no morning nap to keep these little ones occupied while I school the older children anymore.

Our 6 year old used coloured contact paper to cover a small box to make this Montessori style practical life activity. A bunch of straws to post through the hole at the top and a small window on the side to shake them back out again did the trick. It was a hit immediately and I had to hide it away to ensure that the novelty hadn’t worn off before we even got to the plane as our youngest lady seemed determined to repeat the activity over and over!

Our 8 year old designed this one completely on his own without any input from me at all. He covered strips of cereal box on both sides to make them look attractive and pulled out a plastic money-box to post them in. Another Montessori style practical life activity for the plane trip.

This was the four year old’s creation. Strips of contact around a baking powder tin, several length of ribbon tied together and a cross shape cut into the lid to pull it through. Again, it was a great hit with the ribbon being pulled out and stuffed back in (by a grown-up) at least 5 times in a row. This one is more a baby activity but will keep their interest for a while. For many more ideas for keeping children happy and content during a plane or car trip, check out this post on travelling with young children. We will be making up our snack bags and pulling out the water painting, drawing and other ideas again and hopefully this trip will go as smoothly as the last one did.

Camping with little ones, heat and ticks.

School holidays are upon us. For those of you who are heading off camping with your families over the school break, well done! You are creating memories that will last a lifetime and taking one more step towards building a strong family identity. I thought I would post the following story which I wrote after a camping trip with my family at the beginning of the year . With five children 7 and under at the time, it was an interesting experience and yes, we will do it again over the Christmas break! (Just without the ticks this time.)

After 2 days of planning and organizing around all the usual daily activities, we woke early and were on our way by 8.30am, which wasn’t a bad start as it was only 30 minutes after we had hoped to leave. We drove the 1 ¼ hour distance to the Neergabby campsite and were pleasantly surprised at how close it actually was. We pulled into the driveway to be greeted by Nan and Granddad and the rest of their 4 wheel drive club and informed that the campsite was riddled with large ticks. After some debate it was decided that it may be best to set up camp away from the trees and longer grass as there appeared to be less of an infestation there. (This of course meant that we were in the full sun on a 31 degree day.) We set up camp without much assistance from the children who were eager to get out and meet the gang and begin events for the day.

We enjoyed a pleasant day of games and craft with the whole group, young and old, lunch on the verandah, cups of teas and chit chat – while looking after our 5 of course. The twins found several willing hands to be passed around to and the older children had a couple of other playmates to run about with. They received an extremely generous Christmas bag from a club member and copious amounts of lolly bags and chocolate prizes throughout the day to give the kids that sugar rush we parents always love.

The late afternoon was filled with sliding down the plastic sheet waterslide pulled by a rope which was enjoyed immensely but ended tragically as the soldier ants whose nest we had apparently disturbed finally came out to find out what was going on over their heads. Several children (including 2 of ours) suffered painful stings. We cleaned up for a sumptuous Christmas banquet under the beautifully decorated rotunda. Mum and Dad were camp directors and had knocked themselves out making it special for everyone and didn’t sit down the entire weekend.

All children were bedded down by 8 and quiet when I checked on them (I think they heard me coming) and all was well for a while, until Master 7 appeared to tell us that one twin had been woken up by everyone else talking. We settled him down, got all the others quiet and Daddy stood guard for noise outside the tent while I returned for the raffle draw. The stayers kept on for the guitar led singsong, but we retired fairly early to bed.

We both struggled to go to sleep, being either too hot in our sleeping bags or too cold out of them. The night wasn’t tooo bad – I was only awakened once for the toilet, twice for “I can’t get back in my sleeping bag” (from a previously hot but now cold child who was under the bag rather than in it), once to feed a baby (also awakened by the sleeping bag incident) and finally to push another child back onto her own mattress (she had turned sideways and was trying to get comfortable at her brother’s feet – grumpily telling him “Don’t, stop it, stop it,” as she was kicked in the head while he tried to push her off him in his sleep.) The kookaburras started at 4/4.30am but went away fairly quickly, the first neighbours were chatting around 6am and the first child was awake at 6.30am, needing to go to the toilet.

Breaky of toast, eggs and leftover ham was up on the verandah in a lovely cool breeze and after this leisurely start, we faced the task of packing everything back in the car and trailer again.

We spend 2 hours in the already boiling sun re-packing all the gear into the car and trailer while the twins sleep in their pram in the shade (lucky them!) Miss 3 1/2 completely lost it and spent the whole packing time crying about her sore arm, sore tummy and how tired she felt and the oldest two pestered us continuously to eat more lollies and chocolates from their Christmas bags. Fellow campers flipped camper-vans back together in 20 minutes and enjoyed a cuppa in the shade whilst pondering the joys of being Grandparents rather than parents and packing for 2, rather than 7. We spent the morning wondering whether all our fond memories of camping growing up were due to the obliviousness of childhood and selective memory, however Mum tells me that no, it wasn’t anywhere like this much work for them!

We finished eventually and took leave of the camp-site, electing to skip the car museum trip and simply head home with our tired crew. Master 7(who sits between the twins) was very patient and kept busy giving the twins offers of milk and finger food during the trip while Miss 3 1/2 told us over and over that her tummy and arm hurt until she finally fell asleep.  Twenty minutes down the road, Master 7 informed us that there was a brown substance (that looked exactly like melted chocolate but unfortunately wasn’t) on the baby toy, his hands and oozing out of a twin’s nappy into the car seat. We stopped by the side of road to change said twin, including his clothes, wipe his seat, Master 7’s hand and wrap up the toy to deal with later. We resumed the trip again to hear a yell from the back seat that there was a tick on the feeding pillow. We stopped the car again and I threw the tick out of the window with my bare hands (Mummy to the rescue yet again.) The final tick count for the weekend: 3 off the sides of the tent, 2 off the floor of the tent, 4 off the children, 3 off Daddy, 1 off me and many sightings. God answered my prayers and none actually bored into skin.

Twenty minutes further into the journey Miss 3 1/2 woke up, cried and threw up in her lap. We stopped by the roadside yet again to clean her up the best we could, wondering throughout whether ticks were crawling up my legs or were they just flies I could feel? As we set off yet again, Daddy and I laughed uncontrollably at the absurdity of the situation and wondered what could possibly go wrong next. We FINALLY reached the city and the home stretch, only to hear Master 7 tell us that he needed to go to the toilet and no, he couldn’t wait 15 minutes until we got home. We pulled off the freeway and stopped by a clump of out of the way bushes for longer than would ordinarily be necessary (apparently he really did need to go) and set off again.

At the next set of lights, the guy in the next car wound down the window to tell us that we were dragging an occy strap, so we pulled over once more, wondering what it could be as we don’t have any occy straps?! Turns out to be someone else’s occy strap which has hooked around the trailer lights and pulled them out of the socket (meaning we’ve had no lights for who knows how long) and badly damaging the attachment which miraculously turns out to still work when reattached but will need replacement later. After looping through the South Terrace area to get back on the Freeway we noted that we had taken 20 minutes to go 5 minutes worth of distance.

On arrival home (which we were amazed to see was only 2 hours after leaving instead of the 3 hours it felt like) we fell out of the car, fed lunch to the now crying babies and older children (not crying but complaining at the removal of their lolly bags for later), washed and re-dressed Miss 3 1/2, put twins to bed, send older 3 to room time, spent ½ an hour unloading the car and dumping everything to be dealt with later, ate some lunch ourselves and collapsed in a heap.

We looked around the house and noted that it had not cleaned itself in our absence and was now littered with all the camping gear as well and decided not to go camping again until all children were old enough to carry their own gear and put up their own tent… until the next time that is – got to build those childhood memories! We hear Dunsborough is nice over Christmas time…..

Travelling with young children – plane trips

Earlier this year we took a plane trip with 5 children aged 8 and under. While our children are generally well behaved, it was not without some trepidation that we embarked on this experience, particularly when we thought about the long hours with TWO 15 month old toddlers to keep entertained.

We also had 5 days at a conference once at our destination and although there was one session per day of children’s activities planned, we had potentially a lot of time throughout the remainder of the day when we would have to keep the children quietly entertained. What to pack?? Here is our survival list, both for the plane trip itself and for quiet times throughout the day.

1. Snacks

Any parent of young children knows that you never leave home for any length of time without snacks and this was no exception. We bought an assortment of dry snacks and treats that wouldn’t make a mess and shared them out between little ziplock bags. Each bag was labeled with the child’s name and when it was for; one for the plane ride over, one to come home and one for each day of the conference. They included yoghurt coated sultanas, mini pretzels, dried banana, several varieties of cereal, tiny teddy biscuits and a lollipop per bag and as we rarely buy this kind of food they were a real treat.

2. Books


A couple of new books (new to the kids anyway) and a few favourites that were suitable for all ages. At one point we looked over and the big burly gentleman that had the dubious pleasure of sharing a row with us was reading one of the books to our 3 ½ year old! Not sure how that came about but it was very cute.

3. Sticker books

Another quiet and absorbing activity and as we were catering for a variety of ages perfect for us. The three older children all love to do stickers, particularly the girls.

4. Drawing equipment


Magic markers (they change colour when you draw over the top with the colour change pen) were new to the children and so had novelty factor. A mini whiteboard and eraser is good for even the littlies under supervision and a general supply of gluing, cutting and drawing equipment was useful for when other children wanted to join in.

5. Activity books

Dot to dots, mazes, colour-by-number and other simple puzzles keep the older two busy and number 3 enjoys simply colouring in the pictures.

6. Water painting books

These are brilliant. A small brush and a little water is all that is required and the pictures change colour in front of their eyes. The children especially loved these, although they completed them very quickly and they were fairly pricy considering the small amount of time they occupied. I had a lot of trouble locating any in the shops and ended up buying this set on ebay for around $5 per book including postage.

7. Toddler toys



I find toddlers the hardest to cater for. They have the shortest attention span and are easily bored with the toys they have already used at home, plus commercial activities often tend to be large and bulky. I have found with my own children that a selection like the ones above of new activities with equipment I can gather from around the house is even better that trying to pack their usual toys and holds their interest longer because they are new. I also capitalized on current interests such as putting on hats, brushing their own hair, Velcro, posting objects etc Obviously, behaviour training is very important and teaching toddlers to sit and concentrate at home during highchair time, mat time, playpen time and other structured elements in your routine pays off in situations like this. If a toddler is not taught to sit still and focus on an activity and to stay where Mum and Dad put them, then a plane ride is not going to be a pleasant experience at all.

8. Playdough

I didn’t get this out on the plane but it was a nice afternoon quiet time activity and was easily shared with new friends.

9. Lacing and sewing activities


I purchased the Filo lacing and lacing cards from Skillbuilders, an occupational therapy business. They are excellent for fine motor control but do require more effort. I use these in my homeschooling activities but find that the children would not generally choose to use them just for fun. They were well used on the trip though simply because they were new.

10. Toy cars

Again, good for all ages and compact for travel. We were allocated one item of carry on luggage and one suitcase per person (including the twins), plus a baby bag, a portacot and a twin stroller and we used every single bit of it. The eldest child dragged two carry on suitcases on wheels, the girls had one each plus a jacket and hubby and I had the rest between us plus 2 babies. Moving about was not an easy affair but we did get excellent service as the air hostesses took one look at us and instantly we had pity factor. Especially when we first arrived and hubby went to park the car after dropping us and the luggage off at the entrance. I was asked in horror(?) if I was travelling alone with the children as the bags were carried through and we received one on one attention to get through the queue.

11. Wikki Stix

These are wax coated bendable sticks (also known in Australia as Bendaroos) that will stick to themselves and almost any smooth surface. The children can make models, spell out words, make pictures and put them to a variety of other uses due to their open ended nature. They are clean, quiet, small and easily portable so brilliant for travel. I did read on one parenting forum though that they are poisonous if ingested so without knowing if this is true or not, I am very cautious with the twins not to let them get a hold of them.

Two more activities that we didn’t take this time, but have used for travel activities in the past are:

12. A roll of alfoil.

Yep, that’s it! You’d be amazed at what kids can do with a roll of alfoil; it makes an excellent sculpting material. I trawled the net and found a bunch of pictures and included these as springboards for ideas and they went from there.

13. A packet of pipe cleaners.

Again, I found heaps of pipe cleaner creations on the web, printed them out as ideas and the kids created to their heart’s content.

In the end, we only used half of the activities that we took, but we made it there and back in fairly good humour and the people around us didn’t have much to complain about!

Check out this post and this one for more related travel activities for toddlers and children.