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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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.