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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The obedience roller-coaster

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

Sensory tubs for babies and young toddlers

Our 17 month old is staying with her Grandparents (along with some of her brothers and sisters) for 4 days and they have requested some playpen toys to use while she is there. This sensory tub or “pile of entertainment” is what I came up with. Perfect for highchair, mat or playpen times, these household objects will keep her going longer than the flashiest new toy ever could. (See this post for more info on flexible routines and links for training little people to sit and concentrate for lengthy periods.)

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Containers filled with interesting things are always a hit with this age. Check for choking hazards and make sure nothing is easily breakable. Include objects to open and close, lids to take off and put on, things to fill and spill, stack and fiddle with.

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A pile of plastic picnic plates to stack, old jewellery containers to open and shut, play keys, magnetic wooden ice-cream cone, pretend food, magnetic construction blocks, swizzle sticks in a jar, T/spoon and cup. Wander around the house and pile stuff in. Check the older kid’s toys for anything suitable such as the potato head toy. While she won’t be able to build it, she will take a couple of minutes to pull it to pieces and examine it.

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Take notice of what they pick up and walk around with when on the loose around the house. Mum’s cooking spoon, sister’s comb, brother’s hat, Dad’s shoe – chuck them in.

Poking Q-tips into a spice jar takes some doing at this age (Montessori small spaces activity) and bright books are good, along with a small photo album of family members and other common objects (pets etc.)

All of my children have rejected baby board books at this age but have been particularly interested in paper books. Perhaps because they see everyone around them reading them all the time? I set aside some paper paged books that are not particularly loved in case they get wrecked and give them to the little ones. I find if they are in perfect condition they will rarely be torn, but the moment there is even a small tear it will have a powerful draw and little fingers will have that page ripped out in a flash. It’s irresistible, they just can’t help themselves!

 

 

 

 

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.