Traveling with young children can be a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs – smiles and laughter one moment, whining and meltdowns the next. Expecting an infant or toddler to stay happily contained in a car seat, on an airplane, or in a restaurant for extended periods of time is unrealistic, but with a little planning, you can make sure that your diaper bag is equipped with a “travel fun kit” of small, portable toys good for multiple purposes, situations, and environments.
Beyond the almighty DVD player, by taking along the right toys, you can help keep your little ones entertained… and your sanity in tact. Here's how to build a fantastic “fun kit” of travel-friendly toys:
1) Choose items that are small, portable, and multi-purpose – the less room the toy takes, the better.
2) Pick a variety of toys that stimulate your child in different ways. Then you are more likely to have the “right” toy on hand for any given situation (i.e., building, banging, reading, drawing, imaginary play, etc.)
3) Keep the toys together in a small stuff sack that can be readily accessed in your diaper bag or carry-on. Alternatively, toddlers love having their own little backpack or rolling suitcase for holding toys and snacks while traveling.
My Favorite Travel Toys
Just for infants:
For making music:
- Miniature maracas. Great for roadtrip sing-alongs and doubles as a bath toy. (RhythMix Chick-itas Maraca)
- Water flute. Fun bath toy (and toy in general) that doesn’t take up much room. (Water Flutes Tub Tunes $10)
For active little fingers:
- Plastic blocks. For plane travel, just bring a few different pieces. For car travel, bring the entire bag! These can also double as bath toys. (Mega Bloks $22)
- Stacking/nesting cups. Incredibly compact for travel when nested together. Easy to play with on airplane tray tables, perfect for the beach or sandbox, and doubles as a bath toy. (Mula stacking/nesting cups $8, $2.49 at Ikea)
- Travel-sized, no-mess drawing boards. Great for car rides, plane rides, and restaurants – with no mess! Look for a magnetic board (Travel Doodle Pro $15) or Aquadoodle's coloring tablet, which includes a pen that you fill with water and use on a specially designed surface that changes color when wet, returning to the original state when dry! (Aquadoodle Travel N Doodle $16)
- Coloring books or activity books with re-usable stickers. Great for airplanes, restaurants, and hotels. (Crayola Washable markers or crayons are a must – easy to clean if your kid gets marker on his hands or on the wall! Crayola’s triangular crayons don’t roll, which is perfect for airline travel!)
For some mental stimulation:
- Miniature board books. Look for tiny, sturdy books that include movable parts and flaps to keep your toddler busy. (Mini Movers series: “This Little Doggy” or “This Little Fish” $5)
- 3D image viewer. A classic 3D toy that can keep your toddler intrigued for long stretches of time. This is a good DVD alternative for parents who don’t want their kids zoning out in front of a movie. (Viewmaster Classic $9 and up)
For imaginary play:
For when you have more space:
- Small, flexible ball. Easy to squeeze into a bag and can double as a bath toy. (Oball $8, Gertie $3-4, inflatable beach ball)
What are your favorite travel toys for your little tots?
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updated: July 01 2010 by RESTless