Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tips For Traveling With Children

Traveling with children..... a challenge.... and not a fun one, many times. We have traveled a lot with our children since one child needed lots of surgeries at a hospital 12 hours from home... and he needed them between one and seven times a year.... for a lot of years.  We also had family who lived 3 hours or 12 hours or 21 hours away... a LOT of traveling.
(More on the medical trips here:  Unfinished Projects   )

This is a Jacob's Ladder.. you hold a block and the others move into place... fun to use and watch.

We had many small children at the time.... riding in a van for 12 hours each way.... not exactly the stuff of dreams. :)  I wanted these to be good trips and God gave me some great ideas. One was that I started watching at garage sales for small toys that could be enjoyed in the car or waiting room. I especially like toys that hold a child's attention and let them use their imagination. I don't like battery operated toys and my children had very few of them - we homeschool and I love to entice my children to learn and explore.... to think and have fun....

Some favorite toys for holding attention are these little toys that have colored water that bubbles through a hole... there are so many different kinds of these types of toys...  and they can be found at garage sales..... though you have to look for a while to find them.

There is just something about watching the bubbles move and the colors change.

 There are so many great toys that can be used... and I am only showing a few of them here.  We had a "Toy Tote" that always went with us... it was a small tote - maybe 18" x 10" x 10" tall. It fit perfectly under the seat in our Ford big van... (we had a matching tote that was the very important "Snack Tote").   I changed the toys in it for different trips.... I never put all of our toys in it, but saved some back for future trips to keep things fresh and interesting. Also, these toys were NOT played with at home... they were trip toys or doctor office toys, so they stayed special.

 These toys are WONDERFUL - many shapes can be made as the sections are manipulated. Recently we have taken these out to show neighbor kids who play with the latest new toys... and they have been fascinated with them as they have never seen them before. :)

 These toys are fun.... there are metal or plastic pegs that when you press something into them, form the design on the other side. Release it and it can be used over and over again.  Here is a hand... the kids can use a toy, a ring, or whatever... it is fun and holds attention for a while.

This is the bottom side that you press something into to form the shape shown on top.
Activities can help so much to entertain your child in a productive way.  A clipboard with paper on it makes a good surface for drawing... pencils and colored pencils are good. We found out the hard way that crayons are NOT good for lots of traveling with they stain they carpet when they melt. :(

Find A Word books, word puzzles, small books, flash cards, and more are great.  A beach ball is a good addition and can be blown up easily/quickly for bigger play at rest stops, to give their muscles some exercise.
 Puzzles of many different kinds are great.... this kind.... or it could be the kind where a metal ball inside a clear plastic box needs to be rolled to a certain spot or down a certain path. One caution on these is to make sure they are not too noisy... if they are, you can be sure this will be the toy your child LOVES to play with until everyone else cannot stand it... so choose quiet ones. :)
Links are great... we used baby links - even though we didn't have many... they were fun for the baby... and we could make a mobile using these to hang a couple of toys within the baby's reach...

When a little older, the child enjoys taking these apart and putting them together. Making color patterns or sorting into single colors.

 This is one of my favorite toys for travel and for waiting. I don't know what it is called as I have only bought them at garage sales. They fold flat, so I kept 2-3 of them in my purse for a few years and it was so easy to pull it out and either show a child the shapes I could make... or hand it to them to allow them to manipulate it.

The toy pulls out and changes shapes. It can even form a ball shape. 

It is good for children to learn to entertain themselves... and small things like this can help. We did not replace the toy every few minutes... if you do that, you will go through  all of your activity supply too quickly and it will also lead to a short attention span for your child.  I would usually allow one or two for a while... usually I did not allow the children to sort through the toys... in fact I tried to keep many of the items secret until I pulled them out. The kids learned to anticipate those surprises and I used them carefully.

We had regular times of clean up and putting toys away. It helped preserve the toys and helped the van not to get AS messy! :)

Books on tape helped to pass the time.... and I would read chapter books to my children and tape them at home, then we took the tapes with us. My family STILL enjoys listening to those when we travel. We also listened to sermons sometimes and discussed them.... or played music. We alternated between kid's music that we would all sing along to... or Praise music, hymns or more.

Sometimes I would do an impromptu craft project with them.... like making yarn pom pom balls..... or paper airplanes that we could fly at the rest stop.....

Polly Pockets were tiny at the time (from garage sales, of course) and my daughter had a few of them and had so much fun bringing those in her little purse and they took up very little room. The boys always had to bring some little cars.... and could play for a long time with them even in the hotel room.

Other activities I have used, include beads(larger ones work well) and string and allow the child to put them on in patterns. I would put some beads in a little bag and encourage the kids to try not to drop them... We took a few trays with us that stacked neatly, but were small and had sides on them to keep their activity on their lap.

I had a lot of little stuffed animals - the ones that are about 1 1/2" long... and the kids LOVED playing with those...... A sand timer can be useful to look at or to time quiet times.....Rubik's Cube, magnetic games like chess or checkers. I would take a few pattern blocks to use in hotel rooms. 

We never had ALL of these things and more at the same time, but I pulled from these... and many many more. We went on at least 50 or more trips in about 10 years' time, so we had to figure out how to make it work. If you know you will be going on a trip, you can start watching and setting things aside for the trip - you can find stuff at garage sales, thrift stores, dollar stores, gifts received and saved, and more. The items do not need to be what I found... just keep watching for items that may be workable for your family.... think "outside the box"

Shared on:

Merry Monday
Women Helping Women
Making Your Home Sing Mondays
True Stories Party
Meet Up Monday
Everyday Life Link Party
The Art of Homemaking
Sharing His Beauty
Link It or Lump It
Homestead Barn Hop
Weekend No Rules
Recommendation Sat
Serenity Saturday
Show & Tell Sat
Weekly Wrap Up
My Favorite Things
Saturday Soiree
Farmgirl FridayThought Provoking Thursday
Hearts For Home
No Rules Weekend Party 
Homeacre Hop
Thriving Thursday
The Homemaking Party
Fabulously Frugal Thursday
Wholehearted Home
Winsome Wednesday
So Much At Home


  1. Hey, I admit it..I love those medal thinga-ma-jiggies....that leave the imprint of whatever touches them..They are fun.. Such great ideas.. I love the thought of kids using things that promotes their imagination.. When my daughters were young..we traveled around for ministry.. I wish I would have been near as creative. Would have been much more pleasant traveling with three girls in the Great ideas.. Blessings!

  2. It can be tiresome for them.... AND for the parents! :) We made so many trips and I was so thankful that God helped me to get better and better at making the trips enjoyable. Thank you for stopping in and commenting.... :)

  3. Traveling with kids can be a real challenge. What great ideas to share. Visiting you from Thriving Thursdays.

  4. For the younger set, pony beads and pipe cleaners are easier to manipulate than string. :)

    1. Yes - we have used the pipe cleaners and I forgot to mention it... the pipe cleaners - the long ones - also work well for just twisting/bending into shapes and sculptures. Thank you for visiting. :)

  5. Hi,
    Nice tips on traveling - I am making mental notes! I have a 6 week old so these will come in handy in years to come. Any suggestions on newborns?! ha!
    Best wishes!

    1. Lots of sleep for Mom and Dad BEFORE the trip! Ha Ha. :) Seriously, though, we had one of those flat baby mirrors that had a mirror on one side and big black and white shapes on the other. We hooked that to the seat so the baby could see it AND we could see the baby from the front. Lots of breaks helps... etc. Thank you for visiting. :)

  6. What wonderful ideas Joy! We have always done the audio books but with 12 hour drives, that might be a bit much for the ears. The toys you shared are great and educational... Thanks for sharing this also :)

    1. Thank you.... we love the audio books and drama on tape also.... I am always watching for more educational fun toys that are inexpensive at garage sales... my dad says, "You always have the most interesting things to look at!" :)

  7. Love, love, love these ideas! Thank you.

  8. Great ideas!! Thank you for linking up at the Everyday Life Link Party!

  9. Great ideas for small children when traveling. Quiet toys are lovely - - good for small children in church too. Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.” At:

  10. Love these activities! My daughter hates the car and traveling is hard, so I will give them a try!