I'm only a couple of days into summer vacation with my daughter and it's going really well. I mean, the fact that we don't have to get woken up by an alarm in the morning is all kinds of magical. And ice cream for dessert every night makes my girl happier than you could imagine. I'm so looking forward to a summer with my girl. This means lots of adventures and many of them require us getting into the car for long stretches of time. While Quinn is a champion traveler, she is like all other kids and can get bored quickly and sick and tired of being strapped into her booster seat for hours on end.
Many of you will be traveling this summer as well, and whether you will be traveling by train, planes or automobiles, you will want to have a bag of tricks to keep your kids entertained. Like many of you parents, I don't like to just give her an iPad for hours on end. She also gets bored with it pretty quickly and wants to be entertained in different ways. Entertaining a child in a car can be quite challenging but it can be used as an opportunity to work on some occupational therapy goals. Below, you will find my top 10 activity/suggestions to help make this summer's traveling a little more entertaining for your kids and less stressful for you.
1. AquaDoodle Travel Doodle Mat-I've been a fan of all things by Aqua Doodle for years. I love the idea that you can use water to draw, color and create on a mat and that you can re-use it over and over again. There is no mess at all other than a little wetness from water as you are filling up your pen. Your kids can practice writing letters, draw pictures or play some tic-tac-toe/hangman with each other. If you are willing to spend money and be a bit patient (these take about a month to get delivered), do a search for Tomy Aquadoodle mini mats on Amazon. Instead of it being a blank canvas for kids to use their water marker on, they are little pictures where some of the images are blank that they can color in. Once the water dries, the kids can use them again.
Usbourne Sticker Books-my daughter is a huge fan of these books and has gone through several of them over the years. There are a lot of different ones to choose from so you will be sure to find one that your son or daughter will enjoy. Each book has a handful of characters that you have to dress up with stickers in a bunch of different scenes. For example, there is one that focuses on school and you have to dress the 3 different characters for gym class, for art class, etc.. Not only are these great for improving fine motor skills, it is great for working on eye-hand coordination. If you have a child who needs to work on language skills, you can have them tell a story about the pictures they have created.
Boogie Board-the Boogie Board is an old favorite of mine; check out this post from the past that tells you all about the Boogie Board and all the occupational therapy benefits. In summary, it is a portable LED writing tablet....think modern day Etch-A-Sketch. Kids can draw, practice writing letters/numbers or play games with friends or siblings while in the car. If you have kids who like to draw, but you don't really feel comfortable with them using markers or crayons in a car, this is a perfect option for them. There is no mess to worry about! The best part is that it is incredibly thin and lightweight, taking up almost no room in a travel bag.
4. Water Wow Books-Melissa & Doug are known for so many things, but their collection of reusable coloring books are one my favorite. They are especially great for younger children who aren't really into coloring yet. All you do is fill the pen provided with water and let them color away. As the water dries, the pictures lose their color and they can color them again. This no mess activity can keep your kids entertained for hours! Another great thing is that the books aren't limited to just pictures. They have a great selection of books that help kids learn how to write letters and numbers.
Crayola Color Wonder Books-you know you can't go wrong with Crayola! Their line of Color Wonder Books are great for preschoolers who may not be quite ready to color with real markers (or any coloring tools) while in a moving vehicle. Kids like that they can color their favorite characters in and parents love that the markers are 100% mess free so if your kid tries to color on themselves or the car, it won't matter. To make coloring a little easier, I suggest getting your child a clipboard so they have a sturdy surface while coloring.
Puffy Sticker Play Sets-these reusable puffy sticker sets are a great thing for long car (plane, train, etc.) rides. Each set comes with over 50 reusable stickers and a two sided case to store your stickers when not in use. The set is like a folder so you can easily keep all the stickers in one place when it isn't in use (and it will fit in perfectly in the pocket of a set in your car). Great for working on improving fine motor and manipulation skills, eye-hand coordination and visual perceptual skills. Also great for encouraging creativity and pretend-play with kids. If you want to work on improving language skills, you can have kids tell you a short story about the scene that they worked on once it is complete.
7. Lee Sticker Puzzles-I have been a big fan of these sticker books by Lee Publications for a long time. I was originally drawn to them because they were affordable, motivating and easy to carry around with me from my home-based and school-based sessions. When I started using them, I was excited about how many occupational therapy goals could be worked on when using them. Great for working on improving fine motor and manipulation skills, eye-hand coordination and visual perceptual skills. Also good for working on focus, attention and organization skills. These sticker books are great for all ages as they have books that have only 8-piece puzzles and some that have as many as 45-pieces.
Take 'N' Play Anywhere Games-sometimes kids need more than activity books to keep them occupied on those long car/plane/train rides, especially if you have kids who like to play together. I love all these magnetic games by PlayMonster. They offer a large assortment of magnetic games that are great for kids of all ages. One of the best parts is that they games are small, don't take up a lot of room and all the pieces can be stored inside. My favorites are the Hangman and Matching games. Not only are these magnetic games great for passing some time, they are also great for working on improving fine motor skills such as grasp strength and in-hand manipulation skills, eye-hand coordination and focus and attentional skills.
Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics-easily and hands down one of my absolute favorite therapeutic activity. The Orb Factory Sticky mosaics are great for working on fine motor and grasping skills, eye-hand coordination and visual motor and perceptual skills. Additionally, it's a fun and motivating way to work on improving focus, attention and organizational skills. Kids love that they get to show off their completed project. There are a variety of sets to choose from so if you have a kid who is into fairies or dinosaurs or pirates, you have plenty to choose from. There are also smaller sets available for the younger crowd because you know that if a younger sibling sees their big doing something, they want to be doing it too. These kits don't take up much room and easy to throw in a bag and take with you wherever you are going.
10. Clipboard/Lap Pillow-earlier, I mentioned that kids might have an easier time with some of the coloring and activity books if they had a sturdy surface to lean on. A cheap clipboard from Staples or an office supply store is all you need and it's super easy to store in the pocket of a car seat. Each kid should have their own and you can let each of them personalize it with stickers, markers, etc.. Another great option is a lap pillow but it takes up more room. I like this one by Kikkerland because there is a space for you to put an iPad or tablet so kids can work on an incline surface.
So here are a few of the things that I use with my daughter and always recommend to families to pick up before a long trip. It's so important that kids are kept occupied on long trips or else everyone will go crazy. And let's be honest here....there is only so much kids music (if any) that us parents can tolerate on those long trips. All of the activities and toys that I have recommended are also great for taking from the car to restaurant tables.
Do you have any wonderful on the go toys, books or activities that you rely on for long trips or recommend to your families? I have a lot of long car trips coming up with my girl and am ready to add some new things to her backpack of tricks! I love hearing from all of you and am just a click away!
Happy Summer to you all and may your travels be filled with happy memories!