Sure, the journey is part of the fun of traveling, but for toddlers that kind of fun can last about 15 minutes. To the rescue: apps, toys, games and other activites that will keep your kids under 5 engaged and entertained in the car, train, bus, or plane.
Want to get your little one excited about hitting the road? This app lets your child help Jinja the cat prepare for a trip. Kids can pick out which clothes and toys Jinja packs, which friends Jinja should visit, where Jinja will go (like Egypt), and how the cat will get there (a pickle car!).(iOS; $2.99)
Most preschoolers know the classic song by heart, but they’ll still get a kick out of spinning the bus’s wheels, opening and closing the doors, and making the wipers go swish, swish, swish. Even better? They can record themselves as they learn to sing the additional verses—in five languages, no less. (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire; free)
Let your preschooler’s imagination go wild! This app works just like a piece of scratch paper to allow your child to draw sketches or use the two free coloring books (included with purchase!) in a variety of colors and tools.
This classic board game allows for all the fun with none of the stress of cleaning up the pieces. Plus, two players can play at once (great for siblings). Added benefit? Your little ones will be practicing letters and numbers in a totally painless way. (iPad; $1.99)
What better way to learn about the world around him while on the road? This app will transport your child to Africa to hear local music, learn how little kids play “football” (soccer for us) in Portugal, and discover the animals of the Amazon. Get ready for hours of entertainment. (iOS; $4.99)
My Own Leaptop
Now your toddler or preschooler can have her own laptop. The portable LeapFrog computer will keep her busy by teaching her the alphabet and animal sounds, playing 16 different songs and melodies, and letting her exchange preprogrammed emails with a pup named Scout. (toysrus.com $24.99)
If your child likes to draw and you want to limit screen time, this handy travel kit comes with washable markers (a must), a travel board to color on, and an erase cloth. Once the fun is done, it’s easy to pack everything back in the case.
Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad
You won’t hear a peep out of your preschooler once you hand over this giant sticker book that lets her reuse the stickers over and over. Choose from a variety of booklets covering a range of little-kid obsessions, including fairies, cars and trucks, dress-up, animals, and more. (melissaanddoug.com$4.99)
DIY Busy Bags
“Pack brown-paper lunch bags with stickers, crayons, small notepads, jewelry, small cars—anything you have around the house,” suggests Sandra Magura, a mom and kids’ book author in Stafford, VA. When the kids get fussy hand them a bag. You’ll be surprised how creative they can get with the contents. “Sometimes a bag would last 5 minutes, sometimes it would last 20,” says Magura. Either way, it’s a lifesaver when boredom is approaching.
Buy a dozen or so trinkets from the dollar store—foam puzzles, little plushies, tiny trucks—and wrap each one. When kids are on the verge of fighting or melting down, let them pick one and unwrap it. That’ll distract them for a few minutes. Plus, the idea that they get to pick their special treat adds to the excitement.
“Sometimes the best travel games are the old-fashioned ones that require imagination and your participation,” says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a family psychotherapist and author based in Beverly Hills, CA. A few good ones to try:
- The alphabet game: Start with the letter A and find that letter on a sign, truck, building, in-flight magazine, or a license plate (or find an object that begins with that letter, like an apple tree or an airstrip).
- Do a scavenger hunt on the go. Make a list of objects (if you’re on a road trip, it can be cows, silos, bike riders) and try to find those items along the way. This game won’t work as well on an airplane, but can be great in an airport during your layover.
- Create a story word by word: One person starts it with something like “Once,” then everyone takes turns adding another word. Too tedious? Build it sentence by sentence!
- Guess that teacher, cousin, friend (or food, toy, color) by playing Twenty Questions.
Here's to making your next raod trip fun for everyone in the car (or airplane). After all, a happy preschooler/toddler makes the trip enjoyable for everyone else, too!
Photo Credit: baona/iStockphoto