The "One New Toy Per Hour" strategy may sound excessive. But to any parent who's tried keeping a toddler occupied on a long trip, it can be a real sanity saver. In those months and years before your kids become permanently attached to various electronic devices, this plan can keep them busy and entertained. Here's how it works:
In a backpack or small kid-sized bag, pack enough toys to pull out one new distraction for every hour of the trip, plus a few extras because of delays. This kit can be completely refreshed for each trip, or it can be a selection of toys that only come out for travel.
The toys themselves don't have to be expensive, or even things you buy. A cardboard paper towel tube can keep some kids busy for an hour, especially if you demonstrate how cool talking and singing into it sounds. You can spend five bucks in a dollar store and come out with five car-worthy play things. They may not last long, but you can probably get at least an hour out of them.
Car trip kits can include noisier toys than air travel kits. But you may want a few more toys in your kit for plane trips, just because a cranky or crying kid is more stressful for all when you're surrounded by innocent bystanders and seat mates.
Here's a list of ideas for toys to include, with some links to retailers for several of them. These links tend to be for pricier versions -- the same toys can often be found at low-end variety stores or even improvised from materials at home.
- Matchbox-size toy cars and planes
- Sewing cards with shoelaces to "stitch" the picture
- Action figures
- Dolls (even better if it's a doll exclusive to the travel kit)
- Finger puppets
- Crayons or markers and pad
- Coloring books
- Magic slate (the gray tablets you draw on with a stylus and then lift the film to erase)
- Nesting boxes or cups
- Books (especially new ones or ones they haven't seen recently)
- Flash cards with pictures and words or ABCs
- Stuffed animal (especially one that only lives in the trip kit)
- Rubber or plastic animals, sometimes sold in themed plastic tubes (jungle, ocean, dinosaur)
- Sticker books
- Large wooden beads to string on a shoelace
Posted by Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, who also blogs about professional performance and quality of work-life at www.life-sizedbusiness.com.