It’s that time of year again folks, time to start thinking about holiday gifts. We’ll be traveling for Thanksgiving this year, so travel is on my mind as I start making my list and checking it twice. Thankfully, this holiday flight is only a short two-hour hop to the Bay Area. As I shop for my nieces and nephews, I can’t help but take a brief trip down memory lane, remembering how I used to keep my children amused on long flights when they were much younger – and of course, think about what works for us today.
Here’s a selection of the toys and games which worked for me – at different ages and stages. Check it out, let me know what you think. I have two boys, so there’s a noticeable lack of Barbie, Polly Pocket and even Bratz on this list. If you have a daughter and I’ve missed a toy or game which keeps her amused when you’re traveling, please, leave a comment and let me know!
Infant (0-6): The Baby Whoozit was a big hit with my boys at this age.
Toddlers (6-24 months): Ah, the ’20-second-attention-span’ age group. I’m sure I carried half my bodyweight in board books in our carry-on bags when my guys were active toddlers. Books by Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss (The Very Hungry Caterpiller, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham) were favorites. Fabric Activity books such as the JUNGLE FUN BOOK by Gund were a nice relief and allowed for a little independent play. Closer to two, reusable sticker books were a big hit.
Preschoolers (2-4 yrs): I don’t homeschool (and would most likely really lose my marbles if I tried), but I do use a lot of homeschooling activity books for travel. They’re very like the Disney-themed activity books easily found in your local drugstore, but without the Disney characters or price tag. These Poof Slinky Buki activity books are excellent for very young children – particularly when there’s an older sibling to emulate On one occasion, in a busy Portugese restaurant, I had four preschoolers (one of mine and his cousins) quietly working on math problems using a Pre-K Workbook while their parents chatted – and helped with some problems. No magic, just some age-appropriate puzzles and a little competition.
This is a good age to introduce audiobooks. My boys started with $10 walkmans and only recently graduated to digital music players. You can now pick up an Apple iPod shuffle for less than $50 at Amazon and Walmart. Unfortunately, the trademark white earbud headphones are just a nuisance with little kids. CAM and BigB use noise-cancelling headphones from Sony. Kid-sized, kid-priced. They even come with their own carrying bag.
Elementary School Ages (5-11 yrs): A little Sudoku, maybe a crossword puzzle book, MadLibs, some audiobooks on (4gb) iPod or Zune, a pack of cards and we’re good to go. Oh, yes, and the dreaded handheld video games. Believe it or not, it is possible for a child to play with his Nintendo DS for eight straight hours on a transatlantic flight. I’m not proud of that fact. I wouldn’t mention it except I did enjoy the movie I was able to watch and being able to arrive at our destination somewhat refreshed after a pretty decent nap onboard.