For Babies and Toddlers
Sometimes the simplest -- and least expensive-- things can delight a baby (at least for a few minutes.) Such as a couple of pieces of mega-blocks that she can try to piece together. Or a few magnetic stick-together blocks, or a safe little plastic mirror.
Here are items that are simple, inexpensive, and easy to bring along:
- bubbles -- always fun for a quick amusement with wee kids. (Remember though that passengers are limited in the liquids they can bring on airplanes.)
- balls, to use at rest areas during car trips
- nested containers, and objects to put into them
Fun Stuff for Pre-Schoolers
Preschool kids love picture books, pop-up books, and sticker and activity books that can often be bought inexpensively. Pre-schoolers can also be amused by simple things from home:
- Masking tape - kids have fun just sticking and unsticking it
- Post-it notes
- Paper and a paper punch
- Triple-wrapped presents or snacks (- the unwrapping is the fun part)
- A metal tray with magnets
- A story told and retold: learn a long story and tell it well, as kids like to hear the same story over and over
This is a great age for activity sets: stick-on play sets, craft sets with yarn or felt, booklets of tattoos, colored beeswax for modeling... Also check out Klutz Activity Kits for some creative examples of fun kits for road trips.
This is also a good age for the popular Leapfrog Leapster handheld games for ages 4 to 8. These games feature popular animated characters, with an educational twist.
Kids in this age group can also have great fun with simple travel games such as the License Plate Game: have a look at some Travel Games to Print Out.
And they can still be captivated by the simple magic of telling a story. One reader sent in the suggestion of a "story bag": write phrases on scraps of paper; pull one out of the bag, start a story, pull out another one....
Older Kids' Fun Stuff
Yes, movies are great to pass the hours on a long car ride. But give a thought also to audiobooks, and especially to listening to the audiobook together on your vehicle's sound system. Kids aren't glued to yet-another screen, the whole family shares the story, and also share the experience of watching the landscape outside.
Also for older kids: visit a good kids' bookstore and check out the non-book items, such as the latest card-based games or puzzle games that are perfect to tote along on a trip. Travel-sized board games are great as well.