What's a Kid To Do: Keeping Your Kids Engaged During Breaks and Travel
What’s a Kid To Do?
PANIC is beginning to set in! While recently scrolling on the mom social media pages, I have already been seeing stressful pleas for activities to keep kids occupied during the upcoming extended vacation. School breaks often come with a mixed bag of emotions for parents. Many caregivers wonder:
What are they going to do all day?
How will they make it through a four hour plane ride?
Will they be fussy during the whole drive?
We love spending time with our kids, but it can be a real struggle to find creative ways to keep our littles engaged during extended breaks or holiday travel. No worries dear friends, we’ve gathered some tried and true ways to help you keep the kids occupied so you can maintain a semblance of peace during your spring break downtime.
Small World and Loose Parts Play
Loose parts are exactly what they sound like. They are a random collection of items that can be used in open-ended ways as design or building elements, characters, props, or to create settings. Loose parts can be either natural or synthetic items. They can be found outside or inside of the home or care setting. When looking for loose parts, be resourceful and curious (use anything from rocks to toy figurines). For loose parts and small world play, I have found great success at both home and in the classroom by combining natural items, small trinkets, blocks or building supplies (including recyclables), fake plants, and small figurines – such as TOOB toys or Good Luck Minis.
It is often helpful to define an area for the small world and loose parts play. Trays, small rugs, mats, etc are good options for establishing a contained play area. If your child is struggling with completely open-ended options, you can start out with a themed small world set up that includes loose parts that obviously fit with the theme (For example - a tub of water with ocean animals, aquarium plants, shells, etc). Check out our Instagram account and this blog post for more information on small world play.
Arts and Crafts
The beauty of arts and crafts is that it is accessible, in some form, to everyone. Art is also a very calming endeavor, and we all want calm kids during break!
One of my favorite art activities is just simple drawing. Give those kiddos some paper and markers or crayons and let them go to town. You may find that some kids get a bit overwhelmed with free drawing. For kids that like more structure, you can use drawing books, figurines for still life inspiration, or partner drawing (taking turns adding elements to a picture).
Some additional arts, craft, and DIY:
- Studio in a Box
- Magic Markers
- Sargent Art Crayons 24 pack
- Tru-Ray® Construction Paper Smart-Stack™
- Art Street® Draw & Color Pad
- Pacon® Triangular Dry Erase Markers
- BiOBUDDi Pixel Create Sets
- My Fairy Garden Light Garden
- National Geographic Dig Kits
- DIY Calm Down Jar
- DIY Fairy Garden
- Stamp painting with figurines - use animal or other figurines to dip into washable paint and stamp onto paper.
- Repaint and Wash - using washable paint, your kiddo can repaint toy figurines. After they are finished, they can give the figures a bath.
Storytelling and Books
“Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them.” – Neil Gaiman
“There is more treasure in a book than all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney
Setting out a browsing basket of books for your kiddo is an easy and low prep activity. If they are too little to read, they can do a “book look,” which involves simply looking at the pictures or making up a story to go along with them. It’s a good idea to model this a few times before expecting young ones to do it on their own. Check out this blog post for more ideas on books and pre-readers. You can also add a basket of animal figurines and loose parts that match the story characters and setting elements. Another fun way to extend book time is by helping your kids create a reading blanket fort or cozy corner (complete with flashlights, plush friends, and pointers).
Storytelling is an integral part of the human experience. We use stories to entertain, teach, and bond. A fun way to encourage storytelling is through the incorporation of concrete props like puppets, figurines, etc.
Amp up storytelling fun by having your child pick a figurine(s) out of a bag to tell a story about. This can be an independent, partner, or group activity. This was always one of my kid’s favorite activities on drives or at restaurants. Check out this blog post for more ideas on incorporating toys in storytelling.
Building and Design
Building blocks of all types seem to be a universal love of kids. My own kids have always been highly entertained with both open-ended building, build challenges (like they do on Lego Masters), as well as sets with instructions. Building supplies can also be incorporated into small world play or as props for making stop motion videos. Building and designing are also fantastic STEM activities.
On the Go in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Keeping confined children calm and engaged is certainly a number one priority during travel. We want to do everything we can to make driving or flying less stressful on your family (and your fellow travelers).
It’s always a good idea to have several different types of activities when heading out on the open road. I always liked to pack a “Mary Poppins” bag of goodies to keep my kids happily engaged. Through taking many trips on planes and in cars with my kids, I found that having an assortment of activities from these five categories is helpful for promoting peaceful trips.
- Sensory Activities (playfoam, putty, fidget toys, etc.)
- Snuggle or Comfort Item (blankets, plush, favorite book, etc.)
- Sparking Curiosity (Books, Magazines, activity books, I Spy check list, Mad Libs, games, or riddles)
- Fine Motor Activities
- Drawing or Coloring
- Peel and Stick (stickers, window clings, magnetic playsets, post it notes, masking tape and small figurines to “trap” and rescue, etc)
- Tearing Paper (Old magazines are great!), and then they can glue the pieces down or just put them into a container
- Transferring objects (tongs, tweezers, spoons, and small objects like Good Luck Minis)
- Small items that have been individually wrapped in wrapping paper or tape for kids to unwrap
I love using portable organizers, such as this Multicolored Toy Organizing Bin, to keep smaller items organized, contained, and easily accessible. It’s easy to grab and go! As an added bonus, you can throw just a few of the small individual containers in a purse or diaper bag.
Get the Kids Outside
Nature is balm for the soul. I have always found that getting my kids outside is a surefire way to help improve their moods. We love taking Safari Ltd. figurines outside. Our figurines have joined us on many adventures in the yard, woods, beach, and lake. Kids can use figurines in outdoor small world play, acting out adventures, toy hide and seek, water play, Shadow Play, etc. The Safariology line also has wonderful items for learning about animals and exploring the outdoors!
Family Fun Time – Games and Cooking
Some of my favorite memories with my family involve playing cards, games, and Puzzles. Playing games are a perfect way to bond with your kids. They also teach cooperation, following directions, taking turns, and many additional educational skills.
Another fabulous way to bond with kids and improve their moods is through their tummies! Baking together builds wonderful memories and lots of fun!
Whether you are having a staycation or hitting the road, I hope that these suggestions bring your kids loads of engagement and joy during the upcoming school break!