An all too familiar question, once again, echoes from the back seat of the car-- "Are we there yet?" You have actually been on the road for a total of "five" whole minutes! Yes, as parents, we have all heard these words before and alas, we shall hear them again. However, being in the "Know" about great travel toys and activities will enhance any excursion. Whether it's a visit to the doctor's office, a holiday, or waiting in a restaurant, an airport or check out line, while enroute or at your destination, it is important to know which toys and activities will provide the most possible amount of fun! For example, lets take a family holiday which would encompass a wide scope of "Toys-on-the-Go". We must keep in mind however, that these ideas can be adapted to any situation where you would want to take a toy that is compact, lightweight and self-storing. All "Toys-on-the-Go" are identified in the Canadian Toy Testing Council's TOY REPORT by a car icon. Oh, about that holiday...
Plan and Organize
The key in making your holiday more enjoyable, is to ensure that the travelling portion of the trip becomes an integral part of the actual holiday, rather than the "Let's get there as fast as we can" scenario. Incorporating this idea into the initial plans can create an atmosphere for a much more relaxed time. It is important to involve all family members in the planning process, as children feel a great sense of pride and responsibility when they are included and encouraged to contribute their ideas.
An older child could send away to a tourist information office for pamphlets and maps related to your destination. If the trip is a new adventure, older siblings could read to younger ones about the type of excursion they will be taking. The children could prepare lists of items that will be required for the trip, even the younger ones could choose a few special toys and games they would like to bring. If travelling by car, your route could be outlined on a map; the children could calculate the total kilometres you will be travelling, plan some special activities for your stop spots, or perhaps for a change of scenery, help map out a different route for your return trip.
When travelling by car, make sure items that will be used enroute are easily accessible. Be sure children have their in-car travel toys with them, as this will avoid unnecessary stops to retrieve items from the trunk.
Off we go! The key to success while enroute is "variety" and also not waiting too long for that all-important stop when everyone can get out and stretch. Creative arts and crafts, whimsical games or educational toys are types of activities that can vary in nature from individual, shared, active or quiet play.
To make toys easily accessible for infants, attach soft, chewy and interesting toys to the car seat with plastic links. This makes for easy retrieval and prevents toys from being thrown. Older children can keep their toys together in a backpack, tote bag or large pocketed slipcover that fits over the head rest of the front seat and holds toys, books, games and tapes.
Consider keeping a few new toys, books or tapes hidden to bring out at appropriate intervals. Wrapping them makes them extra special and items new to your children or not played with for some time will capture their attention longer. Consider having separate toys or activities for your destination. Arts and Crafts which require fine motor coordination may be appropriate to do at your destination, but the motion of a car, train, or airplane may adversely affect the finished product and child's satisfaction. Storybook tapes (try the pop-up storybooks with tapes) and music tapes are always captivating for quiet times. Colouring books, crayons, and basic activity books are great to bring, and be sure to include washable markers. A fun slate can provide lots of entertainment with no mess and no extra paper needed. A portable lap tray, clipboard or even a cookie sheet can all be used for writing and colouring, or as a base for a simple frame puzzle. Sticker books are popular, and the reusable vinyl stickers on a car, train, or airplane window can amuse and stimulate imaginative play.
Hand or finger puppets can be entertaining for both solitary play and for an older sibling or parent to entertain a younger child. Binoculars to view the landscape or portable toy telephones to have imaginary conversations are also popular. Educational and computer type toys are great to bring along, but remember to test them out in the car prior to your departure to ensure that the intensity of the sound is tolerable. Hand games, music games, and simple games such as "Simon Says", and "I Spy", or making up stories and having everyone add a line to make a tall tale can create a lot of laughter. Try playing some wit and imagination games; the following provides some examples for a wide age range and many can be adapted accordingly:
ALPHABETS -Players take turns naming in alphabetic order items in a particular category. For example, if the category is food, the first player names a food beginning with the letter "A", and so on. The game can be made more difficult by requiring players to repeat all of the previous items before adding a new one. Another variation of an alphabet game is to find all letters of the alphabet, one at a time in sequence, from signs, license plates and billboards. Young children who recognize their letters can participate in this one.
I'M GOING ON A TRIP AND I'M PACKING... - This is a memory game where each person repeats the first sentence including the previous item mentioned and then adds one of their own. This continues until someone can't remember a previous item listed and can't add a new item. To make it more challenging each player has to "pack" things in alphabetical order, the first player packs an apple, the second a beach towel, the third a camera, and so on. For young players this game can be made easier by not requiring all previous items to be listed.
MATH MASTERMIND - One person calls out the number from a car license plate that has just passed them. The idea of this game is for players to quickly multiply numbers together. The winner is the first with the correct answer. It might be wise to have an adult be the judge; for example: KEZ 942 - multiply 9 x 4 = 36, 36 x 2 = 72.
TRAVEL SENTENCES - Each player takes a turn forming a sentence by picking a place or destination, a form of transportation and an activity that begins with a letter; for example: I'm going to London on a Llama to look for Larry.
GEOGRAPHY GAME - There are many variations of this one. The first player can pick a city, province, state or country, for example: Alberta. The next person must think of a city, province, etc. that begins with the last letter of Alberta, an "A", and so on. Other variations include naming capital cities, spelling geographical locations backwards, etc.
PADIDDLE - In this game all players look for the same thing. For example, look for vans, station wagons, police cars--whatever you all decide on; if it's nighttime you might look for cars with only one headlight. When you spot the chosen item, call out "padiddle!" Keep track of how many "padiddles" you see. The highest score wins.
LOOK AT THE CLOUDS - This game requires only imagination and a cloudy day. Have children look at the clouds and see if they can spot clouds that look like something (for example, a cloud that looks like a lion's head or that is shaped like a car). You'll be surprised at what they can come up with.
You've arrived! Once you have reached your destination, whether it is a cottage, camping, hotel, beach, or visiting friends, you will need some great toy and activity ideas to make your vacation complete! The 1999 TOY REPORT contains hundreds of "Toys-on-the Go" ideas. Order your copy today.
Upon your return home, the children may wish to prepare a summary of your trip, either in writing, by drawing pictures, or by making a tape recording to share with friends and class mates. It is also important to evaluate your trip, keeping in mind what worked and what didn't, and to take note to adjust your strategy accordingly for your next trip. Don't forget to ask the children what toys and activities they enjoyed the most. After all, today's children are tomorrow's experienced travellers!!