Traveling with Kids? Think Beyond the Coloring Book

When you're traveling with children, it's key to bring the entertainment along. But not all travel activities are created equal. The way we see it, the best portable toys and games educate as well as entertain.

Family adventures are wonderful opportunities for new learning experiences. Children are visiting new places and trying new things. So as far as travel activities go, less is often more. Put imagination into play, and a few well-chosen toys can go a long way. Here are a few staff suggestions, inspired by our Smart Kids on the Go collection.

Activities for Toddlers

Let's link, let's sort, let's make up "countless" activities using one simple toy: our Snap 'N' Learn™ Counting Elephants. Take this bucket of 10 numbered elephants and, for starters...

  • Play hotel room hide 'n seek. You hide 'em, kids' find 'em.
  • Create a pachyderm parade while awaiting your plane. Link them in order, counting tail to trunk.
  • Take a few along for pretend play. Where does the elephant family go on vacation?

And bring a little learning fun along to the beach or pool. For example, have a sailboat race with our Smart Splash® Sail Away Shapes, a flotilla of colorful sailboats. Or build a sand castle for our Smart Splash® Color Penguins (will they float around the moat?) While kids play, they're learning shapes and colors. And Smart Splash® toys include a mesh carry pouch; just shake out the sand!

Activities for Preschoolers

Give your preschooler's imagination a workout, wherever you are. Need some downtime after a busy day outdoors? Turn off the TV, and turn that RV into a classroom with our Pretend & Play® School Set. It's a 149-piece schoolhouse in one compact case. Ring the school bell, teach a lesson, and handout report cards, all before dinnertime.

Ah, family fishing trips! Even three year olds can get in on the action with our Pretend & Play® Fishing Set. Everything—magnetic pole, fish, worms, vest—stores in a compact tackle box. Idea: bring along an extra bucket (water is optional), and your child can fish alongside you. Not to mention from a rocking boat (imaginary, of course) formerly known as…a sleeping bag, picnic table, or hotel couch.


Games for School-Age Kids

Just because kids are on vacation, that doesn't mean their brains should be. Why not incorporate games that also sharpen academic skills?

For example, it's fun to pop your own popcorn over a campfire. Once kids have had their fill of watching kernels explode, pop out the Pop for Sight Words™ Game. Each kernel-shaped card features a different word, and there're many ways to play, whether around a campfire or on an airplane tray.

  • Read your words aloud and collect those kernels. Whoever ends up with the most wins.

Use the 100 cards to string words into sentences. Who can make the longest sentence? Pull out a card. Make a sentence with that word about something you saw or did today.

For long car trips, kids often turn to handheld games. Every so many miles, shake things up: switch out the usual stuff for our 60-second Electronic Flash Card Games. Or, host a travel tournament or relay: kids play a quick round of Minute Math or Word Whiz, then pass the game. Who's solved the most questions? Who's most improved?

Need more ideas? Consider these free, downloadable pages! You can print out the worksheets by clicking the links below.)

  • "Where Are You From?", a geographic twist on the classic license plate game. The objective: spot cars bearing plates from all 50 states and mark them off on our labeled U.S. map as you go. Use each sighting to discuss that state: its capital, climate, what it's known for, etc. The twist: turn it into a Tic-Tac-Toe game. To win, be the first person to see three license plates from the same state and place them in a row!

  • Create a Family Crest. Going to a family reunion, or joining up with family for vacation? Use our Family Crest to connect with family members, near and far! Things to consider: where is our family from? What holidays do we celebrate? What foods do we eat when we're together? Kids will come away with a new appreciation of their family (and grown-ups may, too).

  • Build a Family Tree. Visiting Grandma and Grandpa on your next vacation? Work together to make a Family Tree, using our worksheet. This is a great way to break the ice and get kids talking to relatives they don't often see.

  • Postcards to (or from) home. What did you do today? Use our US Flag Writing Page to create a written memory of your trip, or "staycation". Make it a journal: use a new one each day to record all of your adventures!

  • Scavenger Hunt. Turn waiting time into playtime, while sharpening observational skills. Make a list of people or items to spot on the trip: a purple suitcase, a sneezing baby, a well-known landmark, etc. Make it different: use our ABC Scavenger Hunt to find items that begin with each letter of the alphabet.

  • Get Patriotic! Everyone loves to color, and our Patriotic Themed Coloring Pages will interest artists of all ages. The challenge: invite the whole group or family to have a coloring contest on the way to your destination.

Now, we want to hear from you. Does your family play educational travel games? Have you put your own twist on a classic game, or a Learning Resources® toy or game? We'd love to hear about them. "Like" us on Facebook and join the conversation!