One thing I’ve realized in the 5+ years I’ve been a traveling parent and the 5+ years Have Baby Will Travel has been online, is that babies and toddlers find pretty much everything interesting,and the whole idea of baby travel toys is really more for you than for them. However, babies are not renown for their attention spans, so it’s a good idea to bring along some toys, games, and activities that will last, and if they’re multi-purpose, even better. While I don’t think you need to go out and buy all new toys and things for your trip, baby will be excited by one or two new playthings, and they *should* hold interest for a little longer than usual. While they can be expensive, tablet computers are truly a game changer when it comes to keeping your little one busy on a plane. Whether or not you embrace technology for tots, consider allowing their use during travel and your life will be considerably easier!
Some of these I’ve used personally and loved. Some of these I wish were invented when my kiddos were smaller (hello, iPad!). All of these are pretty much guaranteed to keep your little one busy while en route but hopefully keeping mess and noise to a minimum.
These days a lot of the fun stuff for baby makes noise, and that’s not necessarily fun for your fellow passengers. These adorable headphones have come with us on every trip, and you can adjust the volume via the cord, as well as at the audio source. These baby and toddler headphones are cute enough for baby to wear, but also functional enough for you to use for the inflight entertainment should your little one nod off mid-flight. I can’t say enough about these toddler headphones, I think they’re great, and they’re not expensive either.
These cute stuffies are not just huggable, but they also offer lots of fun bits and bobs to keep baby busy. The attached velcro strap is great for keeping it attached to the stroller, it would also work really well attached to your seat belt on the plane, thus avoiding contorting yourself into various new yoga postures in order to retrieve it from the aircraft floor. It comes in an adorable bear, dog, monkey, owl, and lamb, with all sorts of textured and embroidered details.
Also from Skip*Hop, the Treetop Friends Stroller Toys attach to the stroller bar or car seat handle (while in transit, not in car as apparently that’s dangerous) to keep baby busy and interested while you’re on the go. The attached links also allow the toy to be hitched onto diaper bag straps so you have easy access if need be. I had a few things similar way back when, but they were nowhere near as cute as this little owl, birdie and apple.
Once, during a restaurant meal that promised to become unpleasant in mere moments, I frantically rummaged through my diaper bag to find something, anything, to keep Bub busy and entertained. I’m not sure where or how that small pack of flash cards came to be in my bag, but now they’re my go-to emergency kid busy-er. For some reason, not knowing what picture is going to pop up next thrills my toddler to no end, and the fact that a pack of cards takes up so little room for such a big payoff means I will likely always have them on standby – even when my kids become *technically* too big for them.
Before we kick it new school, I can’t say enough about kicking it old school. Crayons and paper or a few new colouring books can keep by kids busy and engaged for hours. And even when my son was as young as 14mos., he doodled almost half of our flight to Jamaica, and slept for the other half (yes, I do count my lucky stars). I’ve always lugged along my crayons in a clear plastic baggie – keeps them together but you can still see them – but I’m kind of in love with this travel crayon and paper holder from Etsy – it holds up to 14 colours.
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When toddlers get bigger, sometimes their toys get smaller. I dreaded the day my daughter expressed an interest in Polly Pockets, but I know a decent selection of dinky cars will keep my son quite busy and happy for hours. Trouble is, these things and all their tiny pieces are not exactly conducive to travel – until now. This ingenious little mat (it comes in a big one for use at home) acts as a play mat, and then when the kids are done, it swoops up the toys into a little drawstring bag. I feel a little more confident bringing along smaller toys now, since this helps keep them all together while they’re playing, and then stores them together during transport.
Ok so we’re getting a little bit new school (ha!) here with the Travel Etch A Sketch. I bought one of these for one of our trips purely for nostalgia, and figured I’d be the only one playing with it. Not so – both my kids really enjoyed doodling with it, and found that Bub really seemed to enjoy honing his fine motor skills while turning the little wheels and creating temporary masterpieces, one straight line at a time.
Now I suppose this could be considered Etch A Sketch 2.0 as the Travel Aquadoodle is like a handy dandy combo of the classic crayons and paper plus the Etch A Sketch, but with a twist – you draw with a pen filled with water. Other than the chance of becoming a little damp, this gadget is really a no mess and no paper way of keeping little hands and minds busy with creative pursuits in a device just a bit bigger than an iPad, but obviously a fraction of the cost.
If you have not yet upgraded to the world of the tablet (and beware, once you do it’s impossible to go back), portable DVD players allow you to utilize that massive collection of DVDs that you have spent so much money on and likely lost the digital download code for (ahem). Portable DVD players have come a long way in terms of size, weight, and cost, and it certainly might make more sense to drop $100 or so on a player to use your library of DVDs, rather than hundreds on a new tablet AND then additional spends on apps and new movies and shows. I like this one that has the swivel screen – make sure you have a headphone splitter so two kiddos can plug in their awesome new headphones!
iDolls are a most modern take on a noise machine or other lovey – with built-in speakers and an MP3 port safely tucked away inside, parents can download their favorite music or sounds, and the cute dolly (Lulu in pink or Pax in blue) plays whatever music, message, or white noise mom or dad has downloaded.
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There are plenty of tablet computers on the market, but really, there’s only one – the iPad. While I liked the Playbook for its smaller, more toddler-friendly size, the dearth of kiddy apps truly made it impossible to compete. On the last three trips we’ve taken we’ve been iPad owners, and with the addition of a few new apps and shows, our children were quiet, busy, and engaged for the entire duration of our flights. There are a plethora of apps available for younger babies and toddlers as well. My recommendation is to begin your journey with some low-tech toys and books, and bring out the tech as a last resort. If your children should possibly tire of the tablet, it’s fairly impossible to interest them with anything else afterwards!
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