The best children's activities for travelling
As the year draws to a close, our thoughts eagerly turn to the holiday season—a time for rest, cherished moments with family, and often, travel adventures with our little ones in tow.
Travelling with young children, whether by car or plane, can sometimes be a challenge for parents. But fear not, we’ve curated a list of our top activities to keep your little scholars engaged and happy on the journey! To keep the excitement alive, we’ve taken a leaf out of seasoned parents’ books: consider keeping these activities hidden and, for an added touch of magic, wrap them up like gifts to be unveiled en route.
At Little Scholars, we emphasise the importance of parental supervision for these activities. While we champion supporting local businesses, we must note that we cannot vouch for the compliance of their products with Australian safety standards. So while some of our suggestions may include links to Amazon, a third-party retailer, we also include reputable brands known for their strict adherence to safety regulations.
We’re putting this at the top of the list, because they can fit on children of most ages. And, many parents might consider children’s headphones a necessity after a few hours of Cocomelon or The Wiggles on repeat. For children, specially designed ones for their small heads can help block out a bit of outside noise and help them enjoy their music, or children’s audiobooks or podcasts. Parents should look for ones that limit volume to no more than 85 decibels, and there are plenty of wireless or wired options and colours.
Children ages 3-6
The world’s smallest bean bag toss
Bring your childhood nostalgia to the next generation with Polly Pocket. Though heavily marketed at a girl’s toy, we think this is a great sized travel toy for any imaginative child, and the range of options are nearly endless, though the same can be said for the price point, which can start around $20 and go up.
Children can play with these bendable sticks anywhere — on airplane tray tables, in the car, at restaurants, and more.
The individual packs come with a puzzle or shape for the little ones to make with the Wikki Stix. You can also buy kits, like the Wikki Stix Traveler playset that comes with even more activities.
Found in a variety of packs online on Amazon
‘Magic’ Clay or play foam
Also known by other names by various brands, such as ‘Model Magic’, essentially it’s a children’s modelling clay, a slightly different texture to playdough, but its non-crumbling texture makes it less messy than playdough, perfect for driving or flying and keeping mess to a minimum.
Wooden threading toys
Travel Tangram Puzzle
The tangram is a challenging puzzle consisting of seven magnet flat shapes, called tans, which are put together to form shapes. The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape (given only an outline or silhouette) using all seven pieces, which may not overlap.
Children ages 1-3
Colouring is always a great activity for children, and these triangular crayons are perfect for flights! You can put them on the tray table with confidence, knowing they won’t fall off and go rolling down the aisle.
They’re also great for helping young ones practice their writing grip!
A classic child’s activity!
Some great ones include puffy sticker activity books, but children will love any of them, and the variety is endless. You can find them in your child’s favourite characters, including Bluey, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol.
Another idea! Sometimes, the frustrating thing about stickers generally is that once they’re stuck the first time, they’re not likely to stick again. And children love to peel them off and try to stick them again. In the car or on a plane, reusable stickers are great so children can create new play while buckled in.
Gel window clings
Gel window clings are a great activity for babies or young toddlers. Those who are deep in their repetitive schema phase will love to peel these off and replace them again and again. They can be found in a massive variety of styles, and a variety of places in shops and online, Big W, Dymocks, Amazon and more!
Busy boards or books
These are great for toddlers, as they enhance fine motor skills in toddlers. As little ones engage with the various features of the board, they develop their hand-eye coordination, fine-tune their dexterity, and build finger strength. These skills are crucial for everyday activities such as fastening buttons and handling cutlery. And, these generally have enough to keep them busy for a while!
Children ages 0-18 months
Mess-free colouring books
These come in a variety of options, from invisible ‘ink’ markers to water brushes, these mess-free colouring books are great for little ones!
For the water brush colouring books, by using the refillable water brush you can watch bright images and activities appear right before your eyes using nothing but water! After bringing these scenes to life you can let them dry and enjoy the mess-free magic again.
Ok, we know this is a pretty broad spectrum, even for babies, but it’s worth sharing a few ideas.
These toys can bring a lot of interest to babies, exposing them to various textures, colours and patterns, and sounds. We’d suggest bringing out one they haven’t seen before to really draw their interest.
We love this one from Baby Bunting, which is a truly physical toy by promoting pulling and pushing, it also would be nice for aching chompers.
These Playgro animals, which can be found at a number of retailers from Big W to Target to Baby Bunting, are a hit with babies, are generally compact enough to be stored in a nappy bag or carry-on, and can often be hung from other objects, like car head rests.
These toys are great for any age, but they probably work as a slightly longer pass time for younger children.
These pop-its can go from simple design to ones that have games built in, such as ones that light up telling you where to touch next. They can be found in most department stores, online stores and often shopping centre kiosks.
Fidget spinners with suction cups
Free (or close to free) ideas
Fear not parents, we are also including some creative, budget-friendly travel activities:
- Transform the humble airplane sickness bag into a puppet with a personality. All you need are some markers or coloured pencils for your child to add eyes, a mouth, and maybe even some hair.
- Encourage your child to craft their own cup critters using the paper cups provided by the flight attendants.
- Arm them with Post-it notes or fun-themed adhesive bandages to decorate their space (with your help, they can make sure to leave no trace behind).
- An old spice jar and some pipe cleaners can become an engaging ‘post-the-shape’ game that’s perfect for developing fine motor skills.
- With a handful of pipe cleaners and some uncooked pasta, your little one can thread their way to a handmade bracelet. (find pipe cleaners at Officeworks for less than $3!)
- For a ready-made activity on the plane, consider free printable i-spy/scavenger hunt games designed for in-flight entertainment. Airport iSpy and Airplane iSpy. Here’s a road trip one as well. You can find lots of printable ones on sites like Pinterest, just keep in mind many are American, so will have American brands, road signs, etc.
- And let’s not forget the power of snacks! Pack a variety of treats like raisins, cheese crackers, fruit pouches, blueberries, cooked pasta, mini sausages, rice cakes, bananas, granola bars, satsumas, cucumber slices, breadsticks, cheerios, and especially lollipops or dummies for help during descent.