As we head into the holiday travel season, I started to prepare a packing list and a plan for everything we need. It helps for a smooth flight…or as smooth a flight you can get with two little toddlers. Thinking back to our most successful moments (that I outlined in our toddler and baby travel tips), our best times on board were when the kids were well rested, fed and entertained. Which is not surprising, because that is when they are happiest in general. It’s just not as easy on a plane, especially for my constantly on the move 17 month old Ellis. That is when I started brainstorming travel busy bags for toddlers!
These are seriously the BEST. And especially for one year olds, but I also started to put together some more advanced ones for my 3 year old Miles. Even though there are games and toys he can play with that I mentioned in our travel tips, having a new activity like one of these is something that will take time and concentration to master.
As I found more and more online, I had to share with you all some of my most favorite ideas. These are all busy bags that can be taken on the move- whether you have a flight, a road trip or just going to a restaurant. Also, I’ve found that they are great for having my one year old sit in his high chair with a busy bag while I cook dinner. That way we are eye level, but I’m able to handle hot items without worrying about him.
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- Foam Lacing shapes are perfect for 3-4 year olds fascinated by shoe tying and learning how to manipulate laces. They also sell lacing kits if you don’t feel like making your own!
- Felt Fishing Game. Love this simple game that will entertain lots of different age groups. I could see us playing multiple rounds of fishing on the airplane tray table.
- These velcro dot craft sticks are also pretty simple to make and a lot lighter to travel with then legos or magnet tiles. Perfect for making shapes or all types of designs.
- Rainbow Color Sorting Busy Bags are perfect for a young toddler learning his colors. You can also incorporate counting and fine motor skills by placing the popsicle sticks inside the bags.
- A travel felt board also creates some fun imaginative play, as well as these simple felt activities. This is kind of the same idea as the magnet and sticker books, but with lots more opportunity to be imaginative.
- I’m loving both of these ideas for my 17 month old. A travel size plastic spice bottle would work wonders for this pipe cleaner bottle activity. And a pom pom push container in a small tupperware. UPDATE: These two are the best! They were amazing on both of our flights and I now have them in our diaper bag for restaurant play.
- Some more advance word play is this very popular word building travel kit. I’ve noticed that if I try to use flash cards, I see eyes glaze over. Using a game to teach your kids is the best way to keep their attention and interest.
- I particularly love a color matching activity, including this popsicle stick- clothespin matching. I have a huge bag of both popsicle sticks and clothespins so these would be easy to make. My clothespins aren’t in color, but I would just color the top of each one.
- We may wait until next year when we have at least a 4 year old to put a lego kit together. The included printables make this kit the best option! I get really into playing legos, there is a nostalgia for me. My boys are really into destroying our beautiful barns and houses after; I’m not so crazy about that part! I rather enjoy it for a while, so maybe there is a difference between boys and girls after all.
- Blocks are a little too heavy for a travel toy. If your little ones are into building and stacking, sponges make the best tool! You can cut them in strips like on this blog for a sponge tower or cut into square for blocks. Most of the materials on this list I have found at a dollar store, a pack of sponges included.
- My three year old started at a Montessori preschool this year and he has been obsessed with hammering. So in true fashion of Montessori- we used real materials and followed his passion by putting together a nuts and bolts busy bag. Very successful! This one may be a little heavier than the others, but Miles can play with it for a really long time.
- Treasure or discovery baskets are a Montessori staple for babies and young toddlers. I think they are great for 12-18 month olds and am putting one together for Ellis (17 months) on our next trip. I’ve grabbed a few items from the dollar store, but also random items from around the house. Update: I grabbed a bunch of animals at dollar tree and put them in a container- my 3 year old loved them and made a whole safari on the tray table.
One of the most important parts of traveling is that the toys and busy bags should be new. It helps grab their attention and helps them forget they are sitting in a seat for such a long time. You can make little changes to your bag after they are used to refresh them. We used a couple of these for our Thanksgiving trip and then a couple other new ones for Christmas.
What are some of your favorite busy bags? I’m obsessed now and excited to make some more!