Does DoesDoes entertaining kids when travelling fill you with dread? If you’re struggling for good ideas for how to keep kids entertained when travelling as a family, these 13 tips will help. Tried and tested from parents, easy and fun; they’ll give you inspiration to travel with kids in no time!
For us, going on public transport is nothing new, we don’t drive so Eric has always known trains and buses. Whilst I like the freedom of using public transportit can be stressful at times.
In the first year of Erics life any journey was relatively easy with a sling, and the chance of a nap. It started to get a little tricker once he became more independent with play and once walking at 1 year.
Our usual must-haves are snacks, magazine/books, selection of toys and iPhone/iPad with nursery rhymes or videos of cars and trains and colouring. We love popcorn as a fun snack!
Eric likes to unwrap things, and he loves little bits and pieces. One idea is wrapping up some small toys he has using old magazine paper. He loves drawing so we like to take a colouring book, crayola markers and small wooden pencils. He can get bored of using the same type of pen.
Samantha from North East Family Fun starts the activities with her kids before travelling begins… “Get the kids to check the bus times and be responsible for looking out for your bus / stop”. What a great idea.
Samantha recommends stickers and using them as an alternate to the classic I spy: “Take a sheet of stickers and every time you spot something (e.g a blue car), you get a sticker”.
Jane has done grab bags before… “Drawstring bag filled with toys/books and snacks/treats. Helps if the toys/books are new to your child, so hit the charity shops or The Works (or even better swap with a mate). Makes these things last longer as it’s like a lucky dip.”
Jane gave me the great idea of wrapping up little toys as gifts… (“Does he like getting presents? Cos it can go even better if you’ve wrapped them up.”)… my little one had loads of fun unwrapping them!
Bryony has this genius idea of fishing from the seats…
“We take out of art supplies and heavily rely on the CBeebies story time app! You could make a ispy/shopping list before you go for things to spot out of the window. Make some fish with paper clips on and a simple magnet rod to go fishing near your seats?!”
Naomi shared this fun idea to use a “roll of cheap craft tape for instant train track”.
Julia recommends roll up duplo lego mats… “Does he have any Duplo Lego? My little one loves it and you can get a roll up mat to help contain the play to one area!”
Genna speaks from experience with these ideas! Her family got stuck on trains for over 5 hours during Storm Doris…
“I found stickers and play dough kept my little one most distracted, along with food. If you take colouring take different shaped things to colour in as well as paper. Sainsbury’s do cardboard pirates and fairys, mine think it is a different activity to colour/stick onto them! My 5 year old got quite distracted by drawing roads and a town for her toy cars. It got quite elaborate!”
Carrie from flying with a baby found these mats a lifesaver… “Reusable colouring water mats are perfect for airplanes and trains with a tray table”.
IO gave some advice about how to manage your time and mindset during it all. I found this particularly helpful as I can identify with rushing with a lot of activities to try and keep his boredom at bay, when perhaps taking it back to basics would work.
“I found it was mostly in the mindset. If I knew we were travelling for an hour, he got restless after after 20mins. If I knew we had four hours to fill, then he didn’t get restless until after a couple of hours! I found pacing the things to be important, and telling him ‘This is a really long time on a train’ helped, and not starting off with all I have. So, start off with, we’re going to look out of the window, and spin that as absolutely long as you can, being getting out the comic, and spinning that as long as possible. Then go and get a cup of tea, spinning that as long as you can, etc etc. We routinely did a 12 hour train journey, more if delayed, albeit with changes to break the monotony, like this. By age 4, he could sit on a train for 6 hours without issue, and we managed very long haul flights.”
She shared this funny story which might be helpful for any train loving kids!
“One of the best things to do for my older boy is to sit near a train spotter, sorry ‘enthusiast’, so they can spend ages talking about the signal types used on this line, and how Russian gauge is different, and how the carriages are moved… YAWN for me. But the quickest journeys ever!”
I’ll be remembering that one!
Helen from Sheffield Woodland Kindergarten has traveled alone with her child to London to visit families. “A Cbeebies magazine or similar is always a hit with stories, activities, free toy, colouring, etc., just don’t forget your own pens!”
Helen gave this super creative idea of den building … “Looking for animals out if the window. If you’ve got a table seat then making a den underneath with your coat/sling, etc,.” Kids love dens and this is a great way to encourage them to use their imagination on a train without taking up any extra space too.
An extra two good ideas from Helen is this magnet bag and fishing game…
“My little one loved a magnet busy bag I made him but the stuff is possibly tricky to find I already had a big round magnet from an old toy I cut up bits if pipe cleaner, paperclips, etc., to experiment with. I also made our own fishing game craft foam fish with numbers on (drawn and cut out from larger peices) a small stick, piece of string small magnet off our notice board tied on! He loves it and is so small and weightless for travel.”
Melissa and her kids have been on some long train journeys. Her 2 year old needs lots of entertainment and doesn’t stay still! Mellisa finds these activities help when travelling…
“We do a lot of walking about looking out of different windows, etc., We always take plenty of toys but most of them accidentally end up getting knocked onto the floor. One of the best things we have taken on trips are magic water colouring books by galt. We also take a couple of hand puppets ( as they don’t take up much room) and play games such as peekaboo with them. Apps work well for us too. My little girl likes: ‘smart shapes’ and ‘cars and vehicles’ by Gennadii Zakharov ; apps by oki play such as ‘peekaboo you’ and ‘first vehicles’ (moo moo labs). We also download a few episodes of her favourite programmes for those times when nothing else works! We sometimes try to stop somewhere on route too for a few hours ( but obviously that isn’t always practical). We also got her a book with mini chalk boards inside and a Peppa pig book with magnetic character’s.”
Suzanne recommends The Hungry Caterpillar app and travel doodle. She says… “it is good keeps my 2 year old entertained for a while we have a travel aqua doodle too”.
Lindsay had a 3 hour train trip with her 18 month old last week (and obviously the return too). Her daughter is experimenting with independence and is at the stage where she copies everything her mum does.
“I bought her a brand new play phone (counts, says numbers etc), some mini colouring books from the pound shop with some Crayola pens (easy to clean. Don’t stain clothes), and a little chap stick. She loves it when I pretend to put my lipstick on her, so now she has her very own ‘lipstick’. I bought a little handbag to put it all in. She was made up. Kept walking up and down the train proud as punch with her bag over her shoulder showing off, then would get her ‘lipstick’ out the bag, put it on, put it on me, and put it back in the bag. She would sit and make ‘phone calls’ on her phone or simply play with the numbers and copy them, and she sat very happily colouring too. Obviously packed a few of her favourite snacks and drinks too. It was all more than enough to keep her entertained, and she absolutely loved pointing out the window when she saw something interesting. She’s been learning all her animals, and loves cows, so when we went through a field of cows she went absolutely potty and started shouting mooo at them!”
Eric loves make up and dressing up so I might have to try this! What a fantastic idea for interested and curious littles.
Need more fun ideas? I loved this great post by Twimble and Twig: ten boredom busting travel ideas.
What tips do you have for keeping your kids entertained when on your travels?
Thank you for reading!