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Keeping Kids Entertained

Fool-proof diversions for active imaginations

For your preschooler, play is paramount. This is a hyper-imaginative, creative, fun-hungry stage and boredom is the enemy. Fantasy and role play move into the forefront, and improved fine motor skills mean art projects become more elaborate and engaging.

Your preschooler can start to enjoy games with simple rules. There’ll be more independent, self-occupied moments but your child will continue to crave interaction with others. Feed the insatiable curiosity by visiting a zoo, museum or other such attraction at your destination – you’ll be amazed by the questions and observations that will pop up.

Together, you and your preschooler will have to select a range of toys, games and activities to entertain through the tedious transportation phase, restless restaurant visits, rainy day blahs and other scenarios on your trip. You’ll need versatile items for both active recreation and quiet stimulation, but you’re limited by how much your child can carry in a backpack or roller bag. Avoid anything too noisy or annoying to you and others in earshot, and have spare batteries on hand if necessary.

Here are some preschooler-pleasing options to consider:

  • Snap-together blocks and puzzles
  • Wheeled toys like trains and trucks
  • Small dolls or animal figures for make-believe skills
  • Puppets for communicative pretend play (try making a puppet from an air sickness bag!)
  • Magnetic scene boards
  • Reuseable sticker books and static window forms
  • Play-Doh
  • Lacing activities
  • Card games (Memory, Go Fish)
  • Inflatable ball (handy to kick around an airport gate, park or beach)
  • Jump rope (easy-to-pack exercise)
  • One or two soft toys to cuddle (keep close tabs on any “special friends”)
  • Lightweight books (a few new ones and a familiar favorite or two)
  • Audio books (great for long car rides or plane flights) – try recording your own voice so you can effectively “read” while driving or otherwise occupied
  • Washable crayons and markers (note wax crayons can melt in the heat so plastic coated twist-ups are best in hot climates)
  • Coloring books and blank paper for artistic expression
  • Small MagnaDoodle or similar drawing tablets (no mess or paper required!)
  • Brain Quest quiz card games
  • Buckets, spades and sand toys if visiting a beach
  • Portable music player and kid-friendly CDs for sing-a-longs and dance-a-thons (bring extra batteries and headphones if you don’t always want to tune in yourself)
  • Portable DVD player or laptop computer (even if you’re not big on passive entertainment, an hour or two of video distraction can be a godsend on a long journey or occasional restaurant outing)
  • Try having a few small tidbits wrapped up in paper as rewards for good behavior
  • Brush up on old standby games like Hide and Seek, I Spy, Hot/Cold, Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, Concentration
  • Make up silly stories
  • Play Car Bingo or Scavenger Hunt where your child has to spot cows, trucks, billboards and the like.
  • Have your child start a collection (shells, stones, souvenirs)
  • Don’t forget the Quiet Game (use it sparingly, as you’re kids will wise up to your ulterior motives)


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