With the holidays in full swing, many of us will be traveling by plane, train, boat or car! Here are some quick screen-free tips to keep your child entertained while on the road...
1 - Young toddlers love to collect, empty, dump, and accomplish small challenges. How do you make this travel friendly? Create a simple game out of a (clean) yogurt cup by cutting a slit in the top big enough to push things through, such as gallon milk caps, baby food jar lids or even Medela bottle caps and put those developing fine motor skills to work! My daughter was entertained in a recent car-ride for about 45 minutes with this simple game!
2 - FLOAM! If you don't know about Floam let me be the first to tell you about it. Made up of tiny styrafoam microbeads, this squishy material will keep your little one busy as they mash, squish and create. Floam leave virtually no mess, making it ideal for travel. The added bonus is this sensory activity may help calm your overstimulated or overtired toddler.
3 - Stickers and Paper - so simple yet children love to keep busy peeling and placing this old-fashioned toy!
4 - Books on tape, as we teachers still call them, are a great way to keep your child engaged on long trips. A more modern approach would be downloading a few favorite books to your smart phone or mp3 player to stream on your cars bluetooth or to use with special children's headsets. My kids love listening to Winnie the Pooh and Frog and Toad! I have also recorded my voice reading their favorite books using my phone's memo function and my son will listen to his mom reading books over and over again!
5 - Food, lots and lots of food! Fill little baggies with a few favorite snacks and some things they haven't seen in a while. Freeze dried fruit and crackers aren't very messy and don't need to be refrigerated. Hard, crunchy foods, like crackers, and baby carrots for those old enough to chew have the added bonus of some proprioceptive (muscle) input and relieving stress.
While it might be tempting to plug your child into a portable DVD player or Ipad, try to limit screen time ( AAP recommends NO Screen time for children under 2). These modern marvels can be incredibly stimulating and while work well in the moment, often leave your child more wound up then we you started. For more great ideas about increasing creativity, curiosity and building the limbic (emotional) brain check out one of your local Early Childhood Matters classes!
-Rebecca Walsh & Barbara Nelson