Are we there yet? I'm bored. Stop touching me?
If this sounds familiar then you have probably taken a family vacation with your kids. Vacations are fun and create lasting memories for you and your children but getting there is another story. Like all good parenting it is best to have a strategy and come prepared. While having a portable DVD player and video games is helpful there is no reason to throw out your rules on limiting electronics just because you are on a trip. Doctors often say that too much electronics stimulus can cause attention problems, sleep issues, and can actually over stimulate children, thus making the car or airplane ride even worse.
The best thing to do is come prepared. The old favorites still work - have fun counting cars of different colors or have a contest to see who see a yellow car first. I remember looking for out of state license plates with my mom in the car when I was a kid and it was probably my first introduction to the concept of license plates or what they meant. My kids love to play I Spy (with my little eye . . ) and my personal favorite when all else fails is the quiet game - one two three go - but that only works for a short time so keep that one for emergencies. In between these fun family games it is great if you can have some handy travel games available for your kids to keep busy. The games reviewed below are actually fun, educational, and easy to play.
The best travel games come in self contained packaging so the pieces don't’ fall all over the place every time you need to break or go around a corner. Here are some ideas for keeping your children occupied while traveling:
1. Travel Bingo - there probably a lot of versions of this classic game but we like the one by Melissa & Doug. This kids travel games comes with four two-sided themed game cards and two game boards. Play begins as each player selects matching game cards and puts them into the slot at the top of their board. The both players can flip open all the doors so that the pictures can be seen. As you travel players look for objects in the environment that are pictured on their cards. If a player sees one of the objects, they point it out and say its name. The first player to call it is the only one who can close that door on their board. If the other player spots a similar object later, they may turn the door over. The winner of the game is the first person to close four doors in a row. We love this game because it uses a classic bingo concept that is easy to explain but it also inspires kids to really pay attention to the scenery they are passing through instead of just being passive passenger's zone out on some electronic game.
2. Find the Bear Flip to Win Game - this fun game comes with two boards with bear selection wheels. This game is ideal for travel because there are no removable pieces and the game in completely self contained. To play each player selects a bear hunt board and flips open all of the doors. Both players turn the wheel at the bottom of their board to select a bear. Players must not allow the other player to see the bear they selected because the game is played by figuring out what bear the other player has selected. Children alternate asking ‘yes or no’ questions about the other person's bear. They eliminate bears by shutting doors as the questions are answered. For example, a child can say ‘Is your bear a girl bear?’ If the other child says yes, they can flip down the boy bear doors. The first player to guess the other kid's bear is the winner.
3. Mighty Motors Magnetic Marble Maze - this is a great example of a magnetic maze board travel game. All these types of games are great for travel because there are no lose parts to lose and it is compact so it is easy to pack and to hold in the hands while riding in the car. This Maze has a transportation theme and features a friendly helicopter, a red fire engine, and fun loving purple car. You use the magnetic wand to guide the marbles through the maze. It is great way to keep kids busy while also improving hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
These are some great example of travel games to keep your kids occupied. They work in the car, on airplanes and even in a lobby or airport. Make sure to remember the basics - bring items with as few parts as possible and items that are completely self contained. The best items also have an element of cooperative play so that with a little planning you can start creating those family memories as soon as you get on your way.
Alycia Shapiro is Vice President in charge of product development for SensoryEdge. She has advocated for special needs children in order to get the therapy services they need. With this in mind she created SensoryEdge in 2003. Its grown to over 3000 products since then. To learn more about Maze Toys, children's Furniture, and classroom rugs visit her one of her sites.