Have Kids, Will Travel: On-the-Go Games and Gadgets for this Summer
Remember when summer holidays meant freedom and fun, lie-ins and late nights? Ha! And then you had children and it became 2 months of hard labour in the role of non-stop entertainer. Well, if you’re lucky enough to be flying off somewhere on holiday this summer, then here are a few gizmos and gadgets to keep your kids occupied on the plane, in the car and round the pool (you might even get to read a whole magazine again! Yeah!)
Small ones on a Plane/Boat/Train
Load up on wet wipes and snacks, spare clothes and medicine - like Calpol sachets and ear drops for altitude change – and for babies, take a nappy for every two hours that you fly. If you’ve got a rambunctious child (or two, as I have) then you’ll be contending with climbing on seats, opening/closing that fold down table on repeat, and kicking the seat in front (cue: menacing stares from the passenger in front). Consider gently warning the kids about the “Aeroplane/Boat/Train Police” who keep a look out for those “illegal” antics. It’s a lie (sorry), but it works like a charm.
Pack like a Pro
Chuck all your gear into a backpack (we like Dakine) so that you can have your hands free as you pinball through the airport. And if you’re looking for sleek new luggage, Dakine also makes a nifty split roller bag that opens like a sandwich – very useful if you need to find something quickly in its compartments without rummaging around and destroying your packing Jenga.
A word about Screen Time
It feels universally accepted to let standards slip when it comes to screen time during travel. We relent and load up that ipad with games, films, apps, songs and shows. Our kids love having their own wireless headphones, and these ones from JBL aren’t too loud for their little ears. They’re designed to limit the volume to 85dB and are effective by bluetooth from 15 metres away. The controls are super simple, the battery lasts for 12 hours (and is very quick to recharge) and they come in a few funky colours with nicely cushioned ear pads.
Boredom Busting Toys
Let’s take books or a Kindle, kiddie magazines, a notebook, pens and pencils as given and focus on a few transportable toys. Good things do come in small packages (which is key if you’re trying to keep your clobber to a minimum).
Good ol’ Danish design here that stimulates the imagination. Boys and girls of all ages can connect these sturdy little bricks to create colourful mosaics and complex 3D designs, from unicorns and cars to fairy tale castles. They come in tubes, cartons, and boxes of varying sizes, so you can take as much or as little as you want (I shoved them into a freezer bag, et voilá!) And bonus points for the fact that the plastic is free from pthalates and PVC.
The Idea Box Kids is an American company that makes 'secretly' educational boxes for kids aged 3-10. The concept is simple: the box contains wooden coins that come with ideas and activities for kids to play out. Each box has a different theme (like Birthday, Bedtime and Christmas) and we’ve got the one called “Airplane” (they don’t ship to the UK, so we got a friend to send it over). There are 60 activities etched onto 30 wooden coins. Choose an activity every 5 minutes and that should keep boredom at bay for 5 hours. All you'll need is a few easily accessible props (like an in-flight magazine, a cracker, napkin and airsick bag).
These are THE best all-round entertainment packs for kids aged 1-10, road tested by my two. Choose a rucksack by age and gender, and they'll send you one to suit your child, filled with toys, activity books, crafts and snacks (gluten and dairy free). Each surprise inside kept our boys occupied intermittently during a 10 day trip: the toys were launched daily into the pool, and we escaped the midday heat by doing the activity books together in the shade. Don’t just take our word for it: for a string of rave reviews check out their website.
This tiny tube of tiles slips easily into your hand luggage, and we've whipped this out on trains and planes. It's your standard memory game - find the matching pairs - but the designs are beautifully illustrated and a little less lurid than the usual board game/puzzle. We have the animal one with cards of anteaters, sharks, monkeys, whales and more.
This is first class travel for kids aged 2-7. Not technically a toy, but our two were delirious with joy at being towed through the airport on this ride-on suitcase. It won a design award the year it launched (and was later snapped up by premier baby brand Stokke) so you won’t be surprised to hear that these babies corner like they're on rails. The really clever bit though, is that they can fold out into a bed on a plane, filling that pesky gap in economy between your child and the seat in front. There’s also enough room inside the suitcase to fit the mattress that it comes with and some clothes and toys. The suitcases come in three colours and can be decorated with travel and name stickers (included).