Travel activities for toddlers: Great in theory

As I mentioned in my last post, I had assembled a large collection of items to keep C’s attention while we were on the road. In addition to books and toys I also made several “busy bags” from ideas I’d found through Pinterest. Most of the busy bags I found were for kids a bit older than mine, but I did find a few that I thought she’d like. 
Baby Girl is fourteen months old, so things like sorting by color and shape and matching games were out. However she does love taking things out and putting them back in again, so several of things I made were variations of this activity. I linked the title of each activity back to the tutorial that gave me the idea/instructions (important to give credit where credit is due! 😉
1. Pom pom egg carton sorting

– empty egg carton
– large pom poms (I bought a large bag of pom poms in assorted sizes from Hobby Lobby)
Super easy. The pom poms conveniently came in six different colors, so I used two of each color, one pom pom per egg holder.
Entertainment level:
High This was one of C’s favorite activities, and I think if she’d had a flat surface to work on it would have occupied her for ages. She loved the soft texture of the pom poms and the fact that they were round (she loves balls right now). She mostly took them out and piled them inside the lid or her cup holder, then put them back in. I think this activity is a keeper, and will grow with her since eventually she will be able to pair the colors together. You could also paint a dot of color in the bottom of each carton for the child to match the pom pom to.
Rating: 4 stars
The only problem with this activity was she kept dropping the pom poms on the floor or tipping the egg crate so they all fell out. Still, it occupied her for at least fifteen minutes at a stretch, which is a win! 🙂
2. Pipe cleaner can

– pipe cleaners (cut to fit the can)
– empty, clean Pringles can
– scrapbook paper
– single hole punch
Difficulty: easy
I covered the Pringles can with scrapbook paper (to make it pretty of course) and punched holes in the lid (this was kind of hard, I only did about six). I cut the pipe cleaners to the height of the can, then threaded them through the holes in the lid…worked like a charm.
Entertainment level: Middling
C enjoyed the texture and bendy nature of the pipe cleaners and had great fun pulling them all out of the container, but couldn’t quite get the hang of putting them back in (even after we took the lid off).
Rating: 3 stars
I think when she’s a bit older she’ll love this, but for now I think we’re better off just giving her the pipe cleaners to play with. I made bracelets and rings for her fingers, and twisted them into cork screws. That she loved. If your toddler still puts things in their mouth be sure to supervise, since the little metal piece that runs through the center of a pipe cleaner can be sharp.
3. Foam shapes and velcro bag

– Pencil bags: I picked up a couple pencil bags from the “back to school” section of Target (hello, it’s barely July) for less than a dollar. 
-foam shapes (Hobby Lobby has a good selection in their crafting aisle)
– sticky velcro (I had some on hand, but most craft or fabric stores should carry it)
Difficulty: Easy
I measured and stuck one side of velcro on the back of the pencil back, then cut up the other side of the velcro to the foam shapes. I also made another bag that I just filled with shapes, minus the velcro
Entertainment rating: high
Baby Girl, as I said, loves putting in and taking out, so this was right up her alley. She also liked the texture of the velcro and the novelty of sticking it on and peeling it off.
Rating: 5 stars
If she hadn’t lost the pieces over the side of her car seat C would have kept this activity going forever
4. Fabric strip container

– scraps of fabric of different textures
– small plastic container (I used a gum container)
Difficulty: Easy
I went through my scrap fabric collection (which is surprisingly large) and found I had about ten different fabrics that had different textures: fleece, minky, cotton, duck cloth, tulle, terrycloth, etc. I cut small strips of each fabric with pinking shears to reduce raveling, and stuck them in the container.
Entertainment level: middling
C loved taking the fabric out and feeling it, but she lost interest quickly and didn’t really put them back in the container. Instead they just floated around the car for the remainder of the trip.
Rating: 3 stars
In retrospect I should have used bigger scraps of fabric so there was more for her to touch, and so they wouldn’t get lost so easily. I think something like a wipes container would have been fun too, since she loves pulling wipes and kleenex out.
5. Pom pom and button shaker

– empty water bottle
– pom poms of various sizes
– buttons or beans
-hot glue gun
Difficulty: Easy
You’ve all seen these I’m sure, fill a bottle with colorful and/or noise objects for baby to shake and study. Be sure and glue the cap on so they don’t all come flying out.
Entertainment level: low
I think C was too old for this. She liked the sound the bottle made, but was frustrated because she couldn’t get the stuff out of the bottle.
Rating: 2 stars
It was good for a momentary distraction, but didn’t capture Baby Girl’s attention for more than a minute or two
6. Ribbon can

– clean, empty can (I used an toddler crunchies container)
– exacto knife
– ribbon if different lengths and textures

Difficulty: Medium
Cover the can in scrapbook paper (again, not necessary but it makes it pretty) and then punch holes all around the can with an exacto knife. Make sure there is a corresponding hole on each side. Thread the different ribbons through the holes, and tie a knot on each end so the ribbon can’t get pulled completely out.
Entertainment level: Low
I was really surprised that C didn’t love this activity, because she loves string and ribbon. I don’t know if she just didn’t get what to do, or if she just wanted to pull the ribbon out, but this was not a hit.
Rating: 1 star I think this might be good for younger babies who would be content to watch you pull the string through, or who just like to grab the ribbon.
7. Glitter bottle

– clean, empty water bottle
– glitter glue
– additional glitter
-food coloring
– hot water
Difficulty: hard
Ok, so this turned out to be a bit of a Pinstrosity. I’m sure you’ve seen this pinned, and it looks so cool, but it is not easy. It took me three tries before I got something that resembled a glitter jar when I should it up. The first time I didn’t have enough glitter glue, and even after I got one to work it still wasn’t a thick, goopy consistency like the pin described. Oh well.
Entertainment level: low
Once again, C is either too young or too old for this one. She didn’t really get the point of shaking it up (or maybe it was too heavy for her) and watching the glitter swirl around didn’t do much for her. I think she’ll like it when she’s older, but for now she’s like “meh.”
Rating: 2 stars
It was hard to make and didn’t get the reaction I wanted, but it is pretty to look at!
8. Photo ring

– several 4×6 photos (I used pictures of C with various family members)
– laminating film (you can buy this at a craft store)
– binder ring
-hole punch
Difficulty: medium
Start by “laminating” the photos. The film was pretty expensive, so I only laminated the front of the picture to protect it from drool/spills. I cut the film to size, then peeled of the backing and carefully smoothed the photo onto it. This takes a bit of practice and a steady hand, since once the picture is stuck to the film there’s no going back. You could also have the pictures laminated in a machine…I don’t have access to one anymore since giving up my teaching gig. 🙂 Punch a hole in the corner of each picture, then thread them onto a binder ring.
Entertainment level: high
I knew C would love this, since her favorite books are the Shutterfly albums I’ve made, and she loves to steal my memory verses, which I keep on index cards on a binder ring. This definitely kept her attention for a while. It will be even more fun when she can point to faces and say names (we’re working on Grandma, Grammy, Poppy, and Grandpa).
Rating: 5 stars
This was the perfect combination of movement (flipping through the pictures) and something to look at (what baby doesn’t love pictures of themselves and loved ones). Plus the ring kept them all contained, so when she did drop it in boredom there were no pieces to hunt for.

So there you have it, several different “travel activities” for ages 1-2 years, road tested for your convenience :). Of course every child is different, and what bored my daughter to tears (literally) yours might love! 🙂

One thought on “Travel activities for toddlers: Great in theory

  1. Thanks for the detailed reviews of the activities you prepared! You gave me a few new ideas to use with my 13 month old when we go on a 12 hr flight in a few weeks! Thanks again!


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