5 Ways to Unplug, Travel, and Stay Sane with your Preschooler

14 June 2017

6 ways to unplug travel stay sane blog

I remember so well long drives from Michigan to North Carolina and back with my daughter, Claire, when she was a preschooler. Back in those days there were no cell phones, no tablets, or other electronic devices to amuse her. Even if they did exist back then, I probably wouldn’t have been a big fan of them anyway. She was a normal preschooler, full of energy, having a hard time being in one place for an extended period of time. And since I was a single parent, I couldn’t plan on anyone else keeping her occupied other than myself. Looking back on how I coped, I do have some memories of what worked that I hope will encourage you to unplug and connect with your child on long trips. Yes you can!

So, before we left on any trip, I tried as best as I could to have an arsenal of things for Claire to do and eat during the trip. Those two areas were the ones that kept her most occupied-- snacks, because growing preschoolers need regular snacks, and activities, because they kept her occupied. I knew that food alone wouldn’t keep her amused for very long, so before our trips, I would plan specific activities for her. Here are my learning- and fun-filled travel ideas:

  1. Pack a variety of healthy snacks. I made up a good supply of ziplock bags with different healthy snacks to offer her over the miles, about one bag per hour. A word to the wise, avoid sugars and caffeine to avoid a hyper child.
  2. Involve small-motor skills with open-ended play. One of our Skilly-do activities, Zip-a-Dee Painting, came from one of these planned trip activities. Finger painting with a ziplock bag provided her a good, long time of involvement. I also brought along play dough of several different colors in ziplock bags, which we made together in preparation for the trip. Our Skilly-do activity, Super Simple Play Dough comes from this trip planning activity. Our Silly Slime would also be great for preschooler to endlessly manipulate during a car trip. Mix up a few batches in different colors, put them in ziplock bags, and get ready for miles of gloppy, stretchy fun.
  3. Don't forget to pack some pretend play. I knew that Claire loved puppets, so we made Popsicle Stick Puppets to use for pretend play on the trip. They are very simple to make, plus they are flat and packable, so we made a bunch of them. Claire sang with them, made up stories about them, chatted with me, and very clearly used them to tell me it was time for a bathroom break! 
  4. Challenge your little one's mind, eyes and vocabulary. Back in the day, I made up simple challenge games to help pass the miles together. I asked her if she could call out all the round things she saw, all the shapes she saw, and what rough things she saw along the way.  These and other fun challenges, are all easy to find in our Skilly-do Chatty-do collection.
  5. Read! Finally, packing a good supply of Claire’s favorite books also helped keep her busy. I don’t suggest including new books if you are on a car trip, simply because you can’t read them to your preschooler. A new book and your inability to read it to them may be frustrating for your child and may not help the situation. But if you are on a train, subway, bus or airplane trip, introducing a new book can be a great way to capture and hold on to your preschooler’s interest.

So, here’s to many happy trips with your preschooler. Let us know what Skilly-do activities you found helpful in keeping your little one happily occupied in planes, trains and automobiles-- you can give us your feedback right here. Check out my blog, Super Toys, to get even more ideas for simple toys guaranteed to hold your preschooler’s attention.