My girls and I are leaving on a road trip this weekend.
Yep, it’s one adult, two little kids, and sixteen hours of driving in two days.
I do have one crate full of educational DVDs, another crate full of picture books, and a third crate full of healthy snacks to constantly pass around, but little kids, especially when they’re just sitting still for long periods, have to have something to do with their hands. And if that something is new to them, engages their minds, and can be played with creatively, then they’ll stick with it just that much longer before they toss it aside and beg for something else to do.
With that in mind, check out these five DIY travel toy projects that inspired our own stash of handmade travel toys for this trip, and let them inspire you to make your own upcoming road trips
a little less miserable a lot more fun:
I have made my daughters a lot of these portable felt play sets over the years, and even Willow, at the ripe old age of nearly seven, still enjoys them.
The trick is to make the play set around whatever obsession your kiddo currently enjoys. Kid loves dinosaurs? Make a dino felt set. Kid loves trains? Make a train set! Kid loves Beyblades? Figure out what they are, and then make them a felt Beyblades set!
The fabric that backs the felt in this set is also a great place for some stash-busting.
Play dough is a universal kid favorite. Even an older kid is guaranteed to spend some quality time playing with play dough at least once during a road trip. Heck, even an adult will play with play dough if there aren’t any more novels to read and there’s nothing good on the radio!
Homemade play dough is easy to make out of common kitchen ingredients, and if you break out the super-fancy food coloring, you can dye it just as fabulously as the store bought stuff. You can make it with natural ingredients, and customize it to be wheat-free or gluten-free–whatever you need! The best part of homemade play dough, however, is that you can make a ton of it while spending mere pennies, leaving a little more money in the bank for souvenirs.
If you’ve got to worry about keeping a baby or toddler entertained, it’s helpful to have toys that you don’t have to worry about falling out of their reach (especially to the filthy floor of a bus or airplane).
To that end, this kid’s travel toy blanket with Velcro loops and ribbon tags, tutorial courtesy of Merriment Design, is the perfect solution. Babies LOVE fiddling with ribbons of different textures, and the ability to attach small toys to the blanket itself is extremely handy.
For stash-busting bonus points, upcycle an old baby blanket or two in the making of this travel blanket, and feel free to use up all the last bits and pieces of vintage ribbon that are too small to use anywhere else but too beautiful to throw away.
A road trip is a great time for preschoolers to practice their fine motor skills, since the large motor skill activities that they tend to prefer are completely out of the question. This Montessori-style button snake, tutorial courtesy of Gingham Cherry, will give your preschooler a lot of button fastening and unfastening experience, useful for both practical activities like dressing, and academic ones like penmanship.
To make this an excellent stash-busting project, and also add tactile interest to the toy, use a variety of fabrics in your button snake. If you have a buttonhole foot for your sewing machine, you’ll find that sewing a buttonhole into each fabric piece will take mere seconds, since you’ll never have to readjust the buttonhole size.
The best travel toys are those that kids can play with in a lot of different ways. With this I Spy bag, tutorial courtesy of My Crafty Side, kids can spend an infinite amount of time just peeking around at all the little treasures inside. However, you can challenge each other to find different objects, use them as story starters, sketch them, play phonics or spelling games with them, or, of course, play I Spy.
To make this an eco-friendly project, I suggest using a washed Ziplock bag, or a piece of upcycled shower curtain liner, or even a piece of clear plastic from the recycling bin (you’ll need to glue that last one in) for the I Spy bag’s window, and a natural material, such as dried rice, for the filling.
For the tiny objects, hunt around your house or go crazy at the thrift store–buttons, Legos, tiny plastic toys, and beads and baubles of all sorts will all be so much for for a kiddo to explore.