Sunday, September 15, 2013

Homemade Toddler Travel Toys

I just love a good alliteration, don't you? 

We've been back for a whole month now, and I remembered that I promised that I would do a post about the toys that were essential to our 4 cross country flights and 3 months with limited entertainment. I promised in part because I had several friends who have asked in preparation for their own travels. But the other reason I wanted to post these was that I did a TON of research before we left, and I was amazed at the things that people called "compact" and "inexpensive" i.e. a set of 8 bulky magnetic "travel legos" for 20 bucks. Not happenen' people. 

So I made up some tiny toys of my own.. and here I will share the ones that were worth their weight in case anyone else is ever in need of such a list. (I even made them pinterest friendly so you can remember them for later!) 

First up: The purse playmat. 

I've made a couple of these before as birthday presents for Wes' friends, and learned a few things before designing this one. The grass and road are just a light flannel appliqued. All the other pieces are felt. Wes likes to put the sheep in the convertible and pretend that he's driving. It folds up into sixths, so that the pockets to hold the car and pieces face in and nothing falls out. The folded out dimensions are 14x11, but if I were to do it again I'd make it a little shorter so that it fit better on an airplaine tray table. The ones on Virgin were only about 9inches, and he didn't like that it didn't all fit. 

Changeable Magnet Board
This one was inspired by magnetic boards I had as a kid. Actually, my mom still had them, and I snatched the cool dinosaur magnets and farm magnets from them. But to take up even less space, I bought this silver tray from the dollar store, printed off background pictures that would fit, and covered them in contact paper (I tried laminated but the magnets didn't stick as well). The sesame street magnets I made by attaching them to a magnetic sheet. The backgrounds didn't actually attach to the tray at all, once there was a magnet on them they didn't move, although I wish I had brought a manilla envelope or something to store them in.

Kitchen Puzzles
This is something we didn't do actually on the road, but we made quite a few for entertainment while we were on our trip. They are a great toy for when you actually don't have any toys around to play with. We would just find random things (generally in the kitchen, which is why Wes gave them the name) and I would trace them on a piece of cardstock to make a puzzle. Actually, from a group of objects I would make a couple different puzzles, each left out a few objects to make it tougher. I cut out the cardstock so that it would all fit in a ziplock bag and we could take it along places. 

Sewing Cards
Based on another toy I had as a kid that my mom made. To make it super simple I just cut out the front of greeting cards, laminated them, and punched holes around the outside. You could easily do other shapes as well. Wes wasn't into these so much at the beginning of the trip, but he was ready for them developmentally by our way home, and has used them quite a bit since.

Animal Cards

I was going to make some myself, but instead found this super-cute free printable at (you can go there for the high-quality download). She calls them memory cards, but we used them to play memory, go fish, and some other silly games Wes invented. I printed and laminated these and they were probably the highest entertainment to weight ratio of anything I brought.  

The non-homemade toys that were worth their weight:
  • A small spiral notebook- for coloring and making up stories about letters
  • Crayons
  • A stickerbook Grandma gave us. I thought he would blow through it too fast but she found one that had a ton of stickers and once he placed them all he could peel them off again and put them somewhere else.
  • I got a matchbox police car and firetruck that I gave him for the first time on our flight. Loved them.
  • Some tiny (half inch tall) farm animals that my mom had. We used them for playing pretend, counting, all sorts of things. 
  • A beach ball. 
  • Books- I had two books that take him a long time to get through (he has to find things, and do different things on each page) and he somehow didn't get tired of them. 
  • Oh yeah, and my ipod with some songs he liked, some episodes of Sesame Street and Elmo, and some fabulous apps. Well worth it's weight. 

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