There’s no denying that traveling with kids is a challenge all its own. The hardest part is keeping them occupied, as boredom quickly sets in, and boredom quickly becomes grumpiness.
But what can you do if you don’t want your kids to just sit in front of a glowing screen for hours? Here’s a look at five non-electronic toys that are great for road trips. These toys are lightweight and portable, and best of all, perfect for keeping kids engaged.
1. Build a castle with Klutz “How to Build…” books.
The Klutz brand of books has been around for years, and is well-known for their quality. One of their recent additions is the “How to Build…” series. These kits include a set of building cards (which come around 150 to a pack) that are similar to playing cards, only more sturdy.
The cards have notches cut out, and they fit neatly together with each other like a puzzle. Each kit can be assembled thousands of different ways to create freestanding, 3-D structures and comes with a book that gives plenty of tips and ideas. For the “castle” kit shown, the cards are decorated like castle walls, stained glass windows, roofs, bridges and more. There are enough pieces to create a table-sized castle or a small village of different buildings. You’ll also find a spaceship kit and a pirate ship kit. This is appropriate for ages 3 and up.
2. The candy puzzle game that isn’t Candy Crush.
All right, it’s not Candy Crush, but this candy-themed puzzle game will provide hours of fun just the same. With “Chocolate Fix” you’re given a faux box of 9 chocolates (three colors and three shapes) in a tray, along with a puzzle book that gives you a few clues to start.
Your job is to figure out where each piece belongs. The setup is similar to the Sudoku puzzle game where you find out where something goes by first figuring out what piece doesn’t go in that spot. This is appropriate for ages 5 and up, as there are a variety of puzzles. The easy ones should be gentle enough for young children to handle while the challenging ones will leave adults scratching their heads.
3. Invisible ink for today’s kids.
The Color Wonder line of markers from Crayola is indeed similar to the “invisible ink” books of years ago. These markers only work on the included paper. They won’t draw on the table, the seat, your child, the dog, etc., so they’re great for use anywhere.
Also, these markers won’t dry out as quickly if the cap is left off. Mini-markers are even available, which are great to toss in an activity bag. You’ll find plenty of themes for any age, including Dora, Spider-Man, Frozen, and the Avengers.
4. One building toy that stands above the rest.
If you’ve ever shopped for building toys, you know there is a sea of options available. One toy stands out from the rest, and it’s one that many people have never even heard of.
MagnaTiles are similar in idea to Legos in that you’re using small pieces to build, but they’re so much more than Legos.
MagnaTiles are small triangle and square shaped plastic pieces that (as the name implies), and held together with magnets. The magnetic bond is strong enough to hold a structure together on a bumpy road if a child is building while you’re driving, but they’re plenty easy enough for small hands to pull apart. They can be laid flat to make designs on a table, or assembled into vibrant 3-D creations.
One of the best things about this toy is that it goes great with other toys. It’s incredibly easy to create a bridge or tunnel for a toy car, a house for a doll, a barn for a horse, a maze or run for marbles, and so much more.
This toy was definitely designed with kids in mind, as each piece is reinforced through the middle to make sure they don’t crack or break when stepped on. Many parents or grandparents report that their MagnaTile set has lasted for years. Compared to blocks like Legos, MagnaTiles are much easier to build something to play with quickly, and there aren’t as many tiny pieces (which is great if you have toddlers around).
5. Part “I Spy” + part treasure hunt = hours of fun.
Ask anyone to name a classic road trip game, and “I Spy” will top most people’s list. The “Find It” line of toys takes that game and combines it with a treasure hunt into a compact package that’s great for the road. These games may look easy enough, but they’re far more addictive they look and keep kids (and adults) entertained for hours.
The concept is simple. There’s a sealed plastic tube about a foot high, containing thousands of brightly colored beads. The tube also contains around 50 extra items. A list of the “extra” items is included, and you mission is to find every one of them by shaking, twisting, and turning the canister until they fall through the beads and are revealed. Imagine shaking a canister of sand, and you’ve got a good representation of this game.
A score card is included that lets you check items off as you go, and there are several of each so that multiple people can play or you can play multiples times.
Along with the original “Find it” game, there are over a dozen more options, with ones specifically designed for younger kids, plus themed canisters like beach, sports, pets, wildlife, “Glitz and Glamour” and even the Bible. There’s even a glow in the dark version for nighttime fun and a “Wizard of Oz” game for fans of the film.
Non-Electronic Toys For Gadget-Free Fun
It seems like technology and electronics are absolutely everywhere today. For the most part, today’s children have grown up being exposed to screens, buttons, and batteries all their lives.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with these devices, it’s just good to get back to the basics every once in a while – especially on a family road trip. Unplugging with some “no batteries required” playtime can be the just the thing you need as you’re rolling across the countryside.