There is a well documented childhood phenomenon that compels small children to ignore their shiny, new toys and play with the boxes and wrapping paper. Likewise, while traveling I have learned that my kids will completely shun the laboriously packed travel bag for mundane and simple activities. There is nothing that takes the wind out of your mommy sails like hauling around 20 pounds of gear only to have your toddler find contentment in a roll of tape. After some trial and error, I discovered the activities that packed entertainment power and I wanted a way to keep these items together and ready to go.
Enter the Traveling Toy Tube. You will need a cardboard mailing tube with removable ends to make your own capsule of wonder. Add just a few simple items from around the house and you will have a traveling toy with limitless possibilities. We use our traveling tubes on airplanes and car trips, but they work just as well for doctor's offices and other long waits. I also love to give these as gifts to adoptive parents traveling overseas to pick up their new family members.
1. Construction Paper. Five to six pieces of brightly colored paper can be rolled together and placed inside the tube.
2. Tape. Scotch tape works fine, but thin rolls of colored tape can be extra fun.
3. Safety Scissors. Pick a pair that will work for both little and big hands.
4. Sheets of Stickers. Peeling and sticking stickers can be an endless fascination for little hands. Stick the stickers on the paper or on your hands and faces. Save some stickers to decorate the outside of your tube.
5. Paintbrush. Add a little water to a paper cup and set your little one loose painting with water onto colored construction paper. The designs left by the water are as gratifying as paint, but delightfully mess free. Older preschoolers can draw large shapes with water and then practice fine motor skills as they tear along the lines. With a dry brush, paint your child's body parts as you name each part or draw shapes on their hand.
6. Colored straws. Oh, the learning possibilities with straws! You can count them or group them by color. Let your kids use the scissors and cut them into segments. Then match the segments by length or arrange from shortest to longest. Use straws to make shapes and letters. Little ones enjoy dropping the straws into the tube one by one and then dumping to start the game again. For older kids, teach them to bend one end of a straw in half so that it can be inserted into another straw, making a long chain. Place a splotch of water onto a piece of paper and blow through the straw to spread the water. Blow scraps of paper across the table.
7. Pipe Cleaners. Pipe cleaners have just as many possibilities as straws. Count them, sort them, bend them, shape them, drop them in and pour them out. For a fun new game, form a few pipe cleaners into squares and circles. Then, make a chain of three or four pipe cleaners and form a hook at the end. Set your little one free to use the hook to scoop up the squares and circles. Cheerios or fruit loops can be strung onto the pipe cleaner for a fun (and edible) fine motor activity. Form pipe cleaners into large rings. Hold a straw in one hand and encourage your child to play a game of ring toss.
8. Pompoms. Another great manipulative for sorting and learning. Sort by color or drop into the tube and dump again and again. Use rings formed from pipe cleaners and play a game by tossing the pompoms into the rings.
9. Silk Scarves. Play scarves are one of my favorite toddler toys. They are just so luxurious and enticing and full of possibility. Play peekaboo, or use them to hide toys. Play dress up. Tie them end to end and play tug of war or thread through your mailing tube. Teach your child to fold. Together, grab the corners of the scarf and use as a mini parachute with pom poms in the middle. Wave them wildly for a silent way to get the wiggles out.
10. Mini Flashlight. When the fun of pushing the button wears off, you can play all kinds of games that will have a new level of fun with a flashlight. Use the flashlight to play I-Spy with a favorite book. Make shadow puppets on the wall. Count your child's fingers and toes by shining a light on each one. Name your body parts as you illuminate with the mini light.
What would you add to the Toy Tube? I would love to hear your ideas.