Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Traveling Companions: Crayons and Coloring Books, Never Leave Home Without 'Em

What have we been doing the past few weeks? Well, we weren't trying the newest extreme sport.We were rambling around on a multi-state trip (though traveling with anyone under 10 should count as some sort of extreme experience).

Last summer, a friend gave us a coloring book she'd picked up on seasonal clearance for less than a dollar.

It's since resided in my bag with some crayons (a party favor from our friends' second birthday party [mellow out grammar freaks, they're twins]). The smart hostess had picked up 24 count Crayola crayons at 19 cents each during Back-To-School sales and packaged them in drawstring bags. I still carry the crayons in the drawstring bag because it's easy to find in the dark abyss and it guards against crayon escape.

I love these items when traveling long distances or around town. It's easy toddler entertainment at restaurants and appointments. The scalability is hard to beat; you can entertain 1 to 24 kids.

We tend to use our crayons at restaurants now rather than the small packages or loaners. It made me crazy to use three new crayons for 30 minutes and then either leave them to be thrown out or lose them in my bag, car, or coat pocket.

Some Parent Hackers suggest plastic travel soap containers for crayon storage, but I didn't like the load rattling when I walked or shifted my bag. I may have bought the wrong kind of soap holder.

What kid entertainment do you keep in your bag of tricks?



Michael Phillips said...

Hee, I keep a pencil bag full of pencils and dice, the same 19 cent box of crayons, and at least two note books (one lined one not) in my backpack. Not specifically for kids, since I lack my own, but I have been in situations where I could provide crayons an paper for bored children because of my backpack kit. For the bigger kid who hauls around the backpack, there is usually at least the current subject I'm studying, the core rule book for a game, and some light reading. As well as the pencils, paper, and crayons.

Chief Family Officer said...

That kind of traveling is the definition of extreme, isn't it? I'm so afraid, I've refused to go anywhere til now. I finally had to cave into going to Vegas in the fall for my cousin's wedding (my grandmother is going to meet us there and she hasn't met Tyler yet, so I felt obligated).

I love the activity book and crayons idea. I just wish my kids were the sit down and color type! Actually, it might work for 18-month-old Tyler (ironically). Three-year-old Alex just isn't into activities that require him to sit still - he's just such an active, physical kid!

I take it back, Alex will read books. So I try to keep a thin paperback book in my bag (Diego books really fit the bill, and I can order them for $2.95 from Scholastic through his preschool).

indywriter said...

Keychain flashlights have been popular with our family's little ones. We also kept our old cell phones for the girls to play with.

I try to always have some scrap paper and a writing utensil for emergency distractions. Lip balm also works wonders. Sister Goldenhair apparently suffers from extremely dry lips (she could apply balm for hours on end).

I'm not proud to admit it, but I also keep a Dum-Dum sucker in my purse for emergency shopping trips. I don't make a habit of using candy to bribe my girls, but there are times that I'm okay with it.

adrienne said...

Michael: Because of the amount of reading material they tend to carry, I think all geek guys pathologically fear boredom. It's cool you have supplies to share!

CFO: 2.75 year old Ranger isn't much of a colorer. With one rainbow coloring craft at Mom's Morning Out he colored less than a square inch of the rainbow- and he did it in black. He's far more into the role of at director, so he tells me what numbers and letters to write. When we fill every available space on the page I start asking him to find an eight, a letter written in blue, etc..

Indy: Keychain flashlights are brilliant. I sometimes carry a heavy one in my bag because Ranger drags it out of the house and then hands it to me. I will soon be investing in a few smaller lights.

And since you confessed first, I keep a stash of lollipops (bought on extreme discount after Valentine's day) hidden in the back of the car for very similar reasons. I try to use them as rewards for good behavior and/or distractions from an unpleasant task (like shopping).

Anonymous said...

My little ones were always dropping their toys in the car and then whining until we could stop the car and retrieve them. So I tied two pieces of string to a little notepad - one of the strings gets tied to their booster seat, the other gets tied to a pencil. We play games drawing things we see out the window as we drive!

Michael Phillips said...

Well, not all geeks are readers, but almost all readers do the same thing. You just tend to get a broader set of reading materials among geek readers than others.
I'm not sure that I'd say that there is a fear of boredom, so much as a recognition of the possibility of boredom, and a tendency to problem solve, leading to preemptive anti-boredom measures. Essentially, if you are going to be away from home, eventually you will be stuck somewhere with nothing to do. Since this is a given, why not bring things to do with you? And since books and writing materials are among the most portable/least destructable of our "things we do" they are the best choices to bring along. (Also, if you always have a pad of paper, you won't ever get stuck writing on napkins to illustrate a point or capture an insight. This is especially important if eating somewhere with cloth napkins. They get all pissy when you write on those and try to take them home.)

(And a pad of paper? Never ever runs out of batteries or has a critical software failure. You can have hardware failures if you aren't careful though.)

And worst comes to worst, you can play dots with any resident children if they/you are getting bored waiting for something.
(Hee, I actually used to play chess on paper during classes in HS. Of course, that was an extended period of time where it was especially hard to keep from getting bored.)

The little pouch in the inside of my backpack is awesome. I completely forget it is there so I never take the crayons out when I get home so they are always there. Now if only it were big enough to hold a 24 pack of colored pencils.

For carrying crayons in a bag sort of container, actual cardboard crayon boxes are about as good as it gets. There are a lot of years of design that went into the crayon box, and unlike hard plastic they don't rattle too much. Otherwise something with internal padding is best.

Some day I will have a backpack kit of toys, tools, and distractions that pass the Alton Brown Kitchen Utensil test. Everything will be multi-purpose and fun to use.

Anonymous said...

I have a rotating supply of distractions for my kids when traveling or eating out, and having just come back from a three week trip with three kids, I can give lots of ideas (I have twin boys that are 3, and an 18 month daughter):
1. Go to Michael's or other similar store buy a "Toob of ____" Put it in a small bag. We've bought farm animals, dinosaurs, knights.
2. Go to Half Price books, buy all the books you see there for a dollar or less your child is remotely interested in. Put these in a tub next to the car seat where your child can get to them. This entertained my boys from Texas to South Carolina.
3. Buy small containers of play dough, use caution in where they can use them. Restaurant good, friend's house with expensive carpet bad
4. Magnadoodle- great because you don't have to worry about them drawing in the wrong place and you can erase and start over. Kept my daughter entertained from Texas to South Carolina
5. I totally agree on the coloring books and crayons
6. For long car trips it's helpful to have small toys they can unwrap as you're driving as rewards for good behavior. Since I knew I was going on this trip for about six months in advance, I spent those six months looking for cheap toys to give them (read clearance toys), this also helped for entertaining on the trip.

AJ said...

At restaurants, our bag of tricks for our baby was a straw. A napkin hidden in a shirt pocket was pure joy.

Once our daughter could talk, we haven't needed tricks. We include her in the conversation. With a large group, at least one parent engages her. At almost 4-years-old, there's plenty to talk about.

We talk in the car too, discussing things we see. A long trip can be quite a learning opportunity. We've tried a few activities she can do solo in her seat, but for the most part we talk.

Mimi-n-Moe's Mom said...

I keep the toys from the house that annoy me in the car. I figure they get a chance to play with them before they are donated!

Anonymous said...

We keep a small dry-erase board ($1 at Wal-mart) and ONE marker in the car at all times. The marker clips to the board and is easy to keep up with wherever you are. To keep everyone around from getting a headache, make sure the marker is low odor.