My mother was a pro when it came to keeping us children entertained during those long road trips. She would always bring along a beach bag stuffed full of goodies, which were doled out sparingly on our vacations. The tote would be filled with portable board games, activity books and snacks which kept us entertained for hours and staved off the boredom.
When my husband and I were preparing for vacation one summer, I decided to take a lesson from my mother in how to keep bored children happy. The “Boredom Buster” travel kit was developed for a trip across the Oregon and Idaho deserts. This kit was filled with odds and ends of entertainment to be opened at certain times along the trip. Each small gift was wrapped with a tag listing the time they were to be opened.
My children were given a watch, instructions and the Boredom Buster travel kit. I put them in charge of keeping track of the time and when the next gift was to be opened. They eagerly waited for the hours to roll around and took turns unwrapping the gifts at the proper time. The watch also had the advantage of doing away with the inevitable whining, “What time is it now?” Putting times on the packages turned the activity into a bit of a scavenger hunt. It also helped to stagger the gifts. Long playing games were alternated with shorter activities. It also allowed me to stage munchies to be eaten at appropriate times. It turned out to be the perfect solution to fighting boredom and eliminating those back seat cat fights.
How to make a your own Boredom Buster Travel Kit
The Boredom Buster travel kit doesn’t have to be expensive. A cheap straw tote or laundry bag will do the trick. Wrap the gifts in color comics to save on the price of wrapping paper. Reading the wrapping paper also becomes a favorite activity, especially if you use old funny papers.
For gifts, there’s all sorts of possibilities, depending on how much you are willing to spend. In the past, I’ve spent anywhere between $20 to $60 depending on the length of the trip. I do keep things small to keep down on the clutter. The first gift that’s opened right away is a 6″ ruler and map with our travel route plotted out in yellow highlighter pen. This allows the children to follow where we are going, and estimate distances.
For the rest of your items, a local Auto Club has a great selection of inexpensive travel games for children. The dollar store is also a good place to buy color books, mad lib books, and other activity or sticker books for children. Don’t forget to include crayons, markers, pencils and pencil sharpeners along with your activity.
A disposable camera makes for a nice gift; in the summer, they can be purchased for around $4. In the past, we’ve included small, but inexpensive electronic games and pocket board games. Comic books and kids magazines such as Nickelodeon, are also real winners for children of all ages. The Klutz company puts out a great selection of activity books complete with instructions and materials. They have a line of backseat travel activity books that are favorite boredom busters. Klutz books tend to be in the high range of what I will spend to stock our travel kit, retailing from $12.95 to 16.95. I do try to include one of these books in the Boredom Buster travel kit since they are good for hours of entertainment.
Not all the gifts have to cost money. A small photo album with your children’s pictures can be entertaining. You could also pack precut construction paper squares make cootie catchers or paper hats. Smaller sheets and a library book on origama is also a great travel activity. Pages of stick puppets to color and glue to popsicle sticks, can also provide lots of entertainment for smaller children. A handful of library paperbacks from a favorite author will also work.
Don’t forget to include some snacks in the travel kit and label them for the times you think your children might be getting hungry. Make sure its a fun snack, such as colored goldfish or mini bites.
The secret to making the Boredom Buster travel kit work for you is keeping the gifts a secret, wrapping and labeling with a time to be opened, and staggering the activities. There may be moments when your children may still get a little bored, but you’ll discover that for the most part, they will be much happier travelers.