A couple weeks ago, two of my very favourite people got married. (Yes, to each other). They live in California, and so we had a wonderful very brief weekend away to watch the nuptials and to see friends who are basically family (don't you love when that happens?) and that meant travelling with a young toddler.
Noora's first flight occurred when she was only a few months old, not mobile, and she (blissfully) slept through almost all of both legs of the journey. This time around, we were faced with 4 flights in 4 days with a 13 month old- a very wriggly, gross-motor obsessed 13 month old- and I'm not going to lie, I was a bundle of nerves about the whole thing. So, I did what I usually do, which is to completely geek out and I made a little California travelling kit for our little one, full of activities to keep her entertained on planes and in airports. And it worked! (Mostly). All of these were simple, easy, California-inspired materials that anyone can make or apply to really anywhere you'd travel.
The first thing I did, even before we travelled, was to make a set of cards of the people we were staying with. Noora is pretty good with people- she's a super social baby- but this would be a lot of concentrated time with people who aren't familiar to her, so I wanted to do what I could to at least make her familiar with them. I printed pictures on cardstock, laminated them, and cut them. She loved these cards, and I would love to believe one of the reasons she was so cool with everyone was because she even vaguely recognized them. I kept them out and used them with her for just over a week before our travels.
This shell activity was super simple- I got this Safari Toob of shells and then a small plastic craft bottle, some craft sand and shells. I put the tiny shells (I got mine in a bag at Michael's) and the sand in the bottle, sealed it with glue, and she had a beach-themed shaker and sensorial bottle to play with for the flight. The toy shells we used in the tub at the hotel (and with a net that I forgot to take a picture of and then left in said hotel, because I'm clever that way). She was a huge fan of these and I think I'll be making many more baby sensorial bottles as time goes by.
Next, we had another Safari Toob- this one sea creatures (I removed the penguin, sperm whale, and hammerhead shark) and matching cards. Noora loves animal figurines and matching them to the cards is a new addition to her exploration of them. She wasn't entirely sure of the matching aspect- it was pretty hit or miss, though she seemed to get at least the starfish, humpback whale and octopus consistently. But she did try, and she was able to point to the animal figurines on the plane as I gave her the names- animals of any kind are a guaranteed way to occupy this kid.
We also had these cards just for vocabulary and interest. I printed off pictures of California symbols- like the avocado, grey whale, redwoods, etc.,- and showed them to her a few at a time. This was a great activity for the plane as it was quiet and didn't include tiny figures she could hurl across the aisle! (As happened with the shells before I took them away and only let her use the bottle. To be fair- it was 6 in the morning and she'd been up since 4). I love making picture cards for vocabulary building and Noora is definitely used to this activity with me, so it was a familiar one for her.
Finally- BOOKS! What would a trip be without any books?? We got three California board books for our book loving girl, and they were all delightful. First- San Francisco: A Book of Numbers by Ashley Evanson, which is a lovely counting book and I think my favourite of the ones we purchased. Then we had All Aboard! California: A Landscape Primer by Haily and Kevin Meyers, which was a cute overview of a variety of California landscapes, including deserts, cities, redwoods, vineyards, etc. To round them out, we also had 123 California: A Cool Counting Book by Puck, and honestly, it had gorgeous and bold, graphic illustrations but it was really very short, and had no words (just a number on each page) and Noora lost interest in it fairly soon. I think it would have been better if she'd been a bit younger.
That's it! A few simple activities in ziplock bags, a few books, and a hotel bathtub and Noora was pretty content during most of our trip. What activities do you prepare or do with your children when you travel? We have several trips coming up this year so I'd love to hear what others do!
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