I enjoy road trips. Maybe it’s because I no longer have hour-long commutes since my move from the GTA to cottage country, or perhaps it’s because I have great memories of them from my youth.
My most recent adventure was a 30-hour round trip, just me and the kiddos. It was the annual Toy Fair in New York City (NYC), and I wanted my kids to experience the Big Apple with me.
How to keep my sanity in a car that is not equipped (by choice), with DVD players?
Here are some of the toys my kids thought you should know about:
Melissa & Doug Fashion Stickers. My two girls, ages five and 10, both love these. Think paper dolls, but with sticker outfits, and lots of them. My older daughter likes to draw them too. My son prefers the Reusable Habitat Stickers Scenes.
Customers often give me a quizzical look when I tell them that the simple looking $1.99 Pop Toobs will provide hours of fun. Stretching them, shrinking them, talking into them, connecting them together, making funny sounds, they were a hit.
For my two year-old, our Snack Trap kept him happily picking out Cheerios, without the mess all over the floor. He is also a big fan of his Magnetic Drawing Board, mostly because he likes it when the picture magically disappears.
Jim Weiss CD Stories such as Robin Hood or The Jungle Book held the attention of the older kids while the younger two napped.
My five year-old has developed motion sickness this year. So rather than my usual bag of books by her side, I make sure I’ve got lots of audio books for her to listen to, and some of her favorite sing along CDs, like Bobs & Lolo, Putumayo Rock & Roll, Sharon Lois & Bram and good ol’ Raffi’s Bananaphone.
Classic travel activity books such as Mr. Mystery and Yes & Know are great for kids that can read. For non-readers, Magic Pen & Invisible Ink Colouring Books are fun and inexpensive.
Wikki Stix are a simple reusable craft, that is not messy and appeals to all ages. Made from yarn and coated with a non-toxic wax, kids can make animals, letters, or sculptures out of them. My kids just love these things.
I like travel games that come in magnetic cases like Checkers and Tic Tac Toe since they keep pieces off the floor. Melissa & Doug have a clever idea, with bungee cords on the Memory Game flaps. For the younger kids, I brought them each a cookie sheet with Magnetic Wooden Animals and Letters.
What I like about Professor Noggins Trivia Cards is that they have “easy” and “hard” questions on each card. The kids can practice their reading skills and we can all test our knowledge on their favorite topics.
Pin Art. This simple toy brings so much amusement to all ages. Try sticking your hand in it, your face, a toy animal, you can even make a guessing game out of it.
My younger two enjoyed Hape/Educo’s Butterfly Magnetic Maze, where you have to use the attached magnetic wand to guide different coloured balls into their corresponding spot in the butterfly’s wing.
Perplexus, was one of the top toys this past holiday, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an enclosed maze (no lost marbles!), where you have to keep turning the ball to move your marble through all 100 challenges.
Some other standby items I keep on hand are Colour Wonders (no colouring on faces!), masking tape (kids can make their own “wall” between them), stickers (yes, they did end up all over the windows!), maps & highlighters for my little back seat drivers.
At the end of the road trip, the kids help pack everything into their Trunkis, and they can wheel their belongings into the hotel. My two year-old is more excited about riding on it and wheeling himself. At least there’s a strap for me to pull him with!
Being in the toy business is all about kids. That’s why I never miss an opportunity to include my kids with work related activities. I’m glad to report that we made it to NYC and back with the help of some great toys and with only two pee accidents. I consider that a success!
Jenny Thomas is the mother of four and the owner of Applause! Toy Store, with three locations in Muskoka, Ontario. She is a member of Neighbourhood Toy Stores of Canada (NETS).