The Growth and Giggles Blog
Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.
How to Make a Travel Activity Book
A travel activity book is a spiral notebook filled with learning games and fun activities for times your child needs to do something quiet, like in the doctor’s office, waiting rooms, or during car trips. It’s a combination of activities drawn onto pages, games held in envelopes stapled into the notebook, and blank pages for creative fun. Grab a notebook and let’s get started!
Pipe-cleaner people. In one envelope put in pre-made pipe-cleaner people, bits of cloth for clothes, and plain pipe cleaners for making props. Playing with posable pipe-cleaner people is great for your child's finger muscles and fine motor skills, and it makes for fun pretend play. You can tie pipe cleaner people onto a car seat for a preschooler so if your child drops them, he can pull them back up again.
Tangrams. This doesn’t actually have to be tangrams. Just cut out a variety of shapes from cardboard to put in the envelope. On several pages, trace the shapes to make pictures. Your child will try to figure out which shapes go together to make the pictures, eventually being able to make their own pictures and designs. Leave some blank pages for them after the pictures you make.
Yarn. They can try to make a picture by laying the yarn down in designs on the paper. You can also tie a piece of yarn in a loop for finger games like making a cat’s cradle, teacup, broom, and other shapes.
Bead stringing. You can make flat beads out of cardboard by cutting circles with a hole in the center. Include a piece of yarn to string the beads onto.
Color-matching game. Cut squares of different colored cardboard or construction paper. Put a hole punch in the corner of each square and string them onto a string tied onto the spiral of the notebook. Once you have helped your child untie them, he can find matching colors and string the matching colors together onto the string.
Paper-bag puppets. You can put in paper bags for your child to decorate, or you can include pre-made puppets for pretend play. Finger puppets are a good addition too.
Paper and Pencil games
What’s Missing Game. Draw a picture. A house or face or stick person works well. Next to it, draw the same thing but with one detail missing (like an ear). Draw another picture with a different detail missing. Make a series of pictures of the same thing, with one or more items missing in each. Your child will try to draw in what’s missing (or if they’re very young, they’ll just tell you what’s missing). This trains your child to notice details, an important pre-reading skill.
Shapes. Using dots made with a pen or drawing with a highlighter, make large shapes like squares, circles, and rectangles. Your child will be able to connect the dots to draw the shapes or draw over the highlighter with a pen or pencil.
Letters. Again, make dots or use a highlighter for tracing. Make sure you make letters neatly so a young child can recognize them.
Write their name. Write your child's name in highlighter, using a capital letter for the first letter and lowercase letters for the following letters. Give them several opportunities to practice this.
Squiggle drawings. For this game, you draw a squiggly line on a piece of paper and challenge your child to turn the squiggle into a picture. Encourage them to turn the paper around and look from different angles. Does the squiggle look like a part of an animal or a person? Can it be a piece of an object they know? Will it be something make-believe?
Weaving. Cut strips into the center of a sheet of paper. Reinforce the top and bottom with tape. Give your child strips of paper to weave over, under, over, under. This is great for fine-motor skills and learning patterns.
Keep in mind that at first you will need to coach your child through using these activities. Though this requires some effort up front, your child will soon learn how to enjoy these games on their own, and this activity book will be a great tool for you when you need your child to play some quiet games.