It’s almost vacation time. Mom and Dad may give you advice on which clothes to pack. But you should probably start thinking about what will keep you busy when you’re waiting in the airport or sitting in the car or stuck inside on a rainy day while you’re away. You may have access to an electronic device, but KidsPost wanted to investigate the unplugged options. So here are our picks for the best toys, games and activities to pack in your carry-on or slide under a seat in the minivan.
If you’re tuned in to fashion, you will like this design activity kit that allows you to decorate clothing and accessories with patterned tape and colored pencils. The 40-page notebook that’s included features outlines of dresses, skirts, purses and boots. Use six tape runners to add rows of polka dots or roses or zebra stripes. Then add background color with the pencils. If you want to add extra sparkle or shine, a few pages of stickers are also included.
Creativity for Kids, age 7 and older, $25
Kids of all ages like art. This smartly designed easel is filled with markers, crayons, colored pencils, chalk and a dry-erase marker. The dry-erase board can be used in the flattened position or you can pop it up to reveal a surface for drawing with chalk. The white board also has clips to hold paper from the drawing pad. The supply drawers slide inside and won’t fall out when the easel is closed.
Faber-Castell, age 4 and older, $35
In many games, players try to earn as many points as possible. Dodge Dice is about avoiding — or dodging — points. Players roll a handful of dice, which have different colors on each side, and with each roll they remove the ones that match the color of the penalty die. The last roller to match the penalty die gets the points. Purple chips allow players to skip a turn and avoid the points, but there aren’t many chips to go around. That’s where strategy comes in.
Gamewright, age 8 and older, $10.99
You have probably played hangman on a chalkboard, but this edition of the classic puzzle game is more colorful, and it’s easy to take anywhere. The game features an erasable white board for writing the word or phrase other players are supposed to guess. The marker with eraser top fits nicely into loops on the side. The wooden letters are attached to the board with tight elastic bands, as is the hangman. If players guess 10 letters that aren’t in the puzzle, their man is in trouble.
Melissa & Doug, age 6 and older, $12.99
Toys with small parts are usually not ideal in the car or on a plane. But these building sets come in cases with compartments to keep the parts organized. Each set contains two minifigures and a pet. The Vehicle Suitcase includes bricks to make a gas station and a car. The House Suitcase contains pieces to make the front of a house and a picnic table. You need to take apart some of the set in order to fit it back into the box, but next time you take it out, you can make something of your own design.
Lego, ages 4 to 8, $24.99
More than a dozen versions of this compact matching game have become popular in recent years, but this one deserves special notice. It’s designed to be played at the pool or beach. The cards are laminated, so there’s no need to worry if your little sister dumps her water pail nearby. The object of the game is to be the first to spot the pair of matching pictures on two cards and to spot as many pairs as possible.
Blue Orange Games, age 7 and older, 2 to 8 players, $14.99
Maybe you take cards to the pool for when it’s adult swim time. But have you ever played cards in the pool? These foam cards float and even stick to tile when wet. The set of 54 cards works for any traditional game, including Snap, Go Fish and Crazy Eights. The fish designs are colorful and a bit funny. (The joker is a clownfish. Ha!) The cards come in a mesh bag so they dry out quickly and don’t smell funny the next time you want to play.
Winning Moves, age 4 and older, $14.95
Shooting objects across a room is just plain fun. Curled-up Zip Stix can be flattened to look like skateboards and launched with the touch of a finger. The sticks have characters printed on them, so the idea is to collect a bunch. But that’s not necessary. Even the dual packs, which cost less than $5, can provide a lot of entertainment for two kids. The cones and ramps that come with most sets are helpful for setting up obstacle courses, but household objects can work, too. This isn’t an activity for the car or plane, but it’s perfect for when Grandma wants to have a long chat with Mom and Dad.
Hog Wild, age 5 and older, $3.99-$19.99
IQ puzzle games have been around for a few years. This version features layered challenges. The game includes only eight pieces, but they can be arranged 120 ways. The instruction booklet tells you where to put the first piece or two; then it’s your job to fit the rest of the pieces on the pocket-size grid. But some of the pieces overlap, so you have to place them in a certain order. Even Mom and Dad won’t have an easy time with this one!
SmartGames, age 8 and older, $9.99
Fans of fast-paced card games such as Slap and Slamwich will enjoy Last Letter. The game starts with someone picking out an image on the oversize cards. All the players must search their hands for an image that starts with the last letter of the previous image. The first one to find an image and say the word can discard. Whoever gets rid of her cards first wins. It’s not hard to get confused with the back-and-forth between first and last letters.
ThinkFun, age 8 and older, $12.99