Successful travel with small children takes patience and preparation. Art and math entertainment can make that time waiting or traveling much more enjoyable for kids and parents alike. From waiting for restaurant meals to arrive to boarding an airplane for a very long flight, keeping easy to grab and pack “Art + Math on the Go” can make those lulls during outings more enjoyable for everyone involved.
We keep a variety of travel art and math supplies in a handy box near our back door. When headed out to dinner at a restaurant I grab a few items and toss them in my purse. If packing for a vacation involving travel and hotel time or even just an afternoon at great-grandma’s house across town, I let the kids pick and choose items to stock their own travel backpacks.
Some of our favorites items are not only great prompts for creative fun, but are so compact that we can easily keep on hand.
Art Supplies on the Go
- A mini sketch pad has unlimited creative potential – from drawing to games to paper plane crafting. Spiral bound or a simple staple binding so that the pages lie flat when open (rather than hardcover bound), are typically easier for little hands to sketch and write close to the binding. A few basic easy-to-pack options include: Melissa & Doug Mini Sketch Pad, 3×5 Mini Sketch Pad, and 5×8 Sketch Pad. For a compact notepad with a fun cover and an easy-to-pack 4″x4″ size (but a bit higher price), check out the Pink Bunny Mini Notepad or Sailboat Mini Note Pad.
- Save Party Favor Crayons from birthday parties to always have a few colors on hand.
- Bring blank Mini Books to draw and write customized storybooks or keep a journal about the trip!
- Keep Twistable Colored Pencils handy for travel – no sharpener required.
- The tiny container size of travel or party favor Playdoh is easy to tuck in a bag and keeps mess-making to a minimum
- Wikki Stix take up very little space in a travel bag and offer many creative 2D and 3D play opportunities
Art Activities & Kits on the Go
- For toddlers and preschoolers, simple coloring and activity books that use water, like Water Wow! Connect the Dots, or stickers, like Sticker Activity ABC, limit supplies and keep art on the go mess-free.
- For elementary age children, all-inclusive travel art packs such as the Tape Activity Book the allow for artistic creativity using only the included supplies and book.
- Origami is an engaging activity that requires much focus, but only small squares of paper to create inventive works of art. The Origami on the Go kit includes paper and instructions all within a compact container.
- Consider bringing the World Traveler Coloring Book and a set Twistable Colored Pencils of for children with advanced coloring and fine motor skills.
Math Games on the Go
- The Tic-Tac-Toe Challenge is a fun two-person activity that uses logic and strategic thinking, but requires only a sheet of paper and two colored crayons or pencils. You can print out a few sheets from the linked blog post to bring on your travels, or create your own game board in a sketch book or scrap paper.
- For young children, Sudoko Puzzles for Kids are an easy and fun way to practice logic and sequence skills while playing a game. The compact kid-sized books are very easy to pack for travel too.
- For older elementary age kids, activity books like Brain Games feature a variety of word and math puzzles, mazes and games that help develop language skills and analytical reasoning in an entertaining format.
- Spot It!, Mille Bornes and Uno are card games that are simple enough for young travelers, but fun for older kids, too. An added bonus: these games help develop logic, sequence and pattern recognition, and math skills for young learners, and they are great games anytime – not just for travel!
Art Games on the Go
If your little artist tires of drawing or coloring, trying introducing one of these fun and easy drawing games (all you need is a sheet of paper and a pencil or crayon):
- Guess the Picture: as one player draws, the other(s) guess what they are creating (similar to the Pictionary concept.)
- Finish the Picture: one player draws three features of their intended drawing (for example, the tail, horn and eye of a unicorn, but nothing else) then the other player either guesses the subject of the art piece OR exchange the sheet of paper and player 2 completes the drawing as they see it.
- Three-Fold-Draw: Fold a piece of paper into three equal sections. The first player draws the “head” or top of a person, animal, or whimsical creature within the top panel with just the lines of the “neck” reaching into the second panel. Then he/she folds over the top so only the middle panel is exposed. The next player draws the middle section of the creature continuing from the “neck lines” to the bottom of the middle panel, again bringing the bottom most lines just to the top of the bottom panel, then refolding the paper so only the bottom panel is exposed. The third player completes the drawing by adding the feet, tail, or other features. Finally, reveal the resulting art piece!
- Team Draw: Take turns drawing one line or shape at a time to complete a unique drawing as a pair or group.