On The Go Fun-Summer 2023

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To piggyback on my last post, Appy Friday, I want to share some of my favorite games, toys and craft sets that are easy to take while traveling. Some children just do not respond well to screen-time, even if used for small periods of time. It can cause them to become disregulated, lethargic and can even lead to tantrums when it is time to get off. For that reason, I have put together a handful of things that make for great on-the-go entertainment for kids of all ages. Of course because it’s how I think, I chose things that were not only fun, but had as much therapeutic benefits as possible. It’s important to me that when I make recommendations to parents, other therapists or anyone who are looking for meaningful gifts for their little humans that I’m giving them suggestions that will support development, especially if they are going to be taking a break from therapy over the summer. There are so many ways to keep your little ones working without them even realizing it those are the best products….they take the “work” out of learning and that is what was kept in mind as I put together this list. Keep reading for some of my favorite toys/products/games that will work on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, visual motor and perceptual skills while building in opportunities to learn cognitive and educational skills.

1. ABC Spot Me Game-whenever I go on vacation with my family, I like to bring games to play. I know that parents want to limit the amount of screen time on vacations but also want to keep their kids entertained. There are more and more games out there to choose from which can be confusing to parents. When choosing games, I want to make sure they are family friendly, don’t take up much space, are fun but also have some kind of educational/therapeutic benefit. ABC Spot Me is a fast-paced game for early learners. There are 60 picture tiles and a set of alphabet cards. You put all the tiles out on the play surface, shuffle the alphabet cards and take turns flipping the card to see what letter you get. The object of the game is to be the first person to find a tile with a picture of something that starts with that letter. The person with the most tiles at the end is the winner. This is not only great for working on letter identification and pre-reading, it’s great for working on visual scanning, visual perceptual and visual motor skills.

2. Wee Society Go! A Kids Interactive Travel Diary and Journal-one thing I loved to do with my daughter when she was younger and we were traveling was to keep a travel journal. It was a fun way to not only reflect on her day and trip but she had fun looking back at it once we were home. This travel diary from Wee Society is perfect for kids 4-8 years old and is filled with a bunch of prompts so kids can remember important parts of their vacations. Some of the things included are new foods you tried, new people you met, checking off cool things you spot while traveling and so much more. Also included are travel badges you can earn, places to keep photos you take or other mementos. This makes a great gift for someone you know who is taking a big adventure. Kids can complete their own book or work together as a family so they can remember their big adventures.

3. Travel Tangram-tangrams are a great tool to work on so many skills. They are great for working on spatial reasoning, problem solving and improves hand-eye coordination and visual perceptual skills. For travel purposes, I have shared this magnetic tangram book because it is great for travel purposes. The book contains 360 different patterns with the solutions included with puzzles starting off easy and then becoming more challenging. The magnetic foam shapes are strong and durable and will stay in place so kids won’t become frustrated. This is not only good for kids to do by themselves but is a good activity for siblings to work together on to solve the puzzles.

4. Instax Instant Camera and Blank Journal-one of my favorite things I did with my daughter as she got older and outgrew the kiddie travel journals was to have her pick out a special blank journal or notebook and take that and her Polaroid camera with her. I would encourage her to take a few special pictures every day so she could write about her day before going to bed. It was a great way to work on her writing skills while also documenting her adventures. When parents ask me what they can do with their older kids during the summer months to make sure they don’t lose their writing skills, this is the first thing I suggest. Kids LOVE the instant gratification of the instant picture plus it’s a good writing prompt on what they should focus on when writing. I typically encourage them to write 2-3 sentences for each picture asking them to talk about the picture but why they wanted to remember that moment in time.

5. Light Up Pop-Tube Animals-poptubes/wrapper snappers have been part of my occupational therapy toolbox for as long as I can remember. I love the way that they have evolved over the years and am officially obsessed with these smaller light-up set of a varying animals which are perfect for throwing in your purse or a child’s travel bag. The great thing about these toys is that they are full of therapeutic benefits but the kids don’t even realize it because they are just having fun when playing with them. Pop-tube toys are great for working on encouraging bilateral and hand-eye coordination skills, helps with improving grasp strength and manipulation skills, improves motor planning all while providing a fun tactile and auditory sensory experience.

6. Disney Enchanted Cupcake Game-one of the things I love most about this game is that it can be a game or just a fun little on-the-go toy to work on a bunch of occupational therapy goals. This is one of the most universally loved toys by all my kids and it is easy to take with you. I rarely play the game and actually use it as an opportunity to work on improving fine motor and manipulation skills, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and to work on following visual directions and increase focus, attention and organizational skills. The game comes with 9 double-sided cards with pictures of cupcakes; one side has a cupcake with the ingredients for one character and the other has the ingredients for a cupcake using 1 part of 4 different Disney characters for kids to create. While I use it with specific goals in mind for children, this is a great toy for open-ended building and creating making it perfect for on-the-go fun.

7. Mad Libs-I love using Mad Libs for working on handwriting and imagination/thinking outside of the box for my older kids at the office but they also make for a great family activity while traveling. They are great for teaching and practicing parts of speech and categories for older kids but in a fun, non-intimidating way. One of the things I love about Mad Libs is that you can find ways to make it work for a whole family. I think about a family on a road trip and doing some Mad Libs and how you can pick and choose who in your family fills in the words based on their age and cognitive level. For example, the grownups and older kids can fill in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs while you task the younger kids with things like colors, number, shape, etc.. Family members who can write take turns asking for answers, writing them out and reading it once it is completed. Check out local book and toy stores to find the right Mad Libs for your family.

8. Mini Lite Brite Mini X Connect-a Lite Bright is one of those toys that almost every pediatric occupational therapy has in their offices. It’s a simple toy that works on so many occupational therapy goals, especially fine motor skills. Obviously a larger Lite Bright is too big to travel with but the mini version is perfect for on-the-go entertainment. Each set comes with a bunch of different colored pegs and 8 templates (you can also print out other ones online). Kids work on increasing grasp strength and improve grasping and manipulation skills while matching the pegs to the correct letter. This is great for developing hand-eye coordination, improving visual tracking and visual motor skills and working on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, task completion and improving frustration tolerance. For some of my younger kids, I use this as a tool to work on developing their grasping and manipulation skills by pulling the pegs out of playdough or putty and putting it in the Lite Brite board without a template. This mini Lite Brite is perfect to take on the go and will keep kids entertained while traveling, in a restaurant or while waiting for an appointment.

9. DJECO Create Animals Sticker Kit-I have been a fan of all the different kinds of sticker mosaic kits out there because they work on so many occupational therapy goals but in a way in which it is hidden from the kids. I recently discovered these DJECO kit and thought they were great because they aren’t only cute, but they allow for a child to be creative. Many of the mosaic kits (which I will share a couple more later in this post) require you to put specific colors in a specific place but with this kit, children can use the stickers to make their animals just the way they want. Each kit comes with 8 sheets of stickers to decorate four different animals. The best part about this is that while the kids are creating, they are working on improving fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and so much more. It’s a great activity for kids who are working on grasp and manipulation skills. In the end, they have a completed picture that they are always proud of.

10. Rubik’s Cube-I love when the classic toys of my childhood make a comeback so it’s been really fun to see the Rubik’s Cube has made a reappearance, especially knowing how many therapeutic benefits there are. First of all, it’s a great way for kids to pass the time without being glued to a screen and perfect to throw in a backpack or travel bag. I know a lot of the kids I work with who are going to camp have been asking for one to take with them. As a child, there was the standard Rubik’s Cube but now there are so many to choose from. Playing with a Rubik’s Cube works on so many skills including improving hand-eye and bilateral coordination, works on executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and perseverance, improves problem solving and organizational skills and works on increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills. While I love that there are so many Rubik’s Cube options now, I think the original one is the best.

11. Plus-Plus Blocks Tubes and Travel Case-Plus-Plus blocks are one of my favorite open-ended building toys and are great to take on the go. They are a great tool to work on improving grasping and manipulation skills while encouraging creativity in children. There are dozens and dozens of different themed and colored tubes to choose from and it makes for a perfect travel toy because you can easily store them and throw in your bag to keep kids entertained this summer wherever you are. Each tube contains with step-by-step instructions to build a couple of things but I like to just leave them out to encourage kids to design and create whatever comes to their minds. Plus-Plus blocks are great for increasing grasp strength, improve manipulation skills, encourage bilateral coordination and encourages creativity. If you are on-the-go a lot, the travel case is great for storing your blocks, base board and whatever else you want to play with after you are done creating.

12. Squigz-I love Squigz and all suction cup toys and they make a perfect on-the-go toy. I was introduced to Squigz when I saw them on the Fat Brain Toys website and have been using, recommending and gifting them for ages. They can be used in so many ways and work on so many developmental skills. Toddlers and school age kids love them and they are easy to throw in a Ziploc bag and put in a travel bag. Squigz stick on a variety of surfaces including windows, airplane tables, most restaurant tabletops and high chair tables, bathtubs, to each other and so much more. This open-ended building toy encourages creativity while also working on increasing grasp strength, improving grasping and manipulation skills, encourages bilateral coordination and offers an auditory and tactile sensory experience. For babies and toddlers, I love the Whirly Squigz. They are perfect for keeping your wiggly kids occupied in the car or airplane….stick them on a window or airplane tray and let them twirl away! We have these suction cup creatures at our office and the kids love them and they come in a really cool egg shaped storage container.

13. Orb Sticky Mosaic Kits-another craft kit that has been a staple for me for as long as I can remember are these sticker mosaic kits. These little kits are perfect to keep your kids busy while on the go and take up almost no room in a travel bag/backpack. Kids create pictures using small stickers and matching the colored squares to the correct number. This is great for working on developing fine motor skills such as grasping and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, works on visual tracking and improves focus and attention. Once they complete their pictures, you can see how proud the kids are of their work. Stick Mosaic Kits are great for kids to work on individually or you can have siblings, friends, etc. work together to finish them faster.

14. Water Amaze Water Reveal Boards-these water coloring boards from Ooly are one of my new favorite things. First of all, they offer un-messy coloring/painting activity for your little ones so you don’t have to worry about them making a mess. Secondly, after the kids paint the picture, it will dry so you can use them over and over again. If you have a child who tends to avoid coloring or drawing because it is hard for them, this is a great way for them to be successful. What I love about these sets are that in addition to working on improving graphomotor skills, kids can work on developing language skills by talking about what they see, identifying colors and shapes and so much more. Each set comes with 6 reusable boards and a paintbrush. These are great for throwing in your bag and pulling them out while traveling, dining out or even at the beach or pool when your kid could use a break from swimming.
**to make this better for doing while in the car or outside of the home, buy a Melissa and Dough Water Wow book that comes with a paint brush that can be filled with water avoiding water spilling.

15. Boogie Board-this LED drawing board is perfect for on the go fun and can be used to work on so many occupational therapy and educational goals. I highly recommend keeping one in your travel bag or in your car for some screen-free entertainment and they are fairly inexpensive so you can get one for each of your children to limit the fighting. There are endless uses for this reusable writing tablet including playing games like tic-tac-toe, Hangman, the dot game, etc., practicing writing, drawing and much more. I’m a big fan of the Magic Sketch Kit because in addition to being a writing/drawing tablet, they come with a variety of writing tools (great for working on grasping skills), templates for games, complete the pictures and learning concepts such as letter, shapes, numbers and more.

Here are a few extra things added after making my graphic!
Hidden Colors Magic Paint Pictures-if you have a child who loves art and painting, these are perfect for them. Just using water and a paintbrush, detailed black and white pictures come to life and color. This is great for taking on the go, to the beach at restaurants to keep your kids busy and occupied while also working on improving hand-eye coordination and grasping skills. The important thing to remind your kids is that they should only paint small portions at a time and clean their paint brush often so the colors don’t bleed into each other. In addition to be great for hand-eye coordination, it’s works on patience and focus and attention. Hidden Colors Magic Paint Pictures from Ooly are intended for children 8 and older but I think with clear directions and some reminders to keep cleaning their paint brushes, younger children would be successful as well.

Melissa and Doug Puffy Sticker Activity Sets-stickers are always a good idea when traveling with kids and even better if they can be used over and over again. These Melissa and Doug sticker activity sets are great because they can be used over and over again and they come with built-in storage making it perfect for on-the-go entertainment. Each set comes with puffy stickers, double-sided glossy backgrounds which means that kids work on their imagination and storytelling skills. As an occupational therapist, I love using stickers as often as possible because they are great for working on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills. Additionally, they are great for improving hand-eye coordination. One of the nice aspects of these puffy stickers is that because they are reusable, they can stick on other surfaces like car or airplane windows, airplane trays, restaurant tables and so much more.

Imagination Go Pack-when we are traveling with kids and we want to avoid screen time, it’s great to have something compact, easy to take on the go and that offers a variety of activities that also work on a variety of skills. The Imagination Go Pack offers just that….this travel bag comes with 20 chalkboard activity cards for on-the-go creative learning. The activity cards encourage writing, reading and drawing skills, while working on problem solving and encouraging imagination, creativity and self-expression. Kids can color in scenes, play a variety of games such as tic-tac-t0e and the dot game, practice writing letters and much more using the chalk that is provided. The best part is that everything is reusable since you can wash it off using wipes or a wet paper towel. In addition to all that has been previously mentioned, kids can work on improving visual motor and visual perceptual skills, improve hand-eye and bilateral coordination skills all while keeping kids entertained while traveling.

 Highlights Space Code Crackers-I have been using cryptograms, or as some people call them Crack the Code word games, with my kids who need a fun way to work on handwriting. As soon as you make something a game, kids are way more motivated to work on something that is trickier for them. Crack the Code word games are a great way to have your older children work on handwriting and executive functioning skills. This little booklet with more than 20 puzzles to solve out is perfect for throwing in a backpack while traveling and is a super easy way to work on improving handwriting skills, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, focus, attention and organizational skills. The book comes with a decoder wheel that folds out with 26 letters with a number associated with each letter which helps with manipulation skills and improves visual scanning/tracking.

 Egghead Logic Game-I found this game in a local Brooklyn toy store and grabbed it immediately. I loved the compact size and how the pieces stay in place making it a great on-the-go game for older children. This is especially good for kids who are working on improving executive functioning skills such as problem solving, organizational skills and perseverance. The object of the game is to figure out where the 16 eggs need to be placed on the board using  the clues provided on each card. This not only require focus and attention, it helps to work on improving hand-eye coordination and manipulation and grasping skills. Kids can work together while in the car, plane, at the beach or pool or while waiting for meals at a restaurant. Another great feature of this game is that it comes with a carrying case and everything can be stored inside the game making it perfect for taking on the go!


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