Printable Activities and Easy Games to Keep Your Kids Busy
The gifts are getting wrapped, the cookies are being baked, and the kids are dancing across the ceiling with excitement for the holidays, the travels, and seeing Grandma and Grandma on Christmas Eve. But how are you ever going to remain sane in the process? Try some of these activities and projects for busy kids who are confined to small spaces – the car, plane, or even Aunt Sally’s tiny living room that is adorned with ceramic kittens.
The first thing to remember is that you are much more likely to remain sane if your kids are given outlets for their energies and their sense, even amid the Christmas hustle and bustle. Most kids need some way to release their inner childhood crazy monsters through tactile activities that use their sense of touch, opportunities to use their senses of hearing, and through being able to use their muscles.
7 Easy Games and Printables
Printable License Plate Game
Use these printable lists of all 50 states (plus a bonus personalized license plate) to keep your kids busy scanning the roads for other travelling families. You can work on one sheet together, or print one off for each passenger.
My kids still play with string in the van on long trips, keeping their hands and often their humors busy. There are great string tricks you can do on your own, or play the traditional Cat’s Cradle game with 2 people. All you need is yarn – or a Chinese Jump Rope like this one. If you never mastered the art of string tricks as a child, check out this great video for easy tutorials!
Printable Travel Games
Print this page and cut apart the game sheets on the dotted lines (each page will give you 3 game sheets) for even your non-readers. As you travel along, have the kids keep their eyes open for the signs and objects on the game sheet, and either circle them or put an X through them. You can play together or make it a friendly competition to see who can complete their game card first.
Who’s In That Car?
This classic game uses the imagination and helps keep everyone focused on something other than “How many more minutes?”. Simply take turns making up stories about the people you drive by who are in their cars or trucks. Perhaps you see a car with a travel case strapped to the top – maybe you will make up a story about the travel case containing sauerkraut because the family in the car is headed to a German family reunion. Get creative and have fun – no supplies needed!
Homemade Sock Puppet or Brown Bag Buddy
Use an old sock or a brown paper lunch bag and help your little ones create puppets who can ride in the minivan with them. Come up with a storyline, including how excited your child’s Brown Bag Buddy is to be heading to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve. The puppet will help divert heightened excitement, and also be an outlet for hands that just need to be busy.
Disappearing Coin Motivation
Buy a roll of coins for each child – the value of coins will probably be determined by the age of the child. The rolls of coins stay up from with you, and you lay out the ground rules for travel. Perhaps you have a How-much-longer-whiner in your van. For that child, every time she whines about how-much-longer, you remove a coin from the roll and add it to your own stash. If you have a sibling-picker – the one who always is poking, teasing, taunting, and making travels a bit testy – make the rule that every time those behaviors appear, another coin will disappear. When you have reached your destination, your child gets the remaining coin in the roll for souvenirs or trinkets at the hotel.
Lace ‘Em Up Cards
Turn cardboard into portable, learn-to-lace activities for preschoolers. Simply take one side of a cereal box or the lid to a shirt box, draw a basic shape (fish, candy cane, Christmas tree, flower, etc.). Then use a paper punch and punch holes in the cardboard at about 2-3 inch intervals. Grab an extra pair of shoelaces and your little one can practice lacing on the go.