After much pondering and Pinterest searching, here is what I came up with to entertain my girls during our family vacation. All of these would work for a long car ride as well. And many are sensory rich for helping your sensory sensitive child stay entertained while they are confined in their seat.
Here are a few things I kept in mind while packing my daughters' carry-on bags (ages 7 and 9):
1--They will be carrying their own bags. So I didn't want to make it too heavy. Though you should see the heavy backpacks they carry to school everyday. Honestly, I wasn't too concerned about weight.
2--A variety of types of activities: electronic devices, headphones, books, craft projects, games, coloring. Including several sensory-friendly activities for those kids who need a little extra input!
3--water bottle (empty through security, filled before we boarded the plane). They didn't even ask for a drink from the flight attendant (less chance for spilling too).
4--snack box (filled with some fun and some healthy snacks) If they each have their own box of snacks, they can just pull it out whenever they want and snack away. No bugging you for snacks every five minutes and keeps them happy.
5--Remember you have a return flight too, so don't put your whole bag of tricks into the first flight and have nothing left for the return flight.
Wikki Stix--I bought the Rainy Day Wikki activity kit awhile ago and was saving it for a time when I really needed something. Not only can they make whatever they want with the Wikki Sticks. This kit has word finds (use the wikki sticks to circle the words), pictures to finish, and shapes to design. I made copies of the word finds so they each had their own copy. And I switched up the other pages for the return flight so each girl had different activities.
Pipe Cleaners--a nice sensory input activity. Soft and bendable, something the kids can manipulate with their hands and it is QUIET! Have them make a fun pipe cleaner sculpture, make their own necklaces or bracelets. Or whatever they come up with to do with them. You can also have them take FrootLoops from their snack box and make patterns, designs on the pipecleaners with their Froot Loops. Good fine motor skill work. You can usually find pipe cleaners at the dollar store. We received pipe cleaner kits for Christmas. I just put them aside and saved them for this trip.
I was surprised by what a hit the pipe cleaners were!! The girls LOVED creating with them.
Gel Window Clings--this activity will probably take school age kids about 30 seconds to do, but it will make their plane area cute, pretty and fun. These can be found at the dollar store. They can put them on their windows. OR, I gave each of my girls a transparency to use because I knew they weren't going to be in a window seat. I was surprised at how long they played with these! Also a really great sensory experience with the stickiness of the gel clings!
All of the above were housed minimally in one file folder and looked like this:
New Books--I put 1 or 2 brand new books in each of their bags. And each of my girls will also have a NookColor loaded with downloaded library books to read while we're on our trip.
Coloring Books/Markers--Mindware makes really amazing coloring books. We have several and their fine tip coloring markers. I highly recommend these markers! They work great and are long-lasting. These great books will take FOREVER for your kids to color in a page because they are so detailed. They also have books called Mystery Mosaics, Multiplication Mosaics, etc all using color by number or letter. You can add an educational component along with the creativity of coloring.
Games--Phase 10 (dice game or card version), Farkle, a deck of cards, Iota (a card game housed in a mini-tin similar to Qwirkle). I opted for the dice version of Phase 10. Housed the dice games in ziploc bags. They took up no room at all! You could use an empty airline cup and the inflight magazine to play the dice games (though you will have to be careful to keep the dice on the tray). I also threw in our Kanoodle game since it's small and portable.
PlusPlus--great for building. Plus Plus is soooo small and light. Easy to bring along. Gives kids a chance to practice fine motor skills, visual perception and problem solving along with being creative. Get those brains working! They can create anything they can think of! We have 200 pieces and will just bring them in a ziploc bag. A zippered pencil case would also be a great way to travel with them.
Magnatab--Another great sensory toy for the elementary age. Sort of like a magnadoodle from when they were little. But Magnatab is the perfect travel size and has added sensory experience. This toy has a very tactile side to it. You can create a design/picture with the magnetic pen included. Then you can run your fingers over the small ball bearings you pulled up. You can also push each one back in if you want.
Mazes/Worksheets on the iPad--There is a website with tons of free maze printables! Download a few to GoodNotes using Dropbox (a great tutorial here) and your kids can do mazes over and over again on your iPad. Or if there are other printable worksheets they might be interested in, you can use this same technique to add them to your iPad for offline fun.
iPod/headphones--I loaded up their ipods with some movies (I use iSkysoft Media convertor software to put DVDs--that didn't come with digital copies--onto our iPods/iPads). I also included some new apps on their iPods/family iPad that they haven't played before: Minecraft, Pettson's Inventions 2, The Curse, Ansel & Clair--Paul Revere (there are also Ansel & Clair--Africa and Ansel & Clair--Dinosaur games), PlayArt, and Bridge Constructor.
Many of these things can also be used at your destination to entertain the kids during any downtime or quiet time between family activities.
SEE ALSO MY LIST OF THINGS TO PACK IN A PRESCHOOL CHILD'S CARRY-ON!
(Everything I've discussed in this post, we either already owned or I bought specifically for this trip.)