Busy Books (also called Quiet Books) are my favorite sewing projects to make. There are no limits as to how far your creativity can go and I probably get just as much fun out of making them as the kids do out of playing with them. Which is probably a good thing, because we could never afford them otherwise, since they tend to be rather expensive to buy.
The moment I learned that our family would be traveling I right away got started on the project of making a quiet book for Baby-Girl. We would be traveling right around her birthday, so I had it in mind that I would make it for her as a birthday gift and it would also serve as a way to keep her entertained during the long trip. You can see the busy book I made on this page: Keturah’s Busy Book.
I hit up Pinterest for a lot of my ideas and inspirations, many of which never got into this book, so go ahead and checkout my Pinterest Busy Book Board for what I consider to be the best ideas out there for Busy Book designs and inspirations.
I really love the idea of busy bags. They can be as simple as a small ziplock bag filled with a few random objects to entertain, or they can be as elaborate and “put together” as you have time for.
Once you have the “bags” it’s time for the fun of filling them. The idea is just to fill them with objects that will entertain the kids. They can be random items, or categories of items, or groups of items that are used together. The possibilities are endless!
Once again, Pinterest had a lot of inspirations for busy bag ideas, so check out my Pinterest Busy Bag Board for an incredible number of Busy Bag ideas.
Here are the busy bags I put together for Baby-Girl, for this particular trip:
* Nature Busy Bag. Baby-Girl loves the outdoors and everything related to being outside. So for this busy bag I just collected a bunch of rocks and sticks, washed off the dirt and soaked them in bleach water to sterilize them. Then I did a little art-work painting on them so that I know exactly which rocks and sticks are her “play ones” – and also so other adults will realize that I actually did intend for rocks and sticks to be play things. Also in keeping with the theme of nature items, I added some fake leaves and flowers (the real ones wouldn’t keep, so I’m using vinyl ones instead).
* Pipe Cleaners (also called fuzzy sticks). Kids can think of hundreds of uses for these simple little objects. For Baby-Girl I want to also have an object to go with it that has holes in it (such as an empty spice container or something similar), so that she can practice her motor skills by feeding the pipe cleaners through the holes. She’s at just the right age to find that simple task highly captivating. (if you don’t have pipe cleaners you could do something with Q-tips instead; and you might try dying them different colors first for added attraction).
* Non-Toy Busy Bag. Most of the “toys” our Baby-Girl likes to play with are not actually toys, so I am making a “non-toy” busy bag for her.
* Texture Cards. These are just really simple cardboard pieces on which I have stuck random “texture” items that would intrigue a very young, developing mind.
* “Randomness”. Just a mixture of odds and ends to let Baby-Girl decide on her own what to do with them. Including things like paper clips, string, curtain rings, clothes pin, magnets, etc.
At 1-year, Baby-Girl is just starting to gain an appreciation for books. She is especially partial to touchy-feely books, or books that have flaps or “peek-through” holes.
Her favorite board books include:
This is a touchy-feel book with different textures to feel. There aren’t a lot of textures to feel in the book, but enough to intrigue her. And she has her favorite pages, of course, like the page with the rough (sandpaper) cat paws and the very last page with the patch of fur on the kitten’s tummy. Over all it’s a really cute book and one that she has got a lot of enjoyment out of so far.
This book is one that I bought “blindly”. I just saw the title and cover page on Amazon and saw that it was getting a lot of great reviews. So, since Baby-Girl was just starting to appreciate the game of Peek-a-Boo I thought I would give it a try. Over all I have been very happy with the purchase. The book is really cute, and the “peek-through” hole on each page really intrigues her. She likes to put her hand through the hole, and often flips the pages forwards and backwards multiple times trying to figure it all out.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that one of the pages has a ghost. Normally we try to steer away from ghosts, so I wasn’t too happy to see that in the book. But it’s not a scary one and it’s green in color, so we pretend that it’s a dirty germ instead, and we tend to be more passive about that page and less enthusiastic than on other pages in the book, so she doesn’t usually linger on that page for very long.
Spot is a 1-year-old’s best friend! A cute little yellow puppy who has lots of adventures that are relevant to the very young ages. This particular book has flaps in it, so all throughout the book you are basically playing I-spy as Spot’s mother is searching for him (and, of course, finally finds him by the end of the book).
Glow-in-the-Dark and Light-up Items
One of our flights is an overnighter. And while it would be ideal if Baby-Girl could sleep through the night, I really just don’t see that happening. As I anticipate the darkened cabin, fellow passengers who will want to be sleeping, and a little one who will likely be wide awake for at least some of those night hours, I know I need to plan accordingly. So I have prepared some night-time play things for her as well. Things that generate their own light and things that can be quiet enough to not disturb the other sleeping passengers.
I was wanting to bring glow sticks along, but as far as I can tell from other travelers they may not be allowed in carry-on luggage because of their liquid content. So, I’ve been looking into other options instead:
Glow-in-the-Dark Stuff. Anything that glows in the dark can be a great item on night flights . . . Glow in the dark stars, bracelets, silly-putty, etc. Just check out your dollar store and see what they have in this category.
Fiber Optics. Anything fiber optic would be great for babies. I found some fiber optic hair clips on Amazon, as well as some light up shoe laces. Anything that lights up can be great, especially on a night flight!
Flashlight. A flashlight is a great item to entertain a baby at night. It might be a bit too bright on a dark plane, though, so I’m going to make some fabric “cases” that a mini flashlight can fit inside that will both dim the light some and also create different colors of lights depending on which case it is in.
Gloworm. We are planning to do a lot of traveling this next year, and I know traveling is especially hard on a baby’s bedtime routine, which is why I have in mind to purchase one of these great gloworm toys for Baby-Girl. I figured it can provide some consistency to her bedtimes, as a familiar sleep item that she has no matter where we are bedding for the night. Can also serve as a nightlight, which is important for little ones – especially in strange and new environments.
The Playskool Lullaby Gloworm is a good one. This particular model plays lullabies in addition to lighting up, or you can set it to only glow without the music, if you prefer. According to Amazon reviews this is a better option than the “Favorites” model of the gloworm – since the “Favorites” apparently plays the music much louder and is not as ideal for going to sleep to.
Obviously we don’t want anything that will drive mom and dad crazy or annoy other passengers, but things that make noise (even just soft noises) are always a big hit with babies.
Homemade Rattles. You can very easily make your own noise makers just with things you have laying around the house. A small pill bottle, empty water bottle, or any small container with a tight fitting lid can work. Just fill the container a quarter full with beans, rice, popcorn kernels, or coins. Depending on what you put in the container will determine how loud of a noise it makes, so you can decide how loud or soft the rattle is for your child.
Ribbons and String. Attach some colorful ribbons to a key chain or ring of some sort and you have an instant entertainer for a curious baby.
String ribbons through a piece of cardboard and attach a button or bead on either end and you’ll have another favorite entertainment item for baby. Our little girl loves pulling the different ends of the string and pulling it back and forth through the piece of cardboard. Keeps her occupied for quite a while.
Valcro. Baby-Girl loves chewing on valcro. There’s just something so intriguing about the texture in her mouth. Who would have thought a simple strip of loose valcro could entertain so well!
Bubble Wrap. No explanation needed here. Just bring a strip of bubble wrap along and let your child entertain themselves with popping all the little bubbles.
Odds and Ends
Stickers. Baby-Girl loves it when I put stickers on her nose or cheeks. I cover her with stickers on her face, hands, legs, etc, and that keeps her pretty entertained as she works at trying to pull them all off and re-stick them to other things (including me). Makes for a fun game and a great way to keep her entertained for a while.
Window Stickers. These are great! Reusable stickers that stick to glass. If you have a window seat your child can enjoy sticking them to the window of the plane. But even if you aren’t seated by the window, they can be put to great use in the airports while waiting at the gate. There’s always windows at the gates, so when your child tires of watching the planes out the window you can hand them some window stickers and get them busy decorating the airport windows.
These are basically just rings that can link together into a chain. I like this particular set because there is a lot of variety in the links, with lots of different colors.
One huge advantage to bringing links to play with on the plane is that you can connect them to anything so they don’t keep falling on the floor like other toys inevitably will.
Other Random Ideas
Tape. Something as simple as a roll of tape and a few pieces of paper can be highly entertaining to little ones.
Dollar Store Items. There are all sorts of things to be got at a dollar store. Some of my favorites include: a mini slinky, silly putty, dolls or princess toys for girls, airplanes, cars or action figures for boys, toy animals, etc. But don’t just stick to the toy section, there are lots of non-toy items at a dollar store than can entertain little ones equally or even better than toys, such as a soft hair brush or retractable comb, a stop watch or calculator, little containers or zip pouches . . . Aim for things that have lots of color, unique textures, or make soft rattling or beeping noises.
Crayons. Always a great thing to fall back on . . . a few crayons and coloring pages can go a long way with entertaining children of any age. Take my advice, though, and get the triangle shaped crayons . . . they don’t roll off the tray the way the round ones do!
Let’s face it, most often kids are more intrigued by “big people things” and not so much with the kid toys. So if you want to keep a little one busy you might want to plan on bringing some non-toys for her to play with as well. An old set of keys or broken electronics ((MP3 players, cell phones, cameras, etc) are usually big attractions for babies.
Baby-Girl is not yet at the stage of really appreciating media, but it catches her attention for a little while, and usually at times when nothing else interests her, which makes it a very helpful distraction if nothing else.
* Spot and His Grandparents Go to the Carnival
This is a really great first movie. It is geared towards very young children and is the only movie so far that actually really captivates our 1-year-old. She loves watching the little white puppy bouncing along the screen, enjoys the music and songs that are in the video, and even tries talking to the characters, which is adorable.
And the best part of all is that this video is FREE on YouTube! I used the free iLivid program to download the YouTube video, so I have it on my computer now and can pull it up at any time for Baby-Girl to watch.
* Hide ‘Em in Your Heart
This is one of my favorite audio music albums for kids – Hide ‘Em in Your Heart. All the songs on this album are Bible verses put to music, with really catchy tunes and melodies. Our Baby-Girl is only a year old but already tries to sing along to these songs. A great way of introducing little ones to the scriptures while also giving them some great entertaining music to listen to.
Unfortunately with the airlines limiting liquids and gels that cuts in on a lot of great snack food options. And most international flights don’t allow for any fresh fruits and vegetables along, which cuts down on healthy snack food options. But there are still some options available for good snack foods to have on hand for baby.
My favorite snack food option for Baby-Girl are the Happy Yogis, which taste similar to dried fruit but with a milky yogurt flavor as well. Baby-Girl just loves them. I usually save them for her most fussy moments when she really needs something to help distract her or calm her down. I don’t give her very many at a time, either, since they’re a bit pricey, but they really work like a charm in soothing an irritated child.
Other great snack food options include Animal Crackers, Cheerios (or other dry cereal), Granola Bars.
A standard under-seat dimensions (in economy) are about 19”L x 14” W x 8.25” H. Some are bigger, but since I want a guarantee that my bag will fit I am going with the smallest size dimensions so I can be sure the bag will fit at my feet on whatever airline we take.
I had hoped to find some sort of a small duffel bag, but after a lot of searching I came to realize that the best bags to fit these dimensions are backpacks. So I have a backpack that measures about 18 x 13 x 8.
In this backpack I intend to pack ONLY items that we will be using ON THE PLANE. I have a separate carry-on suitcase that I can pack additional things in that we would use in the airports, or toys and items to exchange so I have new and fresh items in the backpack before boarding our second flight.
Travel Bag Insert
One things that is certain about this particular age group is that they have a very short attention span. They can be easily entertained by a lot of random and simple items, but their fascination with something usually wears off after only a few minutes. This means a continual rotation of things to keep them busy.
As I anticipate this, I realized that it would be very inconvenient to be digging in a bag under the seat constantly fumbling for new items to pull out for Baby-Girl. So to address this issue I went ahead and purchased a Bag Insert, which is just a basic vinyl pouch with different pockets and compartments. These things are typically used by women to bring better organization to their purses, by providing additional pockets, or to make it easier for a woman to switch between bags or purses since they can easily remove all their paraphernalia by simply removing this insert and depositing it (and all its contents) into a new bag.
In my case it serves a different purpose, in that it can serve as a lap-bag during the flight. I plan to fill this little pouch with items that are purely for the purpose of entertaining Baby-Girl. Once we’re seated on the plane I can pull it out to have on the seat next to me, or keep it in the pocket of the seat in front of me, and it will be on hand for easy access, making it easier to rotate toys for her to meet the demands of her short attention span. This will allow me to keep multiple items on hand without having to dig under the seat every time Baby-Girl wants something new to entertain.
I can even divide up some of her snacks into smaller ziplocks and have a selection of those packed in this things as well. If I pack well I can fit enough things in this little pouch to entertain Baby-Girl for quite a while. And when she finally expires everything in this pouch I can rotate items or refill it with things from the backpack under the seat and start fresh with a new “treasure chest” of items for her.
I had considered weaning our child before traveling, but there are several reasons why I’ve decided not to. The main reason being the airline’s limitations of liquids through airline security. Being able to breastfeed will certainly save us the hassle we would otherwise have, of trying to purchase fluids for our baby and then having to dispose of them in time for the next boarder check.
Another advantage I see to being able to breastfeed is in regards to take offs and landings. Air pressure changes can be very difficult on the young ears. Sucking and swallowing can help a lot to relieve the pressure in the ears. If I can work out the timing of it well and get Baby good and hungry by the time we take off or land, she will be more than happy to nurse through the stage of air pressure changes.
My back up plan is to have on hand a few dumdum lollipops. If Baby is too distracted or too excited to nurse with all the commotion around her we can give her a lollipop instead. I’m not usually a fan of giving sweets to babies, but I would make an exception in this case.
Also on the topic of breastfeeding, I want to sew some sort of poncho or cardigan that I can wear on the plane. It would certainly make it easier to breastfeed more modestly in tight quarters. And since I always find it to be really cold in the airplane it would help with warmth and serve two purposes quite nicely (I’m always in favor of travel items that serve multiple purposes).
This pattern is so simple. Two rectangle pieces of fabric and NO SEWING!
I remember as a child my parents would always make us wait until we passed a certain landmark in the trip before we could pull out any of the toys we had brought along. I really see the wisdom in this now, and plan to do the same when traveling with our kids.
For the first hour or so the children should be able to entertain themselves with the things around them. They are in a new environment with lots of things to explore and discover.
Sometimes, for mom, it’s a lot easier to just pull out a toy from the bag and hand it to the kid to play with. But the sooner you start digging into your “bag of tricks” the sooner they will expire all the things you brought along for entertainment. So my advice (or really my mom’s advice) is to hold off as long as possible and try to entertain the kids with the things around them.
For a 1-year-old this can be as simple as going around and touching everything around them: the seats, the arm rests, the seat pockets and trays, etc.
Get them interested in looking at (and wrinkling up) the airline magazines. Show them how to fasten and unfasten the seatbelts or how to open and close the window shades. Try hiding a toy behind the window shade for a favorite game of “Peek-a-Boo”.
If they are at all able to entertain themselves with the things around them by all means encourage them in that and save your well planned travel toys and snacks when they really need it.
Layovers in the Airport
Looking at our flight itinerary it looks like I can anticipate having at least one longer layover between flights. I know that Baby-Girl will be happy to get off the airplane and have the opportunity to stretch out and totter about. She love going for walks and seeing new things, so for the first while in the airport I expect it will be easy enough to keep her entertained and happy.
After a while, though, mom and dad get pretty tired and don’t want to walk her around so much, and that’s when she starts getting antsy and the need arises to provide her with other forms of entertainment again.
My “plan of action” is to have a few items packed in the larger carry-on suitcase that can be specifically for the airport. Items that can’t be played with on an airplane, but would entertain well in the terminals.
A Small Ball. Nothing that would take up too much space, but something she can kick around and play with in the airport that would both encourage her to get some exercise and get out some of her reserved energy.
Stacking Blocks. Just a few small ones, enough to build a decent size tower but not too many that would take up a lot of luggage space.
Window Stickers. I mentioned these earlier, but I’ll mention them again. There are always big windows in airplane terminals, so having reusable stickers to create window art can be a great way to keep a little one occupied and staying in one location for a while.
Magnets. This is another really great idea for terminal entertainment. There are lots of metal chairs, metal window frames, and metal surfaces all over the airport. Just give your child some simple magnetic toys and let them try and find all the different surfaces the toys can stick on.
Multipurpose items are the key to traveling light. This includes clothes, shoes, and baby toys! When you’re packing, be intentional about NOT packing items that only have one use, and more intentional about packing items you can use for multiple purposes.
Some of my favorite multipurpose items include:
Colloidal Silver. This is a simple natural health product that can be used as eye drops or ear drops, it can also be applied to wounds as an antibiotic wash, or applied to rashes as a skin soother, it can be taken orally as an immune booster . . . It has so many medical purposes that when you carry a bottle of colloidal silver around you don’t need to bring as many first aid supplies with you on your trip.
Small Metal Tray. A lot of things related to travel get a whole lot easier when you can place a little tray on your child’s lap. Use it as a snack table, a coloring tray, or a playing surface. If it is metal you can entertain your child with magnetic toys, magnetic letters, or puzzles with magnets on the back of each piece to keep them on the tray. If the tray is painted black you can also use it as a drawing board and let your child draw on it using chalk. A very useful item that doesn’t take up much space.
Baby Wipes. Besides the obvious use in changing diapers, having a good stock of wipes along can also be used for wiping sticky hands after snack time or wiping up spills.
Zip Lock Bags. Don’t try traveling without ziplocks. They come in handy in so many situations. They are also a better option to use than a paper bag if anyone gets motion sickness and needs to throw up.
Duct tape and Crazy Glue. Don’t travel without these, you never know when you might need them in any number of situations.
Other Great Travel Tips
Keep Things New and Exciting. Pack several novel items that your child has never seen before, so that your child has something completely new and exciting to captivate their attention.
Dress With Purpose. Choose carefully what you dress your baby in for the flight. Preferably something that makes diaper changes easier, and with layers so she can be warm enough in a cold plane, and cool enough out of the plane. Full footed PJ’s might be a good idea if you have a long flight ahead of you, otherwise a hooded sweater and socks! (Don’t forget socks and warm clothes for you too!)
Back Baby’s Outfits in Ziplock Bags. If you’re going to be on the go for multiple days you might consider packing all of baby’s clothes in ziplock bags according to sets – one complete set of clothes per ziplock and one ziplock set for each day you will be traveling.
Think “Variety”. When packing toys for your child be intentional about looking for lots of variety! Different toys stimulate a child in different ways or they use different motor skills, so the more variety you have in your choice of play things the more likely you are to have the “right toy” at the “right time”.
Final Travel Tip – Stay Cool!
Your child can sense if you are stressed and that can cause them to be irritable. Take a deep breath, stay calm, talk to your child in soothing tones, and make sure you take care of yourself a little too. If you’re happy and calm your baby will be a much happier and more contented travel companion!