They do exist! Fantastic as they are with their swipe ‘n’ tap technology and the way children are absorbed in playing games that involve plants and zombies, iDevices can sometimes leave kids looking and sounding like a plant or a zombie.
Here are 10 of the best travel toys on sale this summer – that don’t start with the letter “i”:
Best for automobile-crazy kids – PlayTape
This is the tape that turns every surface into a road, runway or flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Picture the scene: you’re in an airport with hours to kill, but your son or daughter can pull out their die-cast cars and turn a dull airport lounge into Le Mans or Indianapolis.
The PlayTape sticks to every flat surface and is repositionable, toxin-free, disposable and recyclable. There’s no batteries involved and no screens, just dreams. It’s suitable for children aged 3 and up. (It sells for $7.99 (US), about £5.)
Best for children old enough to pack their own bags – Trunki
It’s a milestone (an oh-so-welcome milestone) when children are big enough to take care of their own luggage. The ride-on Trunki is a great piece of travel kit. It’s bashable, by which we mean it’s durable, and there are lots of cute character suitcases to choose from – Moshi Monsters, Gruffalo, Hello Kitty – as well as cows, bumble bees, tigers, ladybirds alongside the original pink and blue (Trixie and Terrance).
It’s hand-luggage approved in the UK and US – in most cases (check with your airline). Trunki is 46 x 20.5 x 31 cm and it has an 18-litre internal capacity (18.2 x 8.5 x 12.8 inches and holds up to 75lbs).
Once packed, children can ride on it, using the “horns” to steer or be towed along by the strap. It’s not the most comfortable thing to sling over your shoulder, but parents can carry Trunki when little legs get tired. (Trunki sells for £35 in the UK, $40 in the US.)
Best for crafty kids – Melissa and Doug sticker books
Melissa and Doug create sturdy, beautiful, educational toys. Big, sketchy, fun colouring books, sturdy crayons and some beautiful sticker pads for girls and boys of all ages. In the range are fairy and princess books, animal habitat sticker books, create-a-meal sticker pads, make-a-face, dress-up, dinosaurs and beach scenes.
They’re suitable for three-year-olds and up. The jewellery-and-nails sticker pad will engage pre-teens and, perhaps, when she thinks no one is looking, young teenagers too.
Melissa and Doug also have a range of “puffy” stickers and “velvet” stickers with velvet-flocked borders that are fun to touch and colour and create art works with. (Sticker books start at about £4 or $5.)
Best for readers – Kindle PaperWhite
One of the most cumbersome aspects of travelling with children is accommodating all their chargers and accessories and then making sure they’re recharged at night. So an e-reader with a battery that lasts eight weeks, the Kindle Paperwhite, sounds like a genius thing.
There’s no screen glare in bright sunlight and, crucially for read-under-the-covers kids, there’s a built-in light. A single charge can last for up to eight weeks – longer than the summer school holidays! That’s reading for 30 minutes a day with wireless off and the light setting at ten.
If a family holiday has to include a little light study, the dictionary, vocabulary builder and instant translator will come in handy. There’s a nifty little feature that’ll let you see how long it will take to finish a chapter or book.
And, to ensure that kids don’t fall back during long summer holidays, FreeTime allows parents to create personalised profiles and give them access from your collection. There are achievement badges that keep track of accomplishments. It’s all checkable; parents will be updated on the amount of time spent reading, the number of words looked up and the books read. (£109 in the UK, $119 in the US.)
Best for kids who love magnets – travel games
Snakes and ladders, hangman, join the dots – all long-time favourites. When they’re in magnetic, travel format, they’re not just time-killing games, but opportunities to learn. Is the plane seat magnetic? What about the windows? Shutters? Tray tables? Cutlery?
Peppa Pig is a near-global favourite and this two-in-one travel game features ludo and snakes and ladders. The double-sided boards fold into a compact, easy-to-carry travel game. Magnetic pieces and a tumbling dice in a plastic capsule should mean that none of the pieces gets lost. And there are slide-out drawers that can be a game in itself. (£8 in the UK, $18 in the US.)
Best for the one who has to tune out – Linx Fusion
This is the item you need in your travel toolkit. Noise-cancelling headphones that your tween or teen can sling around their necks and you can nab in-flight when you seriously need to tune out for a while.
Linx Fusion by Able Planet is the world’s first multi-sensory active noise-cancelling headphones that simultaneously transmit sound through the skin, bone and ear for incredible sound quality, clarity and speech intelligibility.
At the heart of this Able Planet product is a fusion of LINX AUDIO with Bayer MaterialScience’s ViviTouch 4D Sound technology that creates a “live” experience. It’s like standing in the front row. Able Planet’s patented technology is garlanded with awards. It has notched up more than 34 of the most prestigious awards including Best of Innovations Software Embedded Technologies.
The headphones fuse sound quality, speech clarity and innovative design, filtering out undesirable sound and increasing perceived loudness without increasing the volume. Good for kids and good for mums who’ve spent years with children wailing in their ears. ($349 in US, about £207.)
Best for budding chalk artists – a Roll-Up Chalk and Travel Draw Mat
This incredibly simple little toy is a blackboard on one side and a placemat on the other (by Les & Lou). It works with both dry-erase crayons and chalk. A quick swipe with a damp cloth will wipe it clean.
It comes in pink and blue and when kiddies are finished creating their drawings, it rolls up, ready for its turn as a placemat. It is pthalate free, contains no harmful materials and meets the UK and EU toy-safety standards.
Included in the pack is a wipe-clean cloth, two dry-erase crayons and two pieces of chalk. The mat was shortlisted for Best Travel Product 2013 in the Junior Design Awards (UK). Les & Lou ship to the US and Canada too. (£10, $21 in the US, $23 Canada.)
Best for movie-fanatics – Look and Find books
Look and find books feature Disney and Pixar favourites from Anna, Elsa and the gang in Frozen to Buzz Lightyear and Woody in Toy Story via Mickey Mouse and all the princesses ever animated.
A little like the Where’s Wally books, these look-and-find books feature busy scenes in which are hidden the heroes and heroines of much-loved classics. These books are great for mind and eye coordination and children can work in pairs to spot the characters. (About £5 in the UK, $7 in the US.)
Best for sleepy heads – Zip & Flip Penguin
There are scads of travel pillows on the market. Stuffed toys that turn into pillows, neck pillows, even Trunki has introduced the Yondi Travel Pillow this year. This might be the cutest though.
Filled with microbeads, this cute and cuddly stuffed animal morphs into a travel pillow. The cover conceals the pillow and keeps it clean while travelling. Made by Kikkerland, it weighs just half a pound and snuggles easily into a child’s arm. (£18, $30 in the US.)
Best for builders – Lego suitcases
LEGO doesn’t spring to mind as an ideal travel toy. All those pieces! To tread on! But this is travel LEGO. In a suitcase that’s 25cm high, 27cm wide and 6cm deep (9” x 10” x 2”) . There are two kits – one with a businessman who needs help from the mechanic to keep his sports car fuelled up and on the road and one with a mum waiting in her garden for her daughter to come home from school.
Each set includes two minifigures (the business guy and mechanic or the mum and daughter) and all of the items in their scenes – the house, fences, tree, kitten and bike, gas station, car, pump, sign, dog and assorted accessories.
The suitcase is portable and grown-ups or older kids can use the sections inside to sort the bricks when the building work is done. (£20 in the UK, $25 in the US.)
Best for storytellers – Rory’s Story Cubes
Once upon a time there were nine cubes in a box and you could make many, many stories from the symbols on each side of the cubes. Creating stories is fun for kids of all ages and, crucially on a long journey, is non-competitive.
Each story cube has six symbols. Roll them and create a tale based on what faces upwards. You could, for example, have to create a story involving a sheep, fire, a padlock, a walking stick, a smiley face, a phone, a house, a fish and a pyramid.
There are several in the range. Rory’s Story Cubes Original, Rory’s Story Cubes Voyages, Rory’s Story Cubes Actions, Rory’s Story Cubes MAX and there are mix sets with Enchanted, Prehistoria and Clues symbols. And they all lived happily ever after… (About £5 in the UK, $8 in the US.)
(Featured image: José Manuel Ríos Valiente)