It’s another popular time for families to start heading out for vacations and road trips. Today I’m excited to welcome Alene to our A to Z packing tips guest series. She’s talking all about sensory toys that are great for road trips with children who have special needs.
Road Trip Sensory Toys
Hi! I’m Alene from Integrated Learning Strategies, and I’m really excited to be guest posting today about my favorite toys for road trips. Since I began working with children more than 20 years ago, the number of children with learning challenges and learning disabilities has not only increased, but the issues they face have become harder to remedy. Luckily, with all the amazing toys and educational apps available, there are so many great learning tools to help these kids excel and reach their potential.
With the holidays just around the corner, many parents often ask me what they can bring on long car rides and road trips to keep their kids busy and happy while they drive. More importantly, they want to know how to help their children who struggle with ADHD and sensory issues stay stress-free on the journey.
There are many great ways to help your children with sensory issues enjoy the trip as much as the rest of the family. The best way to come up with ideas is to first think about your child and what their body and brain needs most. For kids who need a lot of sensory input, be sure to bring toys and objects that can help them channel their energy into those items. For kids who have too much sensory input, they may need comfort objects or activities to reduce the sensory overload they may experience. It’s all about what their brain and body needs to stay calm and to reduce anxiety. They are already unfamiliar with their surroundings and this is a new environment so the more it feels like home, the better their behavior on road trips.
But this isn’t the main focus of our article today. What we want to dive into is toys and objects you can bring with you on your road trips to feed your child’s sensory input for a less stressful experience for you. It’s about your comfort too as parents so you can enjoy the vacation just as much as your kids do. However, there is a lot to think about and plan for before you start making or buying some of these items. Before you get started, read our latest guest post for Lionesses at the Gate for planning tips to create a better travel experience.
Now for the good stuff. Like we said earlier, kids with sensory issues and ADHD often fall into two different areas. Either they have too much sensory or not enough sensory to help their bodies cope with unfamiliar surroundings. Let’s break up these toys and objects into two separate areas so you can know what to get your child.
Our sensory seekers constantly need things like movement, play, and tactile objects. Here are some ideas that may be best for them. (affiliate links)
Parks and Playgrounds
We already mentioned how much sensory seekers need more sensory input to feel comfortable, but that is really tricky on long car hot car rides. Parks and playgrounds are the best way to help them get out the energy their body needs. Whenever you have the time, pull over and let them run wild. If you happen to come across a park, encourage them to play on the monkey bars, ladders and swings. Slides are good too, but these other activities really help children work both sides of their brain, which gives them the balance they need to sit still in the car and focus on coloring books and other activities instead of hitting their brother or sister.
If your child is constantly chewing on things around the house or even their clothes, this is a sign that they probably need items to chew on when it comes to road trips. You can make a chewy bracelet for them out of boondoggle or whatever you have in your house that is ok for them to chew on. You can also find chewable erasers for them like these cute blue monsters that go on their pen or pencil. That way they can be coloring or drawing with a marker or crayon that has a chewable eraser for when they need it. I doubt many parents could stand this for too long, but another great sensory toy is a whistle. Whistles make it so kids can suck on them, chew on them and blow into them. The air they use to blow into the whistle comes from their diaphragm and releases the pent up energy while they are forced to sit still in the car. We have a variety of fun ones you can also find online. Good luck with that one (wink wink).
Stress Balls and Rice Bags
Kids who love to be dirty or have to touch everything need sensory items they can touch and feel. Great items that can help with this on your trip may include a stress ball or a rice bag. There are all kinds of stress balls out there so you may want to find one that has bumps on it or something with an unsmooth surface. Rice bags you can easily make yourself. We have a find it game that we bought, but it doesn’t have to be this fancy. Simply fill a plastic bag with fun objects like letters, rings, Legos, or small blocks and then poor rice in the bag until it is full. When the rice bag is sealed, let your kids try to find the hidden objects in their rice bag, just like the “Where’s Waldo” game. Make sure the bag is sealed tightly so they can’t open it and dump the rice out.
There are all sorts of games you can bring with you on your road trip, but the games where kids can picture things are the best. It forces them to use both sides of their brain not only for learning, but for calming the body. Fun games like I Spy with my little eye are great. You an also use this fun Spot It game where kids have to call out objects they see when they pick a card.
Kids with too much sensory overload have a hard time adjusting to new experiences and can have many fears. This makes road trips more difficult for you because even the simplest things might bother them. Here are some great objects to bring for kids who have too much sensory input.
Purchase some noise-cancelling headphones so your child does not get overloaded by the sounds in the car. Crying siblings, loud music or even the car itself can make it so kids have a hard time adjusting to the trip.
Many times, kids who have too much sensory input hate the feel of certain clothes or textures. We already talked about bringing blankets, soft clothes and stuffed animals in our guest post article for getting road trip ready, so let’s focus on a couple of other items. These fuzzy beanbags are great for kids because they are soft and they can throw them or toss them in their hands without being bothered by the feel. You can also find a sensory brush online. These soft brushes are used to brush your child’s skin, arms and legs if it will help them feel better.
Some kids are really sensitive to light and if you are going somewhere warm; I bet they will need them. Sunlight to them can be twice as overpowering as it is to you and I so this can help them feel more at ease during a sunny car ride.
These are just a few ideas you can make or buy to prepare for your road trip. More nutritional tips and other activities can be found here for better road trip planning. I hope your summer road trips are fun and memorable. These types of vacations will last a lifetime. Have a fun and safe summer!
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
Thank you Alene! These are great tips and definitely helpful for families traveling with sensory-sensitive kids. If you’d like to read more from our A to Z Packing Tips series, check out these other fabulous posts:
Alcohol & Wine, Building Lists & Plans, Chargers are a Must
D’s to Remember, Embark on a Cruise, First Aid Kits
Games for Any Family Trip, Hiking with Dogs, Inside My Bag
Jewelry Packing Tips, Kids Travel Bag Activities, Laundry on Vacation
Master Packing List Template, Necessities for Cooking in a Hotel, Organized Moving Tips
Packing for Pets, Quiet Travel Activities