Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How to Keep Kids Entertained, Without a Screen, On-the-Go

Keeping kids entertained without a screen can feel like an Olympic sport. We've all been there, stuck in a waiting room for an appointment, and your child who has been ready to leave from the moment you walked in the door, is about to lose their cool. How do you keep them entertained? I've rummaged through my purse before, hoping there was something that would magically keep their imaginations engaged, and voices down, until I could hear the best sound in the world, the nurse calling my name. I once tried to use a first aid kit to keep my youngest one busy, it's all I had at the time. I was so proud of my creativity, I had him using the plastic tweezers to pick up leaves and acorns on the ground, until he started to go near a dog at the home of friends we were visiting. Then the tweezers had to go away! Or, how about this one? You are at your older child's sports practice, younger kids in tow, how do you keep them entertained and happy? After 2.6 seconds of screaming, I usually give in, handing over my phone, hanging my head in defeat. We can't have a scene, you know! There has got to be a better way. 

After many discouraging times out and about I found the old saying to be true, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." So, you want to keep your child entertained while out and about, without having to hand them a screen? You need a magic bag of tricks. Think of it as your Mary Poppins bag.

I put together an activity bag before we headed out on vacation this summer. We had an almost 14 hour drive ahead of us, and with five boys in the car, I knew the recipe for a successful road trip was going to be hard to come by if I was not prepared. I tried to come up with things that were age appropriate and peak their interests. It was not going to be a one size fits all approach, with my five boys. Think of things that each of your children would enjoy. Browse the aisles of the dollar store, or the Target dollar spot for fun ideas to change out through the year. It's best to keep things on a frequent rotation so they never know what you are going to pull out (just like Mary Poppins)!

These license plate stickers (from Michaels) are fun to use to play the license plate game while driving. It could be for just one long car trip, or an ongoing game to see how long it takes you to find all 50 states. My son had a special page in his travel journal that he would add a new sticker each time we found a new state. It was fun to yell out, each time someone would see a state we hadn't found before.

Explorers tin-Great to use when at a practice waiting on an older sibling. Have kids try to find things in nature to add to their tin.

Coloring books


Crayon/Colored Pencil/Marker Holders-rolls up for unplugged, on-the-go fun. Easy, elastic closure, for little ones who don't know how to tie. These are a great way to keep crayons, colored pencils, and markers from rolling around in your purse or bag. Many fun designs are available in my Etsy Shop, Kate Williams Designs.

Activity/Busy bags-I found these binder pencil pouches on Amazon. They are hard to find, expect during back-to-school time. So, stock up during back-to-school or order online. I tried to think of fun activities that would keep my younger kids occupied. The animals were the biggest hit. I had a pouch for mini Mr. Potato Head, cars, legos (this was a hit with my elementary school kids), and little character toys. What I love about these bags is the endless possibilities you can come up with. You can change out the contents frequently to avoid boredom.

 I also packed some magnetic tiles. My kids love to play with these at home, so I knew they would be a hit away from home too. I placed some in a gallon size zip lock and they have saved me on a few occasions!

Find a tote bag and place all of your on-the-go activities inside. Keep it in the trunk of your car and then you never have to worry about being unprepared for down time in the car pick up line at school, long drives, or other times you need a quick idea to keep your child entertained while away from home. Simply grab a few things out of the bag on your way into an appointment, meal at a restaurant, or activity, and you are set!

Kites from the Dollar Store! You never know when it will be the perfect kite flying weather! At $1.00 each, these kites are a great addition to the bag. Flying kites at the park has kept my kids entertained for a long period of time in the past, and with all the running involved it's a great way for kids to burn energy and get exercise.

This Coop Football is a huge hit at our house. My husband and boys love tossing a ball around when we are hanging out. Having one in the bag comes in handy, so no matter where you are, you are prepared for a fun game of catch. This one is also water proof, great for a game at the pool, lake, or ocean!

Sidewalk chalk-It has saved me several times. It worked great at the ball fields keeping my youngest boys entertained while we watched my oldest son's game.

Various card games work great for something new and different to keep kids busy while on-the-go. My boys used a deck of cards to play war, in the car, on our long road trip home! It kept them busy for quite awhile, which made us parents very happy!

Books-always keep rotating new titles in and out of the bag to keep kids attention wihle away from home.

Flash Cards/Clock-Flash cards are the perfect way to work on school math facts, sight words, etc. Maybe keep a small treat bag, in the tote, to reward a job well done. The clock is perfect to practice telling time. You can have your child tell you the time on the clock, or give them a time and have them put the hands of the clock in the right position!



Water Wow Book-These books are great for keeping kids entertained on the go. You fill the pen with water and the pictures on the page change color when wet. After the page dries, you can paint it again. My kids were fighting over who got to use it next. Time to add a few more to my collection!

Now, run, go find a bag and fill it up, and set yourself up for success! Remember to keep changing the contents frequently to keep kids entertained while out and about. Mary Poppins would be so proud!

What ideas do you have to add to the bag? I would love to hear your ideas.


  1. Great ideas! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I love the idea of having little bags with activities for on the go. I should do that because I have a storage spot in the back of our car and could easily keep stuff there. I try to keep extra toys in our diaper bag and my toddler has a little backpack that he fills with toys and activities he wants to take with him.