Little Big Explorer Travel Activities

Why is a kids book an essential item in your suitcase? Why should we limit tablet time while traveling? “Are we there yet?” is the question we dread to hear.

In today’s modern world where tablets have become something we rely on, many people omit taking books with them on a family trip or holiday. By all means I am not here to try and argue that the tablet is not a good companion, far from it. On the other hand, I know that too much screen time has proven to bring out the worst in our little explorers; aggressive behaviour, disinterest in surroundings and simple unhappiness. Not effects we need on a holiday. My suggestion is to limit their tablet time to 1 – 2 hours during travel per day and use the following as a guideline of what else you can do on your trip.

Kids using their tablets on the 90min trip on the catamaran from Malta to Sicily. Don’t forget snacks!
0 – 2 years

In these early stages,you will need to try and keep the kids’ normal routine, hopefully you can arrange that the sleeping time is actually during flight. If your bundle is awake for take-off and landing a bottle is not only used to pass the time but also a necessity for ear popping. For more helpful tips for traveling with this age click here. If the white noise of the plane does not put baby to sleep then these are some activities I have used to pass time:

  • Nappy changing – yes, this can be just for fun…even if you don’t need to change it make it a fun part of the time you have (unless the baby hates it in general)
  • Playing pick-a-boo – if you are traveling with someone else using a hat, book, magazine, anything really becomes a game for baby to be distracted.
  • Going to the toilet – it’s not your favourite hiding place, but the trip to the toilet makes baby see things – different faces, different colours, you might even find another toddler on board!
  • Nursery rhymes – these are good for all ages! We all know them and if we don’t get to know new ones… it doesn’t matter how you sing – mummy or daddy’s voice is always soothing for baby. – don’t be tempted to use the tablet for these!
  • Soft toys – puppets are my favourite as they can interact with them – my suggestion is to get babies familiar one but also may be buy a new one at an airport so it is a novelty.

  • Books – Yes, even at this age books are useful, each page is a new adventure for this age. There are books that their pages are indestructible like the ones of the series “Unur ta Esploratur” that we are giving out as a competition prize in collaboration with Merlin Publishers. These are great as biting and tearing is something the book can handle. The baby can explore colours, shapes, feelings and so much more from just one page! Some air companies offer on flight book service too so the book is new for your little explorer.

2 – 4 years

This is an exploring stage, and where better to explore then on a holiday. Airports have so much to see and do, just going to a water fountain to take some water is a fun activity for these explorers!

What to do when you are restrained to space? Any of the above suggestions are valid for this age may be the nappy changing would have subsided a bit but, the rest is all good. Just a few tweaks:

  • Activity Books – Luppu Luppettu have a good range of these as they have colouring pages, story pages and also activity pages (like odd one out) all in the same colourful book! They are even light weight! Whatever book you get make sure you have colours with you, glue (unfortunately scissors are not allowed) and may be even some stickers. Stickers can be used on books but also on themselves, yes just like tattoos! I didn’t have stickers once and I used first aid plasters instead just to distract an active toddler. Find out the funniest place to stick a sticker, ours was on the hostess’s nose! I assure you there is enough time in one book to last you an hour or so, but you need to be their guide!

  • Finger puppets – These are super compatible and so much fun! You can use them to read a book, or invent a story, or sing songs together. You can let the explorer use them and tell them where they are going and where they are at. If you don’t have other kids with you these are great companions. A trip to the toilet will also help to see if there are any other explorers on board so show the finger puppets around!
Even waiting for the suitcases to come needs an element of entertainment!
  • Hide an object – This is a game I like to play even with my teenage students at school. I get out 6 or 8 items from my handbag: A lipstick, a biro, a mirror, a notebook, etc. I ask my little explorer to look at the items (we can mention what they are and what mummy uses them for as well), then I cover them up with my scarf (an essential item to carry on a plane always!) and take one item away. See if the explorer notices which item you took away if they do then it’s their turn to take the item away. Remember no peeping! The table/tray in front of a plane seat is ideal for this game but on trains this is a great time consumer!
A booklet made for my then 3 year old, full of pictures to draw, activities to do and free paper for creative drawing.
  • Activity packs, yes I know what you are saying; but these are not readers. These are specific travel packs. You, can make your own like I had done. There are some good free printable ones on the web but you need some pre-travel organisation. If you don’t have the time to do one there are ready made ones you can buy specific for your explorer’s age. These include travel hunts where the explorers need to tick the box of things they see. They are not personalised but they are close enough.


5 – 8 years

This age they start being more independent. Apart from the obvious games one can play with their kids such as “I Spy”, there are other activities one can keep in mind (these are good anywhere):

  • Name Game – One person starts by saying a name and the other has to say another name with the last letter of the previous name mentioned, eg: player 1 says: Elizabeth, so player 2 says a name starting with H, Harry. Be careful of Y names there are not a lot of those! A variation for younger kids are the alphabet name game where you need to come up with people you know and do the whole alphabet.
  • Car number plates – this one is for the road trip and is a resource of laughter! I love giving meaning to the Initials: VSG can mean Very Silly Game, RUR could be R You Ready, and the game can go on and on…at the end of the day you can write down which one is the silliest.
  • Create a song – get a favourite tune and create your own lyrics of what you are doing and where you are going to fit in that tune. These can be funny or even cool, one thing is for sure you will end up singing it throughout the whole holiday.
  • Writing a diary – this might sound like a chore for some kids but if you buy a plain diary and give them paper, stickers, and other fancy stuff they like they can decorate it and make it like a project book. Every day they don’t need to write a lot, a sentence would do and then they can stick mementos of the day, even a receipt would do to start off the writing! (It’s important to leave them be creative so as to not be a burden)


  •  Books – Yes, they are here too! It might be just 10 minutes of the time but it makes them stop and calm down. Even a simple picture book of their little sibling would help. I use this trick to make my eldest feel that he is helping me with my little one, two birds with one stone.

9+ years

Here is a tricky stage where they are no longer young and easily convinced – this stage everything needs to be cool and remember adults are never cool enough no matter how modern or hip you are!  All the above games and activities can be helpful and listening to music instead of seeing on the tablet is a good alternative. Another blog about this stage will be up shortly but until then I think these are things we can all use while traveling:

  • Paint on windows – Use colours that are made for glass or use sticky notes that are safer on a plane I would you sticky notes. You can literally draw on windows or for those not too artistic writing would do just fine. See how many places you pass by that you have seen a welcome sign of. On a plane change it to see how many places of interest they wish to visit, or they must write a word on each paper to create a sentence. The weirdest of sentences normally kick things off.


  • Colouring books – We associate colouring books with little kids but give them adult colouring books and some good felt-tips and they are young once more. It is calming and if you choose colouring books to their style then you have another 20 – 30 minutes done!

  • Books – yes, they need to get a book with them! Any book! Make sure they choose it themselves, make sure they see you read your book too! After you start reading talk to them about what you are liking about the book and then ask them about theirs. It might interest you to read their book in the end and they would enjoy the fact that they made you read it.
My husband stole my magazine…he got bored seeing a film.

Travelling takes a bit of planning and it’s very easy to rely on tablets and gadgets but where is the family time in that? When things are planned it doesn’t mean that everything goes well either! I believe that a little curiosity can take you a long way, don’t be scared to ask the hostess about her funniest episode on her travels, and don’t worry in getting to know the people sitting behind you. I always have a few games in my bag, like story dice, trump cards or a tube of bubbles, just in case an immediate distraction is needed. Again gadgets are good and I can’t imagine travelling without them (poor parents when we were kids) but, let’s use our minds to explore more!

If you have any other tips you would like to share with everyone please leave a comment below.

Remember sharing is caring and we can all be Little Big Explorers



  1. Great article with lots of great ideas. When my kids were really young I also enjoyed buying those story books with sticker fillers, so we read and stick stickers along, and then I’d read out all the story again for them. They helped. Also ‘I spy’ is a good time filler. 🙂

  2. Some great ideas and tips here for filling up kids time while travelling. As mentioned, reading books, sticker books, colouring books and somewhere to draw or write are a great idea even for older kids and adults. In our last trip we also made some crafts … bought ready packs of craft sets from the Tal-Lira shop and had them making sticker collages, making a puppet, decorating plain masks. My 4 yr old also enjoyed a beading activity while my 7 yr old did some crossword puzzles and word searches together with some reading. They enjoyed every minute.

    1. Yes, I agree with you…the only worry with ready made craft packs is that sometimes you would need scissors and in a hand luggage it won’t be allowed. Mariana, next book competition would be for your 7 year old… keep in touch!

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