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Portable Picks for Traveling with Kids

Whether your family vacation is to a cabin in the woods, a hotel on the beach or a weekend at grandmas, it's great to bring along a few toys and games to keep everyone entertained. Below are our top picks for packable, portable fun. For fun on the way, don't miss our favorite products for car trip travel.
Play & Learn Play & Learn
Ages: 2 & Up
ALEX, $32.99

Parents looking for portable fun need look no further than this Alex Play & Learn Puzzle Set. This well-designed game pack features three "layers" of games - dominoes, lacing cards and puzzles. All pieces are double-sided and offer different options for play, ultimately providing ten activities in one neatly stacked and packed game box with a carrying handle.

Knuffle Bunny...And More Great Childhood Adventure Stories Knuffle Bunny...And More Great Childhood Adventure Stories
Ages: 3 - 8 yrs.
New Video, $14.95 (DVD)   

This Scholastic Inc. and Weston Woods winner features Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. Before toddler Trixie could even speak a word, she helped her daddy with chores like going to the laundromat. With her faithful stuffed Knuffle Bunny clutched in her arms, colorful cartoon Trixie and Daddy walk from black-and-white photographs of the house, the park, and the school, to the laundry. Unbeknown to them, Knuffle Bunny gets tangled in the dirty clothes and thrown into the washer. It isn't until the walk home that Trixie realizes her friend is missing. With appealing, laugh-out-loud funny animation in places, this jazz-spiced tale of lost treasure is one most children and parents can relate to. Other popular stories here are Carl Best's "Shrinking Violet," Lois Ehlert's glorious gardening book "Planting a Rainbow," William Steig's beautifully written "Brave Irene" and Mirian Cohen's "Will I Have A Friend?" the classic tale for children about to start kindergarten.

Tag Reading System Tag Reading System
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
LeapFrog Enterprises, $49.99

While kids may take the innovative technology that is the LeapFrog Tag reading system for granted, adults can’t help but be impressed. The pen is easy to hold, and large enough so it is not easily lost. Inside the tip of the pen is a camera that reads the code embedded on the pages of the intelligently designed books. Emerging readers tap the pen on a word or image and the text becomes audible. Users choose to hear one word at a time, travel uninterrupted through the story, or, if practicing their reading skills, can pause and work to master a stumbling block. The compact design makes it very portable and easy to use in the car or on airplanes. And yes, the pen can be connected to headphones (not included) for quiet play.

Leapster Multimedia Learning System
Ages: 4 - 10 yrs.
LeapFrog Enterprises, $79.99

This handheld unit comes with an educational games cartridge that nicely blends play and learning on a screen with good picture quality and sound. Additional cartridges, some based on licensed TV characters, are sold separately and include electronic books, digital art, educational games, and interactive videos.

Horton Hears a Who and Other Sounds of Dr Seuss Horton Hears a Who and Other Sounds of Dr Seuss
Ages: 4 & Up
Random House/Listening Library, $9.99 (CD)   

Sure, this audio rendition of Dr. Seuss' poetic flights of fancy may not have the draw of the lavish new blockbuster film. But here the pictures come to life in a listener's imagination, inspired by the author's witty words and a trio of high-wattage readers: Dustin Hoffman (the title track), Billy Crystal ("Horton Hatches the Egg") and Mercedes McCambridge ("Thidwick, The Big-Hearted Moose").

Magnetic Picture Twister Magnetic Picture Twister
Ages: 4 & Up
Popular Playthings, $7.99

The Magnetic Picture Twister is compact and fun, and requires patience and concentration to solve the picture. The puzzle is a spherical set of 8 independently moveable magnetic disks, that when properly aligned, display a mural of dinosaurs and other creatures in a jungle setting. If the disks aren't arranged properly, the animals don't line up-one head is on the wrong body, the legs are backwards on another animal, etc. Great for long car rides, waiting rooms or restaurants, where a distraction or activity is required to preserve parental sanity.

Emphatical Piratical Emphatical Piratical
Ages: 5 - 10 yrs.
Scabbydisc Music, $15.00 (CD)   

The opening title track sets the tone by combining equal parts of Popeye's swagger, The Bowery Boys' penchant for malapropos, and music "pirated" from the operetta Orpheus in the Underworld. Elsewhere, "Don't Drink Your Seawater" is a nonsense song, set to Pogues-like Celtic rock, while "Portside," teaches the nautical stations of a ship by employing electro Hip Hop beats. "Trading The Seas For Pirate Gold"; and "Frogg Island" both use Reggae and Caribbean rhythms by people who actually know how to play them. "The Purple Tiki" is a great bit of Spike Jones style lunacy, complete with tribal drums and rhymes that would impress even Gilbert and Sullivan.

Games To Go
Ages: 5 & Up
ALEX, $44.00

Everyone on the beach will be wide-eyed when you unzip the giant "book" and flip the "pages" to reveal a three foot square checkerboard, or the same size Backgammon or Snakes and Ladders game. The playing surfaces are waterproof plastic, the better to survive trips to the shore. Additional games included are Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Tic-Tac-Toe, and Mancala. A zippered mesh bag holds all the necessary playing pieces.

Happy Accidents Happy Accidents
Ages: 5 & Up
Bang-A-Bucket Music, $15.00 (CD)   

This effervescent new offering from tuneful percussion master Billy Jonas begins with an irresistible toe-tapper called "Eyes Wide Open" and wit and word-play ("Knock Knock," "One Tutu Too Many") dance throughout. Sophisticated instrumentals and an enjoyable give-and-take with kid sidekicks are a plus. Another highlight: a comic, musically inspired (and true-to-life) five-song suite about a child's "morning rituals": getting up, showering, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and all that foot-dragging when Mom and Dad are "Totally Ready to Go" (a little masterpiece all by itself).

SQUIGGLE on-the-go SQUIGGLE on-the-go
Ages: 5 & Up
RandomLine, Inc., $6.95

The object is to turn a squiggle, a random line, into a picture. Who knows what you'll see in your squiggle, it all depends on which way you look it at and that is determined by spinning the arrow on the back of the game. The spinning pad provides a new twist and allows for ultimate comfort and ease of drawing. Compact enough to go anywhere. Product Description

Starlight Goes to Town Starlight Goes to Town
Ages: 5 & Up
Author: Harry Allard   Illustrator: George Booth  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

Enter one chicken (Ethel Fae Klucksworth) with delusions of grandeur (she renames herself Starlight LaPoule), add a midnight visitation from a professional chicken fairy godmother named Melody D. Youngstown and you're well on your way to Milan and a turn on the catwalk with disastrous results. Allard's text is as deadpan as ever and Booth's cartoon illustrations are a hilarious match: never have chickens faces, eyes, and beaks spoken so eloquently; rarely has an airplane been piloted so rakishly; and the picture of our feathered heroine gallantly attached by wings and feet to the steering wheel of a vivid pink convertible is truly a hoot.

chickaDEE chickaDEE
Ages: 6 - 9 yrs.
Bayard Canada,

Chickadee is a fun and educational magazine featuring wild life, natural science, and basic values and citizenship. It is colorful, exciting, and well organized with stories, puzzles, animal of the month, some science and a few jokes.

Cranium Silly Stories Cranium Silly Stories
Ages: 6 & Up
Author: Cranium   Illustrator: Cranium  
LB Kids, $9.99 (Hard Cover)   

Cranium Silly Stories has everything kids need to create an endless supply of their very own tales - and each one is a hilarious surprise! With wacky word prompts on each die-cut page, all you need to do is fill in the blanks, then flip the page to reveal your customized silly story. Complete the stories again and again on the write-on/wipe-off pages with the signature erasable Cranium marker.

Pocket Fundomino Pocket Fundomino
Ages: 6 & Up
Blue Orange Games, $14.99

Pocket Fundomino is played with the basic rules of dominoes, but with curvy, S-shaped pieces, and the numbers 1-6 instead of the traditional dots. Children connect the pieces by matching the numbers, and some of the pieces have an icon that provides a little more challenge. A plus sign directs a child to pick an extra domino; a star is a wild card; and a circular arrow allows another turn. Because the dominoes are color coded, even children who have not yet mastered their number recognition may still join in the fun. All 32 tiles can be stored and transported in the easy zip pouch.

The Amazing Game Board Book The Amazing Game Board Book
Ages: 6 & Up
Author: Shereen Gertel Rutman  
innovativeKids, $19.99

This appealing activity book contains more than 50 games, from Chinese Checkers to mazes and logic puzzles. Durable foam and magnetic pieces tuck away neatly into the heavy-duty carrying case so they won't litter the floor.

Lithgow Paloozas! Boredom Blasters Travel Edition
Ages: 7 - 11 yrs.
Author: John Lithgow   Illustrator: Adam McCauley  
Running Press Kids, $14.95 (Hard Cover)   

The book contains loads of ideas for creating fun projects and just plain silly constructions by combining the enclosed materials - suction cups with hooks, chenille sticks, wipe-off paper, wipe-away marker, an eraser, and lanyard wire-in unique and highly entertaining ways. Book Description

Bananagrams Bananagrams
Ages: 7 & Up
Bananagrams, $14.95

This word game brings crossword formation down to its basics. There’s no box, no game board, and no scoring. Just 144 smooth letter tiles pleasant to the touch. There’s also no waiting while other players take their turns. Everyone simultaneously works to create their own individual crosswords.

Ultimate Chess
Ages: 7 & Up
Author: Jon Tremaine  
Scholastic Inc./Tangerine Press, $7.99 (Hard Cover)   

Opening this 8-by-8-inch book reveals a magnetic chess board on the inside back cover, so all the lessons can be played as they're read. Forty-seven spiral bound pages contain valuable lessons: names and images of the playing pieces, the set-up, how each piece moves, attacks, and defenses, etc. Finally all the lessons are put to use in the playing of two complete games. The set of miniature magnetic chess pieces (not classic Staunton style) is stored inside the spine of the book. Magnetism holds the book closed, making it a good choice for traveling.

A-ha! Rec-Tangle A-ha! Rec-Tangle
Ages: 8 & Up
ThinkFun Inc., $7.99

A-ha! Rec-Tangle is a cleverly named strategy game in which the player is challenged to put eight puzzle pieces, displayed and stored in one side of a small plastic box, into the rectangular space on the other side of the box. Although all pieces fit quite neatly in the larger compartment, once you turn the box over, the challenge is to strategically arrange the pieces to fit in the flip side. A hint and solutions pamphlet is included.

Cranium Zigity Cranium Zigity
Ages: 8 & Up
Cranium Inc. , $12.95

With Zigity, you’ll play sets of cards that add to 11, spell a word, complete the puzzle, or match musical instruments in a race to get rid of all your cards. Action cards can change the game in a flash. The attractive metal box that holds the cards and instruction sheet make this a handy game for travel.

Fun With Hieroglyphs Fun With Hieroglyphs
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Catharine Roehrig  
Simon & Schuster, $24.99 (Hard Cover)   

An instructive 48-page book explains that hieroglyphs were originally picture words, but some of them later began to represent individual sounds roughly analogous to our alphabet. The 24 fine quality rubber stamps included with the kit are those single-sound hieroglyphs. The book leads readers through exercises in stamping words in hieroglyphs, matching words to hieroglyphs, and writing like an Egyptian by arranging the hieroglyphs in artful patterns. Nine puzzles and matching games are included so children can track their progress.

Magnetic Bumper Cars
Ages: 8 & Up
Popular Playthings, $17.99

Magnetic Bumper Cars is a brainteaser puzzle and a challenge for adults and children alike. It's the next thing to driving a real car and the only time you can legally bump into someone. The challenge is to position the nine bumper cars on the track so they don't bump into one another or the surrounding wall. Of course these miniature drivers have something else on their minds, as powerful hidden magnets in the cars and track walls cause all sorts of collisions as you maneuver your way through 12 brain-bumping challenges! Product Description

Misty of Chincoteague Misty of Chincoteague
Ages: 8 & Up
Simon & Schuster Audio, $14.99 (CD)   

On their quest to own the cryptic, "phantom" pony, Paul and Maureen face challenges and disappointments they never could have imagined. As they hear old legends from their wise grandfather, and discover the humanity in animals, Paul and Maureen learn that some things are not meant to be tamed. Marguerite Henry's story comes alive via Edward Herrmann's expert narration. Herrmann acts out characters spanning three generations, and vividly portrays Henry's descriptions of animals and nature.

Nerdy Wordy
Ages: 8 & Up
Briarpatch, $14.99

The object is to construct as many 2-to-5-letter words as possible, including making words within words to score extra points. For example, the word "HEART" also scores points for the words he, hear, ear, and art. Two players each have a crossword tray containing 25 slots in a 5x5 grid, into which letter cubes fit, and a lift-up cover so neither can see the other’s moves. Players alternate in selecting and announcing one letter, which both must place wherever they wish in their own tray. Although the box appears large, the word trays are only five inches square, and the snap-lock contains the letter cubes securely - ideal for travel.

Science & Nature Challenge Science & Nature Challenge
Ages: 8 & Up
SmartLab, $19.99

The challenge begins when a player chooses the one or two player game mode. The controller displays a blinking number that identifies one of the 1,000 questions in the book. The player finds the question in the book, determines the best answer, and pushes the lettered button on the controller corresponding to the selected answer from the book. Player(s) try to score as many points as possible in this fun, timed 10-minute game. Trivia questions cover topics such as inventions, the history of technology, scientists, and questions in the broad spectrum of science fields such as geology, meteorology, botany, or biology.

Serpentiles Serpentiles
Ages: 8 & Up
ThinkFun Inc., $14.99

Serpentiles is a mind-bending game in which one player works to connect a combination of tiles to construct an unbroken loop for each colored path. Sound simple? In order to solve the puzzle, all of the tiles assigned for each challenge must be used. 40 challenge cards offer ten puzzles for each level from beginner to expert. The "Game-Go" bag makes this an easy choice for entertainment in the car, on the ferry, at the beach - or even through the serpentine lines at airport security.

Sink or Swim Sink or Swim
Ages: 8 & Up
Popular Playthings, $19.99

Sliding puzzles appeal to both children and adults. The challenge here is to slide the figure of the boy lying on the red inner tube to the steps in the lower right corner where he can climb out of the pool. This requires moving some of the other puzzle pieces that block his way. A challenge booklet with 50 puzzles spans five levels of difficulty to suit a wide range of ages. Each puzzle picture shows the starting position for the 14 puzzle pieces, and the solution pages in back of the booklet show the step-by-step moves for those who are stymied.

SmartLab Challenge: Human Body
Ages: 8 & Up
SmartLab, $19.99

Human Body Challenge is an electronic quiz book designed for one or two players. The hard cover, wire-bound book contains 1,000 multiple-choice questions (about seven per page) on anatomy, fitness, diseases, nutrition, pharmacology, and various other topics related to the human body. Attached to the book is a handheld game controller similar to those used with popular gaming systems.

Sudoku 5 x 5
Ages: 8 & Up
ThinkFun Inc., $9.99

This Sudoku-inspired game incorporates colors and shapes, as well as numbers. There are 48 challenge cards in four levels of difficulty ranging from beginner to expert. Each card shows a unique arrangement of five "regions" of different colors, each composed of five squares connected in different shapes. Some numbers are already printed on the card; it is up to the player to use logic and deduction to figure out the proper location for all the other numbers so that each row, column, and colored region contains all five numbers from 1 to 5 without any numbers repeating. The puzzle is nicely packaged in a travel-worthy folding box with magnetic numbers and a magnetized playing surface.

Road Trip Trivia Road Trip Trivia
Ages: 9 & Up
Klutz, $12.95

Written with a good dose of humor, this question and multiple-choice answer brainteaser activity book has given us weeks of amusement - and we're not through yet. Travel topics from history to animals, sharks and natural disasters, and learn something on every page.

On the Dot On the Dot
Ages: 10 & Up
Gamewright, $12.99

Challenging yet easy-to-play, the goal is to overlay 4 transparent square game cards so that it matches the challenge card pattern of dots. You can flip, turn and overlap the transparent cards, but in the end, your dots must line up in order for you to be the winner. Play alone, or with multiple players. Race against an opponent to complete the same challenge or have each player master her own pattern. It all adds up to a lot of on-the-dot, on-the-spot fun for kids and parents alike.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
Ages: 12 & Up
HarperCollins/ Harper Children's Audio, $17.95 (CD)   

If you could see with your eyes closed, would you use your power for good or for personal gain? The life story of "The Man Who Could See Without His Eyes" inspires Henry Sugar with a wonderful idea. Such an amazing ability could allow Henry to cheat at cards! Henry undertakes years of training to achieve this remarkable feat and promptly uses his new power to win, and win big, but he soon discovers that more than his eyes have been changed by his studies. Product Description


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