Top 5 Toys for On-The-Go Play

Taking a stash of small toys out with us has always been a winner for my kids. It helps to avoid excessive screen time and provides a great opportunity for quality family play time. Here’s our favorite five open-ended toys for play away from the home.

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I’ve always been a big fan of busy bags for when I’m out and about with my kids. Is it because I’m strictly anti-screens, not at all. When my now 6 year old was younger a screen was pretty much the only way my husband and I had any hope of being able to eat a hot meal out. I 100% have been there and have no judgement at all! With 2 year old baby sis it has been a completely different story and I’m pretty sure it is because she has big bro as a play role model.
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Now when we head out for a meal or to an appointment, we take a bag of open-ended toys with us. I love this time we spend playing together because it is often high quality time where we are all focused on each other and our creativity. We are not wrangling the distractions we usually face at home when we play. I thought it might be helpful to share with you our favorite toys for on-the-go play, and also how we store them to make the play and clean-up hassle free.

Storing Toys for Successful On-The-Go Play

In the past we have used snack bags such as the Bumkins bags which are an awesome option because they are very affordable, come in various sizes and can be easily washed. Lately we’ve been using our new SlideAway® On-The-Go storage bags because I love that it also has a play mat with a lip which stops the toys rolling all over the table. Genuinely makes life so much easier!
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Our Favorite Toys for On-The-Go Play

The key here is making sure the toys you take out are open-ended as this helps to keep the play going for much longer. We’ve always had the most success with toys which encourage building and imaginative play.

1. Building Bricks

Both my kids love LEGOs and DUPLOs so this is always one of my go-to options. I try to ensure that I pack a fun selection of bricks, mini figures and accessories. Big bro will often lead the play by starting to build a vehicle of some sort. Baby sis will follow suit, with my husband getting far too carried away with a creation as well.
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Benefits: LEGOs are one of my all-time favorite toys for encouraging imaginative play because they are so open-ended. The child has to do the thinking, the bricks simply bring their creativity to life. They are also great for fine motor skill development.

2. Plus-Plus

These manipulatives are another great option for STEM style building and play. I have to be honest and say that when my son first chose to buy one of the Plus Plus mini maker tubes with his birthday money I wasn’t too sure how long he would stay engaged with them. He proved me wrong! The fact that they are all the same simple hashtag shape really challenges my kids to use their own creativity to come up with interesting builds. They have to carefully engineer shapes and experiment to see all the different ways the Plus Plus can connect. An added bonus is that Plus Plus come in two different sizes. The regular Plus Plus are small and ideal for my 6 year old, whereas the Plus Plus Big are one of baby sis’ all-time favorite loose parts to explore.
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Benefits: as I mentioned before, the fact that the Plus Plus are all one basic shape means that my kids are really challenged to engineer, manipulate and create with the toy. Some of the structures my kids have built with them have blown me away! These little gems are also great for fine motor skills and color sorting activities.

3. Magnetic Tiles

My kids LOVE magnetic tiles! They might not seem like a logical choice for taking out of the house because they are on the bigger side, but trust me you don’t need to take many! We tend to fill our SlideAway with some of the smaller shaped tiles. This actually makes for some interesting shape and structure play as the kids don’t necessarily have all the pieces they think they need. They will often want to build houses or castles but find themselves limited by the number of square tiles. This is great for developing their problem solving skills, and their patience!
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Benefits: perfect for inspiring little engineers and architects, magnetic tiles are great for any building enthusiast. They are also a good way to get little hands working hard to improve those all important fine motor skills. We tend to take our Connetix Tiles brand out with us because they have the strongest magnets and are the most durable.

4. Link Cubes

A staple in any classroom, but link cubes can also be great fun for on-the-go play. These are often used in the context of Math learning, with the cubes providing the opportunity for kids to count, sort, and learn about addition and subtraction in a hands on way. We absolutely follow suit and enjoy those activities as well, but to be honest my kids just love building with them. Often big bro will create robots and lightsabers, customizing his color and design. Baby sis enjoys creating color towers and also copying patterns which I make for her.
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Benefits: link cubes are a great numeracy resource as they naturally encourage counting. The ones we use from Edx Education also have shapes on them which baby sis enjoys matching and exploring. As the kids build with them, their fine motor skills and creativity are also being developed.

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5. Junior GeoStix

Full disclosure, I really didn’t think my kids would be that fussed about these, but they absolutely love them! These flexible ‘sticks’ come in various colors and sizes and are very versatile. They are easy to attach which makes them great for 2 year old baby sis to use. Both kids enjoy making moving creations such as windmills, trucks, and especially grabbers. When we play with them as a family I feel like my husband has just as much fun as the kids.
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Benefits: I like that these are a different type of manipulative to use as we often play with blocks. The stick shapes challenge my kids’ creativity, and the fact that the Junior GeoStix can be used to make moving creations is great for STEM education.

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I hope that’s a helpful insight into why we choose to take our SlideAway On-The-Go out and about with us, always filled with open-ended toys which support creativity and quality play. As you can see from the photos, my kids really do engage with the toys and it makes for some fantastic play, and even the odd relaxed meal out as a family too!

Original Author FIND THE LITTLE MIND– Lucy, a Mum of two who, out of nowhere, developed a passion for creative play. A Physical Education teacher by profession who has lived in England, Canada, Thailand, and now the States.