Baby, Christmas, gifts, grandparents, Holidays, Parenting, Preschool, presents, Toddler, traveling

Traveling with a Baby (Toddler) at Holiday Time: 18 Best Distractions & Techniques

Photo by Carl Figuracion on Unsplash

All parents have been there. You have a distance to go, either in the car or on the airplane or a train.  And you are traveling with a baby or a squirmy toddler. 

How do you leverage things to avoid a complete disaster?

First and foremost, accept the fact that it won’t be an easy gig. Even the most accomplished and well-prepared adults shiver with dread in this type of situation. But there are some things you can do to manage the situation.

It is a well-established fact that toddlers are happiest when engaged, so while you are planning your trip, you need to make some contingency plans. Most likely, you want some easy to carry activities, won’t be messy, and are not noisy. Take a look at these suggestions to see what will work for you.

Busy Books: There are all sorts of busy books for many different levels of development. “What is a busy book?” you query.  It is a book that has an exciting toddler or baby level activities built-in. Many busy books are self-contained and do not have any parts that could wander off. Some of the activities may include tying shoelaces, fastening belts, or zipping up zippers.

These everyday items fascinate toddlers as they are just learning to master all of these closures. However, busy books can be on almost any topic. And some are even simple enough for an older baby to enjoy.

Technology: If your child loves stories, songs, and other activities using touchpads, you might consider loading some age-appropriate distraction. It is also helpful if you can convince your toddler to wear earphones, so the annoying, repetitive music is heard by your child and no other adult sitting in close range. This model comes with a 2-year warranty against breakage.

Finger Puppets: These amazing little items are easily stored in a pocket, ready for action. But they can lead to many minutes of story time or independent play. Sometimes you can find sets on a certain theme such as the nativity, sharks, or people. This 20 piece set will seem new each time you select 1 or 2 to play with.

Busy Boards: These are usually somewhat larger and heavier than busy books, but they can fascinate some mini engineers for a long time as they try to open doors, use keys to unlock locks, or slide a blot to see inside a cupboard. There are many different versions from which to select.

Coloring: Personally, this option never worked for me as I had a very active toddler who loved building things. But I see many young kids fascinated with crayons, coloring books, and even plain paper. Start with a few colors and then trade the colors to add more interest. Sometimes a special book, such as a Christmas tale, will keep your toddler mesmerized.

Puzzles: These work well as long as there are not too many pieces to lose. Often the puzzle pieces are single objects that can be used in creative play. A puzzle with different vehicles can give many minutes of joy as your LO decides to play with each piece as if it were a toy.

Reusable Sticker Books: Sticker books are always a huge success. They are easy to use and build delightful scenes. You can find a range of topics to tickle the fancy of your precious. Even my craft despising son could be amused with the right sticker book. There are some on holiday themes.

Fidgets or Sensory Toys:  These are items that have been invented to catch anyone’s attention. You may have to experiment with which one is right for your child. Do they like the lava lamp imitation, or are they more interested in a fidget with moving parts? Are they likely to chew on the toy? Some fidgets suit that purpose as well.

A Harness: Really? Absolutely!  Parents find it useful, especially if your toddler is a wanderer. Your wanderer can have some freedom of movement, but you are tethered to your explorer to keep them safe. Just ignore any stares from the disapproving adults. They either have not had a toddler out in this situation, or they have forgotten how difficult it can be to contain the wandering spirit with grace.

Cuddly Stuffed Toy:  And if your toddler becomes sleepy, it is always great to have a friend to settle down with. This bear is made for sleep. Not only is it cuddly, but it plays soothing sounds, lullaby and has a mini light show for your young child. You will want to use this some time before your trip so your toddler can associate it with sleeping.

Other Hints

Build Independent Play Time: Before you leave for your trip, have your toddler practice independent playtime. You can even set a timer and say, I’ll be back in 10 minutes when the bell rings. Gradually lengthen the independent playtime.

Strategic Scheduling:  If at all possible, schedule the boring travel time at your child’s naptime or throughout the night. Take advantage of the natural sleep rhythm so your child can pass the time quietly, and you might even be able to get some rest, too, if you are traveling on a train, bus, or airplane.

Experiment Ahead of Time: You could try out some of the special activities to see if they engage your child. Let them interact with the finger puppets and busy books to see what works best. And when you find an activity that your toddler finds engaging, put that item away for the traveling date. Keep the novelty of the toy fresh for the traveling episode.

Get Physical: About an hour before your departure, plan for a very physical time with your toddler. Walk up and down the train station. Take them to the park before you get into your car. Race around the area before getting on the bus. Carry some balloons with you. Blow one up and play catch in the area while waiting for your plane.

Bribery:  Always carry snacks and liquids with you. Often toddlers can be amused with enjoying a favorite flavor. During this stressful time, it is not essential to worry about nutrition. You can offer attractive alternatives that would not usually be available. Does this sound like bribery? Sure, it is. If it works, you can use it sparingly.

Be Watchful:  Recognize the signs of boredom or discomfort early. It is much easier to settle a young one if they are not in a full meltdown. So, if you see any squirming or hear any disgruntled sounds, act quickly to change the environment somehow.

Interact:  Often, toddlers prefer to interact with their loved ones. They are easily entertained with a game of Peek a Boo, or Can you Find something red?  Make a list of favorite games that require no equipment for those tense moments. If these games fail,  then try something as lame as “Hey, look at that _______!”  There will likely be something in your view to amuse your toddler.

Mix It Up: Be prepared to switch up the activities to reduce boredom as the hours roll on by. Put away the old and bring out the new on a regular basis.

Now RELAX.  

You are prepared to enjoy your holiday.

Christmas, gifts, grandparents, Holidays, Preschool, presents, Toddler

Toddler Santa Letter: 10 Best Toddler Toys for Christmas

As a mom, I swear I can read my toddler’s mind. If my 2 years old could speak in sentences, here is what I am sure he would say to Santa in an email.

Photo by Mike Arney on Unsplash

Hi Santa

I saw you at the mall today, dressed up in your red suit. Your beard was very big, and I liked the way you laughed. I told you I wanted a puppy for Christmas, but I have been thinking about other ideas too. I have sent this email so you can start packing your sack for Christmas Eve.

I have been watching the kids across the street with their tricycle all summer long. That looks like a lot of fun. Mommy says she will be happy when I learn to ride a bike, so she won’t have to carry me to the park on a play date.  There are no pedals on this bike, so I’ll learn to ride it quickly. I’ll be able to take my puppy for a walk with it when the puppy is old enough to be on a leash. Mom helped me pick one out to show you.

LEGO is one of my favorite toys. I can now push the bricks together. But I have no LEGO people to ride in my car. I also wondered if they had a LEGO puppy too. I would love to play with a pet. There are some sets with all different kinds of people, just like the world I live in. My big sister has a lot of LEGO too, and I could share my friends with her when we have our BUILD IT time

Every day I watch my big sister pack up her backpack to get ready for school. She waits by the corner for the bus. I would like a green backpack because green is my favorite color and frogs are my favorite animals. My daddy cuts the grass with the same tractor.

Everyone in the family is talking about some squiggles on paper. The squiggles match my ABC song. To help me learn more about them, I could use a talking wall poster.  All I have to do is press in a spot, and the wall chart talks or sings. It also will play a game with me. Some of my favorite songs like “The Wheels on the Bus and the ABC song,” encourage me to sing along too. Mom likes this chart because it hangs on the wall and is never messy. I like to reach up and stretch for the surprises.

On Saturdays, we have a family BBQ, even in the winter. I like to watch my dad cook the burgers on the grill. I want to be just like my dad and cook my own burgers, too. It is fun for me to copycat what the adults do. Mom likes to keep me busy during cooking time, as she is always getting the rest of the meal ready and setting the table.

I watch my older brother and sister do their homework from school. I want to be like them with this coloring set; I can start to practice the skills to get ready for learning. The pictures are just the right size, and the honey wax crayons are soft, so I can leave my mark. Don’t worry, if I mark the walls, it will wash off easily.

Start me off with the letters in my name for the first adventure with reading. After all, I hear my name most often every day. When I learn that Brian begins with B, I can start to make sense of the letters. The capital letters are the easiest to recognize.

 Since I am still at the stage where I love to hide and seek, the tent and tunnel combination is a great way for me to exercise on those days when I cannot go outside. I’ll have fun crawling, throwing the balls, and hiding. Give mom a hint to hide a toy in the balls, so I have a reason to go digging. I love finding treasures.

What a surprise I will have when I see my very own Christmas tree full of lights. This is one that I can decorate over and over again. It will be a great keepsake for years to come and help me remember the previous seasons, too. And it is just my size. I see your face on the tree!

A Busy Book is a great way for mom and dad to keep me busy on the car trip to visit grandma and grandpa. It has many different activities inside. Mom likes it because it is very compact. I like it because there are so many different things to do. Mom and Dad only give it to me on special occasions, so I am always happy to play with it. It seems like a new exploration each time.

Merry Christmas Santa

I luv you


I’ll make sure that Mom puts milk and cookies out for you. I’ll get some carrots for the reindeer.

Christmas, Elementary School Kids, gifts, grandparents, Holidays, presents

10-Year-Old Gift Advice for Grandma

Hello my 10-year old Love of My Life

I am writing you this letter as a check-in for Christmas. I think I know what 10-year-old boys like, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint you. And you know how much Grandma cares about you.

So here goes my reverse wish list, and you can respond to it with a thumbs up or thumbs down.

There are many items on this list but don’t expect to find all of them under your tree. Grandpa and I will make a selection using your ratings.

A little bird, called your mother, let me know that you have grown so much since I last saw you that your bike is getting too small for your size. So, it is on the top of my list for you. But what type should I buy? This one comes in several different colors, but I know how much you favor pink. Do you want a racing bike built for the street, or is a mountain bike for trails more useful to you? Perhaps a gift certificate for the right store would solve this problem, and then you can select the bike of your dreams.

This one has an aluminum frame and disc brakes with suspension in the front forks. It is made by RoyalBaby.

But if a bike is not at the top of your list, I thought I could find some other gifts that would tickle your fancy.

How about a robotics kit? I hear that your older sister is using the kit I gave her last year, but she is reluctant to share it with you.

I have found a new kit that I thought you might like. It is the MakeBlock Ultimate Robot Kit. She has the MBot Robot. The new kit needs to be assembled, but the advantage is that it can easily be made into other robots. I understand that you are starting to learn to program at school. You can see from the pictures that you can make many different devices.

I found a cool video camera you can attach to your bike helmet or handlebars to take videos. And you can use it underwater, too.  When you go off on your scouting adventures, you could record the highlights of your week. I look forward to seeing what you are up to now and then.

When I was looking through the internet sites, I found a book with some parts to do some AMAZING things with the scads of LEGO blocks that you have.  It is called Chain Reactions. With the instructions and some of the kit pieces, you can build 8 chain reaction machines. But, of course, with your inventive mind, this kit could be turned into many wonderful devices—all diabolically clever, too.

I hear a lot about 3D printers, and I know your family doesn’t have one yet. I wondered if you would be interested in dabbling with this technology. I am not sure what you can make with it, but I am sure you will figure out something wildly pleasing.

You will need to save some of your allowance to pay for the filament it requires when the first one runs out. They have some with rainbow colors. I haven’t heard you talk about a wish for such a printer, but I thought I’d try and get you something you could experiment with. Then again, you might not need one as your school or library might have one you can use. 

As winter closes in on us, I thought you might like a way to get physical. I remember the fun we had as a family playing table tennis back when your mother was your age. I know that your space is limited, so I thought of a fold-up table tennis. Indeed, you will need paddles and an assortment of balls. It is a great way to spend some time with your close friends who are in your bubble. And the table will last for years. You can bet that when we can come for a visit, I expect to trounce you in our tournament.

I heard some kids in our apartment complex, talking about their drone and camera. I have never heard you talk about a drone before, but when I saw how excited these kids were over their drone, I wondered if you would like one also. I know you love technical gadgets, and this is one that you could use where you live as long as you were careful to take it to an open space. When we can go to the cottage, there will be plenty of opportunities to use it there.

So, these were the things I was considering, but I would love to hear any ideas you might have as well.  And if you have heard your sister’s wish for anything, I’d like to hear about that too. Sometimes a grandma has to have extraordinary sleuthing skills to be a successful Santa. For her, I was considering wireless earbuds as she spends so much time on her phone talking to her friends. Do you know if her phone is an Apple or Android? Or does that matter. Clearly, I need some help with this.

Luv you

Hugs and Kisses    (I know – mushy, too mushy)

Grandma and Grandad

Other Suggestions for a 10-year-old boy

See the New York Magazine

Christmas, Elementary School Kids, gifts, grandparents, Holidays, presents

Christmas Letter to Grandma: Grandaughter Greta

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

Hi Grandma

Mom is helping me write this letter to you. We added some pictures to help you find exactly what I was putting on “My Wish List”.

This week my teacher helped me write a letter to Santa to tell him about the toy I wanted most. And I had to ask Santa a question, too. So, I am going to do the same for you.

The toy I want most is a 2 wheel bike, all pink. But I think Santa has heard me, and he will be bringing that in his sleigh on Christmas night.

Mom tells me that you and gramps are not going away for Christmas, and we might get to see each other if the virus has not spread to our town. I am crossing my fingers and toes in hopes that will happen. 

I remember last Christmas when we Facebooked each other. You were in Florida with your friends, and we were getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve. We made chocolate chip cookies for Santa, and I ate one of them for you. We will be making more cookies for Santa, but this time you can eat your own cookie that we will make. Mom has some cookie cutters in the shape of trees, presents, stars, and Santa Claus. Do you have a favorite shape that I can decorate for you? We practiced yesterday, and here is our dish of the best cookies. I helped with the red icing.

Photo by Otto Espinal on Unsplash

So, here are some other things I want.  Mom helped me find some pictures on the internet so you could see what I want.

Now that I am getting older, mom says I can have some special things for girls. I’d really like to have rainbow hair, and there is a special kit to color my hair in different colors. It is called hair chalk. My friend Tracy showed me her hair on FaceTime. Her mother had to help her, but her hair was amazing. 

I love making things. And many of my friends have special friendship bracelets. I have some threads and beads, but I would love to have more. There are many types on the Internet but here is one I like.

At school, we are learning how to code on the computer. I have finished the Angry Bird game from, and I would love to have a real robot I can program. It is made in pink, just for girls. I can add some of my LEGO to make many different things. 

I’d also like some special pencil crayons. We are learning about Black Lives Matter, and I would like to have lots of choices for my drawings. 

Mom has some ideas for you, too. 

Since I like to read, she suggests a subscription to the National Geographics for kids. I love finding out facts about our world. Last year, I read all about earthquakes at school and decided to do a science project, too. It would be fun to get a present every month in the mail.

Once a week, we have games night, and I would like a new game to play. When we looked at the games, this one sounded like fun. Mom likes it too because it will help me learn about financial literacy. It is called Monopoly – Ultimate Banking. It has a machine, and you can tap your card to buy things. How cool is that!

And since I love reading so much, mom thinks a Rebekah set of girl Detective books would be just the thing for our every night reading time.

That is a lot of things to choose from. But I know how much you like shopping. I guess you will be doing most of it online since you have a rule that you only go outside of your house when you have to. You want to be safe from the virus. And we want you to be safe as well.

I have a special surprise for you and Papa. It is hard to keep a secret about what it is. But I know you will like the taste.

See you soon



hugs and kisses

PS   Baby Lee gives kisses and hugs.

Christmas, Holidays, Physical Activity, Play, teens

Christmas Gift Ideas – 13 year-old Grandson

Memo to Grandma

Photo by Brennan Martinez on Unsplash

Hi Grandma

Did you know it’s only 40 more shopping days until Christmas?  Time goes by fast in the Pandemic!  NOT.

I haven’t heard from you in a while through Facetime, but I thought I would help you get started on your Christmas shopping by letting you know about a few things I’d really like this year.  

Don’t you wish that all your grandkids could be so helpful as to give you a list?  After all, Santa gets a list, and he has millions of lists to compare, so he knows what is on everyone’s minds this year.

Relax. I have you covered, Grandma.

All teens like money and gift cards. But that is the old reliable, standby gift. If you want to really impress this year, seriously consider items from these categories I have developed for boys my age.

I know that it is pretty hard to beat our gift from last year – a trip to Disney Land. But since we are all committed to staying at home as much as possible,  I have these great ideas for you. 

I have also checked a few items with my cousins, Charlie and Samir. They are in total agreement. So, before you order those joke socks, take a look at these suggestions.


I know you use technology when you have to, but technology is melded to our lifestyle for our generation. So, any lit tech gifts are much appreciated.

1) Drone with a Camera – Many of the drones come with recommendations for kids over 14, and I am your oldest grandchild at 13 years old. Here’s something you need to know. Drones that are smaller than 0.55 lbs do not need to be registered, and therefore this is the best type of drones for kids. Also, it is advisable to always have the drone in eyesight. I can help you explain that to my cousins if you decide on this sic gift.

2) Remote controlled car, truck, boat: These are a safer option for some of my younger cousins, but I’d be pleased with them also. 

3) Build Your Own Robots Kit: All the cousins have scads of LEGO, but we don’t have any kits to make robots. Any sort of these kits would keep us busy for hours and add to our engineering abilities.

4) Rocket Building Sets:  You know how much I like to make things explode. A rocket building kit would channel my inner desire and teach me a thing or two about science.

Laugh It Off 

Kids Against Maturity Game: I have played this game at my friend’s house, and it is hilarious. I’d like to share this with my cousins just as soon as we can get together. We could also have a ZOOM session to play the game, if a couple of us had copies of it.

Ways to Visit My Friends

1) Bicycle: I have a bicycle that I got for my 11th birthday, but now I would like one with more options. My parents have told me that the old bike is still serviceable for me to get around town. But I disagree. You and I could talk about what would be suitable for me. Or maybe a gift card for the local bike store would be a way to solve this issue. Then I could get the exact bike I like.

2) Motorized Scooter: Wouldn’t it be great to see me zooming around the neighborhood on a motorized scooter? I would be able to cover distances without much effort. And an electric one would mean I wouldn’t have to buy gas.

Mini Entrepreneur

You know that I am interested in starting my own business as I love to spend money. My allowance never seems big enough. I heard that several eBooks could help me get some ideas. Perhaps Gramps has the time to help me plan a way to make money in my neighborhood. 

Along with some information, I could also use the tools I would need to start a yard service for my neighbors. I could earn some cash throughout the winter if only I had my own snow shovel and ice chipping tool. And for the summer, a lawnmower and bush clippers would allow me to offer summer care as well.

Cell Phone Accessories

Since almost all of your grandkids have a cell phone, they need some accessories. There are some GOAT belts that have a window for easy texting. It is unlikely that we will leave our phones behind if we have a place for them.

And How About Those Stocking Stuffers?

Now you may be wondering about stocking stuffers. Last year you made such a big hit with the hilarious games you found!   How can you top that this year?  How about . . .

1) LED Bike Wheel Lights with Batteries Included!  All your grandkids love riding bikes, and when we go on night rides, we will have the dopest wheels around.

2) Wireless earbuds . . .   because we need them!

3) A cell phone stand holder is a great idea for when we are at home and want to talk to you.

4) Trick Yoyo:  We love to keep busy, and this is easy to carry with us. 

Hey, my favorite grandma, take a look at my suggestions. I am sure there is something in this list that will tug at your heartstrings and fit your pocket-book.

Your favorite grandson,


PS   – Don’t tell my parents about this list. I sent them the same one, as they are clueless about finding things I like.