On long car trips, Chicago parents may find themselves out of ideas for fun travel games and activities to play with children. Usborne Activity Cards can come to the rescue! Each pack of sturdy cards is full of suggestions for games to play aloud, simple crafts to make, puzzles to solve, and pictures for doodling or completing.
About Usborne Activity Cards travel games
Parents can choose between several packs of Usborne Activity Cards. We field-tested two on a recent series of car trips:
- 100 things for little children to do on a trip: Retailing for around $9.99, this travel toy comes with a deck of two-sided wipe-clean cards and a small wipe-clean black pen.
- 50 Travel games and activities: Also retailing for around $9.99, this travel toy is another deck of two-sided cards which again store neatly in their cardboard box for long trips.
Additional themes of Usborne Activity Cards include Animal Doodles, Monster Doodles, and Travel Doodles, each a set of wipe-clean cards with directions for how kids can use the included pen over and over to decorate and “complete” the different pictures.
Both sets we tested come with sturdy cardstock cards (the wipe-clean ones have a smoother, more plastic finish) that are illustrated with charming and brightly colored pictures.
Usborne Activity Cards 100 things for little children to do on a trip review
Aimed at children ages 4 and up, this pack of reusable cards is best suited for kids who can be trusted to use the included pen in a moving car without accidentally or on purpose drawing on the car interior. To perform each activity, kids will need to possess the dexterity to do such things as navigate mazes, write tiny letters, follow the numbers in a dot-to-dot puzzle, and draw small circles.
That said, by culling the more difficult cards, parents can entertain a younger or less mature child with only the cards that ask boys and girls to complete pictures by drawing objects (for example, monsters, animals, and missing hats or facial features). Or, to avoid mess, a parent sitting in the backseat or holding a card up from the front seat where a child can see it can work with a child to simply point out with a finger the answers on cards that ask kids to spot differences, spot hidden objects, match objects, or follow lines back to their sources.
The variety of activities in this pack of cards will keep children interested and entertained for hours. Different cards call on children to use different combinations of skills such as logic, creativity, imagination, fine-motor skills, and visual perception. Some kids may prefer language-oriented puzzles like unscrambling letters to make a word or circling the answers in traditional word searches. Other children may prefer transforming or finishing pictures by drawing on them. Still others may like best identifying wacky or out-of-place objects.
Strong points in favor of these cards are their sturdiness and how well they erase so that kids can use them again and again. If the included pen dries up or gets lost, parents can easily replace it with a traditional dry-erase marker. Another selling point is the fact that unlike a single book of activities, these cards can be shared easily at one time among multiple siblings in a traveling family.
Usborne Activity Cards 50 Travel games and activities review
While the 100 things for little children to do on a trip cards can entertain a single child, the majority of the cards in 50 Travel games and activities involve the entire family. These travel games work fantastically well for keep moms, dads, and kids amused during the miles of a car trip (and, after the rules of each have been memorized, for passing the time everywhere from waiting for food at a restaurant to hanging out during a family gathering). Each card has a represenative picture on one side and an icon (showing at a glance how many players are required) and detailed instructions on the other.
One drawback to this travel toy is that some of the 50 games are obviously well-known, including cards devoted to explaining how to play variations of such classic travel games as tic-tac-toe, 20 Questions, I Spy, I Packed My Bag, counting things, and even rock paper scissors (with helpful pictures). That said, sometimes in the heat of the moment during a car trip, it can be difficult to come up with an activity under pressure, so parents might need to be reminded of the existence of such time-tested games.
Fortunately, most of the other cards describe more novel activities. Some involve drawing games, where players try to guess what someone is drawing or work together to complete a picture. Others rely on mental associations (relating different words without pausing or repeating any answers), mental agility (answering detailed questions without automatically saying “yes”), or general language skills (naming objects in different categories, working together to create a story). Our family favorite and a game our 5-year-old tester calls on everyone to play to this very day is Pink Toads, in which players must answer “pink toads” to any question asked of them, however silly, until people eliminate themselves one by one by laughing.
One drawback to some of these activities is that they involve extra supplies not included in the set, and unless parents have thought to pack items such as drawing paper, pens, or round objects to trace, the activity suggestions are useless.
Great small and inexpensive travel toys
Overall, Usborne Activity Cards are a great investment for families on the go. Measuring roughly 6 by 4.5 inches, each deck takes up a minimal amount of space in a child’s backpack or carry-on bag, and the games and puzzles are varied enough to keep boys and girls entertained for hours, able to switch from card to card as their moods change. When treated with reasonable care, the cards should last for years and years of family vacations.
Chicago families can find sets where we purchased ours, at a local Learning Express Toys store.
Other great small and inexpensive travel toys include Peaceable Kingdom Sticker Kits, Dover Little Activity Books, ALEX Amazing Paper, and the Doodle Roll Activity Kit. Children can also use products such as the ALEX Car Valet or the Snack and Play Travel Tray for organizing their in-car play activities.
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