While hot cars and cramped airplanes definitely aren’t the place for mural painting, art explorations while traveling can be simpler and more doable than you might think. With a few offbeat art supplies and a simple bag or pouch, it’s possible to stretch beyond the usual coloring book and crayons to provide low-mess, engaging, and truly creative art experiences for your child. You may even get a moment to crack open that summer novel you’ve been dying to read.
To start, you’ll need to make your art supplies portable. From simple to fancy, almost any kind of pouch or container will do.
Carrying Case Ideas
Reusable lunch bag/box
Airtight food storage container
Gently used cosmetic bag
Hinged mint tins (great for crayons)
Gallon freezer baggies
Fill the pouch with as many or as few of the supplies below as you prefer.
Art Supply Ideas
Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils
Scrap construction paper
Texture boards/rubbing plates (available at Discount School Supply)
Origami paper and instructions (ages 7 and up)
Beads and elastic or shoelaces (shoelaces are great for little hands)
Modeling Clay Activity Kit
Ages 3+ Sculpey (and other polymer clays) are great for travel because they don’t crumble, they come in brilliant colors, and they won’t dry out. Polymer clays can be purchased at art or craft supply stores and are reasonably priced (1.99 for a 2 oz. bar). If you do want to save what you make, you can pop it in the oven to make your design permanent when you reach your destination.
Natural Note: If you prefer a natural alternative to polymers, you can purchase colored sticks or sheets of natural beeswax that work beautifully for modeling.
- Carrying case
- 2–4 blocks of colored Sculpey (or other polymer clay) in a clean cream cheese or margarine/butter tub. It’s easiest to take off the plastic before leaving on your trip Chop into workable 1/2-inch pieces (polymer clay is stiff at first and will soften with heat from your child’s hands).
- Plastic knife
- Clean styrofoam tray or a piece of cardboard makes a good base/table for working on.
Optional: Embellishments like beads and colored toothpicks can extend the project.
Travel Journal Kit
Ages 3+ A truly special vacation should live on in memory. Making a travel journal with your child is a way to combine art, early literacy, and scrapbooking all in the same meaningful activity.
- Carrying case
- Journal (you can buy a pretty one, use an office supply notebook, or staple together a stack of printer paper)
- Writing and drawing tools: markers (thin and thick tip), crayons, colored pencils
- Glue stick
- Envelope—for collecting special treasures—a feather, a ticket stub, a note from grandma
Each day, you and your child can pick one or more memories to record. Children younger than 5 will likely draw their memories and tell the accompanying stories verbally. Parents can record the children’s words (preferably verbatim), underneath the drawings in caption or story form (book format helps literacy development). Let your child take the photographs and glue special treasures in the book as well. At the end of your trip, you’ll have a delightful collection of child-centered memories to look back on. Don’t forget to have your child ‘read’ it to you before bed.