No toys? So what!

When life gives you leaves and sticks, make fairy houses.

When life gives you leaves and sticks, make fairy houses.

One of my favorite things to do when traveling with the girls is put them in a situation that forces them to be creative—then sit back and see how they roll.

Sometimes they’re too tired to play along and they whine for crayons and paper (or, more commonly, pens and pages from my reporter’s notebook pads). Other times, however, they’re totally into it, scouring the area for twigs and rocks and any other “treasures” they can use to entertain themselves (and, of course, us).

During a recent weekend excursion to the Big City, I needed the kids to kill about 20 minutes in a park while I interviewed a source on the phone. I set them up in a (safe and) particularly vibrant corner. Five minutes later, L had found enough grasses and leaves to fashion a fairy house.

On another trip, a few weeks back, R was disappointed that I didn’t have any sidewalk chalk (because, you know, I don’t travel with that), so she improvised with a Starbucks stir stick and some water.

The best part: She called it “painting.”

These moments, these examples of my girls using nothing but their imaginations, are wonderful reminders that less can be more—especially when we travel. Sure, it’s always nice to have traditional entertainment methods on hand for our kids when we’re away from home. But it’s even nicer to have kids who reliably can create their own entertainment, no matter what.

How do you cultivate this proclivity? Necessity, I suppose. The first time L and R used their imaginations on the road, they had no choice, as Powerwoman and I had left traditional “toys” at home.

Since then, our other secret has been practice—we make sure the kids entertain themselves at least one afternoon on every trip. The more they engage in creative play, the easier it becomes, for everyone involved. Don’t take my word for it, though; try it yourself.

What sorts of creative play do your children like when you travel?

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