Are you dreading your upcoming family trip? Traveling with kids can be a lot to handle and the stress of this can leave us feeling defeated, even before we board the plane or hit the road.
So joining me this week to help you feel prepared and ready for traveling with your kids is the queen of play herself, Jennie Monness.
In this episode, we’ll help you set proper expectations for travel days, give you strategies based on psychology and child development, and suggest practical toys and play prompts that can make for a smoother trip this holiday season and beyond!
If a child reaches a point of mentally, they might not even realize it, I wanna just run around. They’re not going to be satisfied with a walk just up and down the aisle. But if you do those walks before they reach a point of like, I need to get out of here, it can be super helpful
Dr. Sarah (00:20):
As we get ready to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends. Many parents are dreading that all too stressful trip to visit loved ones. When it comes to traveling with kids in tow, it’s all about survival and that is totally okay. Treats for breakfast? Why not? Unlimited screen time? Sure. But when we understand some of the basics of child development and psychology, we can set off on our trip set up feeling a bit more grounded and a bit less stressed–and that is always a nice feeling. I am so excited today to be welcoming Jennie Monness back to the podcast. Jennie has a background in early childhood education and is the co-founder of Union Square Play and the creator of Mo’ Mommies. She and I are also two moms who are dedicated to learning about and teaching about RIE parenting philosophy. She’s also the mom of two little girls and as a wealth of knowledge in how parents can prepare for traveling both professionally and personally.
Today we’re going to give some concrete strategies, tips, tricks, toys to try. But it’s also so important to me that I help parents understand the why behind the strategies to help them become educated consumers of parenting advice. So this episode moves beyond suggestions, like feeding your baby during takeoff and landing–great strategy, driving overnight during nap times–great strategy, curbside check-in for carry-on bags–all those great strategies. But today we’re really going to dive into how we can use what we know about the body and the brain to allow parents to approach family travels with intention. I promise you, you won’t find the strategies we’re going to talk about today on any Buzzfeed listicle.
Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.
This is a really special treat to have you on the podcast. Jennie, thank you so much for being here.
Of course. Thank you for having me back.
Dr. Sarah (02:48):
Yeah, I’m just really glad that I get to have this talk and I always feel like when I travel with my kids, you’re in the back of my head. I’m like, what would Jennie do?
Oh my God. I feel like I’m reaching a point where I’m like, what should I do? We’re getting well cause it changes and they’re getting older. I actually, yeah, it was on my list of to-do to-dos last night cuz we’re leaving in this upcoming Sunday. So yeah, it’s definitely not one size fits all, but I can just help with experience and background and what’s worked for us. So yeah, I’m happy to talk about anything travel, play and helping parents.
Dr. Sarah (03:33):
Yes, I’m so glad and for anyone who hasn’t heard the podcast that Jennie did at the very beginning of our podcast about play and the importance of it and the magic of it, go back and listen to that. But Jennie has a really unique experience on play and also as it applies, the reason why I thought you would be such a great person to come on for this episode to talk about travel strategies for kids is that we could talk about how you keep kids busy on an airplane, but that’s really not what we’re talking about, right? We’re talking about so much more when we’re thinking about traveling with kids and understanding why it’s inherently challenging for them and why we sometimes overestimate what they can handle and then we get stressed and frazzled.
Yes, I think that that’s a great starting point. Before we get into any fun things that you could bring that can promise to engage your child and keep them peacefully happy. The whole travel time, meaning that stuff doesn’t exist but is really I think first and foremost having realistic expectations. I think one thing that I’m so glad you started this out with is me recommending stuff that can help with travel can become a quick trigger and disappointment when we don’t have realistic expectations about those things. And that really it’s, it’s stuff to help and to keep it light and fun and hopeful and to be curious in our kids and how they travel and what’s overstimulating and what should be engaging and things like that. It’s more just to help with what everything is with our kids, which is a learning experience. So yeah, I think it’s great to start out with making sure that we all have realistic expectations, which is like we don’t really know how it’s going to go. Yeah.
Dr. Sarah (05:25):
And obviously we don’t wanna dread it or focus on it going badly, but we also wanna prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised by things being easier than the other way around. And I think if we wanna go into a travel with our children, whether it’s a road trip or a flight or just spending a lot of time in other people’s homes, what are some of the reasons why it’s so difficult for kids?
And so let’s start there. I think we can both weigh in on that, right? Why understanding can help shape our expectations. I think so often we’re told as parents don’t do this or do that. And I think for us we need the why to help make it comprehensive and to really get it in those moments. So I think why of why this is hard is first and foremost it’s a change. And I think no matter what for children, we know that they thrive with routine. Any child thrives with routine and knowing what’s coming. I think many children can thrive without routine, but I think it’s safe to say that every child likes routine or benefits from that. And so travel experiences are astray from that. And so that’s going to change things up. Some children might be anxious about that, some might be excited about that, oh it’s something new.
My girls are like, are we going in the middle of the night? They love that when it’s still dark out. I remember loving that too. But for other kids or children who are a lot younger, that could feel scary and confusing. So I think that’s one thing is the big change that comes with a travel experience. I think another one is the overstimulation that we’re used to. As an example, a child might be used to breakfast just at home and then all of a sudden they’re having breakfast in a public place with a bunch of people around in an airport. I’m giving an example depending on the time. And so, or being changed in public bathrooms with lots of noises. So I think stimulation right from the start of a travel day or even in a car and stopping at rest stops or whatever it is is going to be different levels of stimulation. It might be under stimulation if they’re just in a car and they’re used to going and being social at school right at the start of the day. And then the change in schedule. I think those are the two biggest things that are the why’s of why it can again, not be something to dread, but just be something to expect as a new experience or a different experience.
Dr. Sarah (08:23):
And I love that. I think that’s so helpful for parents to remember. It could be overstimulation, it could be under stimulation. How many times are kids, they’re stuck in one spot on a airplane, they can’t move their bodies, they can’t go try something novel. When you watch kids play, they flip all over the place. They don’t usually sit in one spot for hours playing one thing, even if they’re really engrossed in a lot of independent play.
Absolutely. And I think that’s a big example of comparing too. You know, can go on social media, whether it be Instagram or TikTok or anything and see someone like me posting my kids engaging in Play-Doh endlessly on the airplane and be like, get this and then feel like something’s wrong when your child might not be engaging in the same way I think, you know, see a small window and maybe that helped my kids for 15 minutes and it helps yours for two or it helps another one for an hour. But temperament plays into that. How often you’ve traveled, how interested they are in the material. And that’s why with the tips and things that we give, we hope that some of it can help and we want it to be super open-ended so that each child can use it in their own way. That’s interesting to them. But yeah, I think you’re right that most often children aren’t just sitting with one in one place physically when they’re playing.
Dr. Sarah (09:53):
And that you bring up a really interesting point which is that, well one, not comparing ourselves or our kids to anyone else’s kids, but even to our own kids in an optimal environment, our kid might be really able to do certain things for longer periods of time or stay regulated or not get frustrated, but all of a sudden we’re traveling and all of a sudden my kid feels like a different kid. What’s up with that?
Oh my god. And it’s at top of mind for me because something that I’ve, in comparing, we’re doing the same trip we did last year and the year before that. So in comparing my kids now to the kids that they were forget about other kids, something that I’ve always leaned into using on trips is Play-doh and materials. And it hasn’t been as much of a sure thing with them, whether it’s because I’ve overdone it or we drove to Montreal a month ago and we were trying to push the Play-Doh for eight hours in the car. I don’t know the reason but yeah, it’s less of a sure bet. So even me, I’m thinking should I add some Frozen characters? I’m thinking too, who are my kids now in comparison to themselves and what’s worked in the past and really thinking about what would engage them.
I think when you have younger kids give or take zero to two, that’s when it’s been more of a sure thing of something that I’ll tell parents. These are really open-ended materials, like wait to introduce age appropriately depending on if it’s for babies or older way to introduce on the trip. And it’s been super successful, but I am with a three and five year old seeing that it’s not as simple anymore but I’m ready to figure out what the next few things are and we can talk about that a little. I’m also going to share on my account some things that I’m hoping and will show in real time whether or not they work. But yeah, I think that’s a big thing too that I wanna give a big disclaimer when I give tips or things to bring that it doesn’t mean something’s wrong if it’s not helpful, just means that we try something else.
Dr. Sarah (12:10):
And that flexibility and that willingness to try the next thing and not be like, oh that failed, what’s wrong? Or no, you have to play with this because I, I’m you’re supposed to. That flexibility I think comes with managing our expectations and interpreting our children’s behavior within the context of hey, this is a big shift or this is a new environment or this is a big stretch for them. So if they’re having a hard time or things aren’t going the way I expected, I’m not getting as frazzled that I’m then not getting as rigid. And so if we can be fluid and flexible and say Oh this isn’t working, what else might work and keep going. In order to be able to be that flexible, we kind of have to be able to interpret this as this is okay, I’m prepared for this emotionally.
Exactly. Which is why I wanted to bring that up. And I think also something that I was thinking about sharing this time around when it comes to things that you can bring with you are ideas. What if the things you brought aren’t helpful, what else can you do? It doesn’t mean you just sit and muscle through, but maybe some ways that you can utilize wherever you are, whether it be an I spy game with specific things or whether it be a scavenger hunt that you plan out for depending on if you’re in the airport or not. Or maybe we asked for some paper cups and we create a design with circles or we take some magazine. What can we utilize without buying and buying or if the things we did buy aren’t working by just being in where whatever setting we’re in. I think so often we think we need something to solve and often we underestimate what could just be around us. A makeup brush with water and painting that on an airplane or car window is an example of something that I thought of just because I was desperate and it was in my bag one day.
Dr. Sarah (14:27):
I love that.
I needed a new makeup brush after that. But, it helped.
Dr. Sarah (14:30):
Worth it, worth the investment.
That’s really how I’ve learned about all the things that I recommend. We’re in moments like that. So it’s okay to get to those moments. Someone might be guiding us after enough of those moments.
Dr. Sarah (14:46):
Yeah, but it’s so, it’s so interesting, right? Cuz we talk so much about how we want our kids to play and be creative and have these open-ended opportunities to build their imagination. But we also can model that. I think that’s so kind of cool. Hey, I have nothing here. Nothing that I brought is working. Looking around and thinking outside the box and being creative is modeling to our children that resilience, you’re not saying, well I guess we’re done trying to play well, let’s gotta problem solve this with something creative by thinking outside the box. That’s pretty cool actually to think about cuz it does double duty. It starts over and tries another, tries to solve the problem of our kids needing something to do. But it also models that resilient problem solving and creative thinking in vivo.
Absolutely. And there’s something to say about if you brought a little bundle of things and none of that has engaged your child, maybe they’re tired or hungry. And also leaning into remembering that too, that it’s safe to say that if nothing is helping your child ground themselves or regulate if that’s what you’re experiencing, that it might not be that play or engaging in an activity is the answer right now.
Dr. Sarah (16:17):
That’s really interesting. Can you talk more about that? When do we say, let’s not just keep trying something playful, let’s just start to go to basic emotion regulation, basic needs. What do you scan through your head when your kid’s rejecting everything?
Yeah, and I think, right, and I’ll speak to that in a second, but I think I’m just imagining if recommending something Play-doh, if someone’s like, oh my child looked at that and threw it, I think it’s safe to say that they weren’t in a mode of play. That being said, when it’s something so open-ended like that, I think for me when I kind of know, okay, it’s not playtime with my children at this age, they can kind of communicate that and I’m lucky where they’re kind of in tune to say I’m tired. Or at least one of them does. But I think it’s more just throwing things against the wall symbolically, you try three things and if it’s like okay, they’re really showing dysregulation and how they’re maneuvering these materials, whether it be not even attempting to give it a try, some whining on their squirming even like it’s just probably not going to do the trick.
And then of course keeping in mind when did they last eat? How tired are they? Of course that we always need to remember that. And then knowing that they might get hungrier and more tired differently when we’re kind of on the go. Yes. And that’s also a hard thing though, to a child’s not going to be like, you’re right, I’m done playing or a lot of them and be welcoming a nap. But thinking of ways, which is why I like the water and brush to make it more of a calmer play rather than a adding to the exhaustion that you might be witnessing.
Dr. Sarah (18:19):
Right. That’s actually a really interesting point cuz some play is sort of upregulating and gets them excited and engaged and it’s got lots of fun stimulating things. Some play is more downregulating and the more sensory rich play can be. So can you talk a little bit too about the different types of play that you might wanna be pulling out of your bag at certain times?
And I think it goes also for screen time. If your child is engaging with a screen and then they keep asking you to change it or you see they’re getting frustrated probably because again, it, it’s that also is mentally depleting energy wise. So I would think as I was thinking through what to bring, I did bring some I don’t know what you would call it candidly. I know Sarah, you would know this more educationally, I call them manipulatives, but being able to take out as an example, I think they’re little foam shapes and my older daughter who’s five, is very into patterns and very basic addition and math skills right now. She’s interested in that. So I was thinking that we’d use them to make patterns or say, can I have two hearts? Or Nell,, can you give Tess an extra heart? How many are there now?
That’s a very stimulating, mind depleting, think activity. And I don’t anticipate that that’s going to engage her the whole time we’re on a flight to Florida. So I owe that. And then of course I did do Play-Doh, but like I said, they weren’t as, they play with that every day. So I was going to add some figurines and things like that instead of the open-ended cupcake cups that I usually do. I think they’re cupcake, cupcake out with the Play-Doh. So I would say that Play-Doh is often a more regulating material because whereas the manipulatives are little shapes and stuff or pattern making or is even wire and beads that my girls are into making, that takes a lot of concentration and focus, even though it seems open-ended. So I think thinking how hard is my child going to be working? And I always think of the sign of your child thinking, picture your child playing with this, are they going to be their thinking face? Whether it be their tongue is out, every child has a thinking expression. Yes. Picturing how hard you’re going to see that expression and for how long and knowing that you can’t anticipate that or want that for the entire time and you need to have breaks from that in between whether it’s a crayon and paper for a little bit. So I think having a combination of both super engaging and super
Dr. Sarah (21:19):
Super, I think there’s a dial that you’re kind of conscious about how challenging is this task? How many different cognitive functions is it going to require of them versus how sort of easy and simple it can be.
Dr. Sarah (21:38):
And dialing up and down.
And they think similar for us too with what we think to do. We’re not going to sit there doing super strenuous work.
Dr. Sarah (21:53):
Yeah, or even hard play like a crossword puzzle or reading a book, versus I’m going to color with a crayon next to my kid.
Dr. Sarah (22:02):
I think sometimes I want one and sometimes I want the other. And my brain has bandwidth totally. And I don’t remember the last time I’ve ever gotten to do a crossword puzzle or read a book when I’m traveling with my kids. But when I’ve got my own time.
Thinking about that too, how we sometimes are in the mood, whether it be I wanna turn on the TV and zone out or I don’t wanna do that. I think children are similar, they wanna lose themselves in their play and then other times that’s not the mood they’re in or it that’s just too mentally depleting for a long, long travel day the whole time. And snacks also in between, snacks for sure.
Dr. Sarah (22:46):
So many snacks. And that actually makes me think too of transitions, obviously the big transitions, getting to the airport or then getting on the plane or getting, if you’re driving, stopping, going to the bathroom or getting lunch. These transitional periods are really hard for kids. But even within their play, there’s transitional periods we were saying, yeah, if a kid were really in a play space that was familiar to them, they’d flip all around. Those are all little micro transitions. So understanding not just like we’re managing our expectations, one, this is going to be challenging for them. Two, they might get over understimulated, but three, they’re going to move through their play and need to switch what they’re doing kind of frequently. I think sometimes we have this, this magical belief that our kids are going to play for an hour straight doing one thing, but really if our kid wants to switch tasks over and over and over again, that doesn’t mean that they’re not playing. It doesn’t mean that it’s not working for them.
Right. Yeah, I I totally agree with all of that. Two things came up for me when you were saying that. One is that there’s the transitions that are needed in their play, whether it be like, I’m able to move my body from here to there, I’m able to sit on the ground or stand up, they’re not able to do that as easily. But then there’s also the transitions that interrupt their play so that are like, okay, we have to get off the plane now we have to rush from here to make this, you’re on more of a time schedule. So I think there’s two types of transitions that I guess the ones that they want in their play and then the ones that are just hard because we’re switching environments, especially if you’re, there’s layovers or all that. So I think for both of those reasons, preparation is super beneficial when it comes to travel.
We’re going to land soon and when we do, we have to wait. I think often I underestimate that, okay, we landed, yay, I’m done. But that waiting period of everyone to de-plane is really hard. I mean it’s, it’s hard for adults too. So you can imagine your children are like, yay, why are we waiting asking a hundred times? When are we going to get off? If we beforehand are like, we’re going to land, but look at all these, I’m usually in the back, but look at all of these rows that we need to wait. That’s going to feel hard. Let’s think instead of packing everything up, maybe keep something out for that period because it’s often, sometimes 20 minutes. So yeah, I think preparing for both, it’s going to be hard to not be able to move around and maybe planning some walks preemptively on an airplane or stopping preemptively if you’re on a road trip before they reach a point of, I really just need to get out of this place. If a child reaches a point of mentally, they might not even realize it, I wanna just run around. They’re not going to be satisfied with a walk just up and down the aisle. But if you do those walks before they reach a point of, I need to get out of here, it can be super helpful. So I think preparing for those transitions is really helpful.
Dr. Sarah (26:02):
Ooh, that’s such a good point. And think about that. But basically what I’m hearing you say is don’t wait for the pressure to get too high. You need to be modulating that release valve of moving their bodies regularly before they’re telling you they need it.
Yeah. If you have a child… yes.
Dr. Sarah (26:18):
That’s really good to think about.
Yeah, as we’re talking, it seems like there’s so much for people to have to remember. And so I hope whoever’s listening knows that these are just us trying to cover faces and think of things. But it doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to need to be like, did I do this? Did I do that? But just to keep it in mind where you get into a flow with your children and their temperament where you, I think both of us, Sarah, want anyone listening to feel like they’re their own expert. Mm-hmm. Definitely more of an expert than we are on your particular children in this area. But these are just some of the things that I think we think about also with our own children.
Dr. Sarah (27:00):
Absolutely. And I think this is really helpful because we could have just sat here and given you guys a bunch of ideas to do and we’ll throw some out at the end for sure. But I think it’s the same way I look at parenting scripts. I could give people verbatim things to say to their kid when their kid’s having a hard time and maybe some of the times it’ll land. But I know you feel the same way about scripts. It’s like you can’t really have a script unless you understand the framework. Because a one liner that works for one kid in one particular moment is not necessarily going to work for all kids in all moments. So having a collection of scripts is fine, but finding a framework for how you think about the problem in the first place, how you understand what I’m looking at. Okay, I understand how child children play and so I understand that they need to have a lot of transitional opportunities in their play. They need to change their focus regularly. So knowing that’s going to mean I’m going to bring a lot of easily accessible things that are open-ended versus I’m going to bring one or two things that are closed-ended and just pray for the best. Right. Or totally just in general, this idea of if you understand the why, you can figure out the how.
Dr. Sarah (28:25):
And another thing that I think you brought up that’s really important is you gotta attune to your kid. What does your kid to play with? How do they like to play? And you have to, so everything has to go through the filter of what I know about my kid. You were saying your kids are done with Play-Doh cupcakes, but if you bring in some figurines of their favorite shows or characters, you might have a whole new take on. Totally. And so you kind of gotta know not just what your kids are into, but how they like to play. I would think.
Yes, a hundred percent.
Dr. Sarah (28:58):
Okay. So we know we’re going to use this more overarching framework. We’re going to try to manage our expectations. We’re going to try to prepare our kids as much ahead of time for the struggles. We’re going to get real creative and we’re going to know that there’s no one right way to do this. But we also sometimes just want ideas. We need some hard, hard, concrete strategies, like, and you are the queen of coming up with awesome play prompts. This is your magic. So let’s give parents just some fun ideas if you are going to be stuck on a plane ride or on a long car ride. What are some ideas for maybe a couple different age ranges?
Yes. One thing that I love for any age are these small metal condiment cups that if you follow me, you’ve seen or if you’ve been to Union Square Play. But they come in a pack of 12 and they’re little shiny metal cups. And what’s great about them is that a young baby can mouth them or clang them and they’re not too noisy where it would be disruptive. It’s like small clanging. So we’re talking about infants and then toddlers might stack them. Children who are older than toddler age two and a half three would maybe use them with other materials or to fill with water, to paint with water to sort snacks. I always think of bringing Cheerios because there’s so much you could do with them with play too. But yeah, so the metal cups are great post-its are also amazing. Not too young of a baby cuz they’ll wanna put them in their mouth.
But being able to put post-its around whether it be a toddler and you have the post-its on different surfaces and your toddler is pulling them down and really engage with the sticky quality of putting it up and down, taking it on and off. And then again, older children will just expand on that, maybe making patterns or covering their whole table or window depending on if they’re in a plane or car. And then some of the other creative, you know, can go very open-ended with just a watercolor palette and some paper which I always love. And I like to do a paper roll meaning you can get a small roll of paper instead of just construction paper so that you can actually tape it on the side of a car or an airplane. So it’s not just in front of them, but they’re able to reach up and down and exercise that gross motor movement that they so badly are going to crave after enough time.
Just see it. Stickers and color forms, I think they call them window clings now, I don’t know, we call them color forms when I was younger, but they’re obviously, regular stickers are great. But the reason I love color forms, which is like I say, window clings is they can take them on and off of the window. If you have younger kids you can put them on and then they take them off. Older kids can figure out how to use fine motor skills to peel them off of the page. Or often they come with a book where they can make whole scenes with them. But those are really great materials that we lean into. Pop-its are a big thing now. I like using them with m&ms and cheerios. Those pop it toys. And being able to make patterns with something that’s edible and a snack is great. And then what are, oh, UNO is such a great, I have a five year old, so she’s very into Uno. I think it’s a very great easy card game that they can do with one other person.
Dr. Sarah (32:57):
That’s so funny. Uno is the every therapist, every child therapist has Uno in their office cuz it’s such a go-to easy, simple, kind of fun, mindless game. So you can really do play Uno with a kid while still kind of slipping in some questions about how something felt or what. It’s just a good game. It’s funny that you say Uno because it’s like every play therapist has Uno.
Oh, really? I didn’t even know that. Yeah, she’s just been very into it. There’s also, this is a game that’s the Spot It game. There are these circles. It’s this new newer game that I’ve learned about, but that’s great. Take up a lot of room. They use physical movement that you could do at a gate or in a hotel. But yeah, sometimes those games that aren’t so open-ended are just what you need when your child’s like, all right, I’m sick of coming up with ideas of being creative right now. I just need something to channel my mind.
Dr. Sarah (33:59):
Something more structured or that has a rule or that I can something I know what I’m supposed to do. I do think there’s something to be said for balancing that out. I love open-ended play. And also sometimes you have to do the foil, right? What’s the opposite of open-ended play? Give their brains a little bit of a break. Here’s some really contained thing.
Yeah, I think so often people think open-ended means not, for lack of a better term, boring, but often it takes more work mentally to come up with ways to play and create with something open-ended.
Dr. Sarah (34:42):
So they can get tired. And then I also think there’s something kind of in the middle too with, yeah, if it’s like open-ended crayons and paper, okay, that’s great, but maybe I’m going to do four squiggles on this piece of paper and say, Hey, finish those squiggles and turn them into something. Or can you give them some sort of…
Dr. Sarah (35:00):
Yeah, prompt or directive. But it’s still like who knows where it will go. You’re not saying, Hey, we’re going to draw a snowman now. But you are giving them some. So it’s a little bit of, we don’t want it so open-ended that they have to do so much work to come up with the ideas to play. I love what you do with Union Square Play or on your Instagram or all the different ways. I see what you do is you give them a starting place and then you let them take it from there.
Yeah, like an invitation. And I think that is compelling for a child who’s just like, I don’t know what I wanna engage the one at any time. But especially when you’re kind of traveling an on the go and out of their comfort zone.
Dr. Sarah (35:44):
Yes. I always feel like what are those waxy little strings called?
Oh yeah, they’re called a bunch of different things, WikkiStix.
Dr. Sarah (35:54):
Yeah, those are fun on airplanes because they can put them on the tray table or on the windows if they’re in a car or an airplane. Yes,
Totally. We love those too. Yeah, I was just looking at them and I was thinking of how great pipe cleaners are at an age appropriate time to be. My daughter, Nell loves beating, but she’s three and she sees Tess making using string, which is harder for her. So using a pipe cleaner which is a similar concept to the Wiki stix without being sticky, but they can mold them and bend them and maneuver them in a usable way.
Dr. Sarah (36:36):
And I think that’s interesting too. Modifying different play materials for multiple aged kids so that they’re not watching some other, their big sister get to do all these fun things and they don’t get to do them, but modifying it so that they get to do it too, but in a way that is less frustrating for them or more accessible for them.
Right. Yeah. I hope a digestible guide to tackle holiday travel or travel at any time. We don’t wanna go too overboard with you guys packing and planning a million things, but I think honoring who your child is, they’re temperament, setting, realistic expectations, and then having a few of these tangible go-tos like sets you up for hopefully success.
Dr. Sarah (37:23):
Yes. One thing that my mom always used to do, we used to, my mom is from Puerto Rico, and when we were little, we would always go to visit my grandparents in Puerto Rico. And it was a long flight from Minnesota to Puerto Rico. And every time we’d fly, she would take toys we already had and maybe a few new things and she would wrap them all up in wrapping paper and she would hand us stuff as we went on this trip, as we’d like start to lose our interest and get, and this was obviously before there was any in flight entertainment, no tablets, no anything. It was the nineties. And so it was like we would get these little wrap, these little presents to unwrap. And even if it was something like I already owned, it was my toy, it was always exciting.
It’s presenting it in this really fun and exciting way. No, I think that’s great in such a good idea.
Dr. Sarah (38:22):
And I think people can definitely go on your Instagram. And you’re on TikTok now too, right?
Dr. Sarah (38:30):
So there’s lots of places where people can find ideas and see specific toy ideas. Did you do that collaboration with Rafi Nova?
Yes, I did. So I’m going to be sharing some more updated ideas. You can definitely find some ideas. But Rafi Nova, we did a collaboration with a backpack that they helped us to create with some materials inside. We did just one supply, so it was really while supplies lasted. And we have a bunch at Union Square Play that we can ship out, not so many. So I’m not shouting it from the rooftops because it’s limited. We wanna make a new one, whether it be a belt bag or an updated backpack. We didn’t get to it in time for the holidays, but hopefully for spring break. But yes, there are a few left.
Dr. Sarah (39:22):
That’s cool. So yeah, I definitely was loved all the different things you put in it because it was basically the Rafi Nova made the bag, but you created all the stuff that went inside of it, which was all great ideas.
And together it was such a great partnership figuring out how the backpack would be an added part of the replay, the compartments and the zippers and what we can utilize with the actual backpack not just as a vessel to hold it all. So people loved it and still love it and use it. It’s great. And we use it. We’ll definitely be bringing ours with us too.
Dr. Sarah (40:02):
That’s so cool. But you can also go and check that out and get ideas too, to create your own version of that.
Certainly. For sure.
Dr. Sarah (40:10):
And I feel like a little bit of the familiar tried and true, a little novelty, let a look. I haven’t seen this before. And then I love the idea too of going and getting figurines of their favorite characters to add in to existing other elements of familiar play.
Cause they can use that anywhere and really with any material with Play-Doh or just at a table or at the gate in a hotel room. So yeah, that is something that we definitely are bringing with us. Our new figurine sets for Frozen, which they’re currently obsessed with. So you can tweak that to whatever your child’s interested in.
Dr. Sarah (40:52):
For my son, it’s going to be Octonauts. He’s really into that show right now. It’s so funny how those figurines can take other play and turn it into a new, give it a new life.
I know. It really is.
Dr. Sarah (41:06):
And as they get older, they’re wanting to have more representative play is is interesting. Our kids are the same age. So I’m starting to see this new level of play and my son’s play.
That’s so funny.
Dr. Sarah (41:20):
Your play prompts are so perfect for me. Cause I just watch and I’m like, what are you doing? How can I match this?
Yeah. So that’s why I say I’ve been updating what you can do because what I shared when they were so much younger, we’re still building on, but that’s still up there too. Even if now I’m saying a bunch of ideas that might be a little bit older than some of the people listening.
Dr. Sarah (41:51):
And I also think, I just wanna make sure that it’s very clear you guys have to do what works for you and what works for your kids and it’s still okay. I think it’s great to have a mix. Play is my first step. When I’m traveling with my kids, it’s the first thing I offer, but I also am giving them a screen and we have tablets that we bust out for travel because sometimes that’s just what they need and what I need for myself as a parent who’s also traveling, and I don’t wanna be facilitating a lot of this stuff all the time. The whole time. I think as parents, we have to remember we have bandwidth too. It’s not just our kids that are traveling and who are stressed. And I don’t want people to listen to this and feel like, oh, this is so unattainable. I’m never going to be able to do all this, so I’m just going to do screens the whole time. Or I can’t do screens at all. I have to do this the whole time. I think you can find a balance.
This should be much more fluid and what you need for your child. We definitely sometimes use them. Yeah. It’s just what works for you. And I think not doing all in on one specific thing and having as much of a variety to not drive you crazy that you’re overdoing it or bringing way too much is what I think. We both want people to leave with finding what works for you. And hopefully you can take some inspiration from this conversation and some ideas.
Dr. Sarah (43:22):
And I think also for people who are, my kid is so used to doing screens the entire time, that’s what they’re used to for travel that I could never introduce play because they would reject it. I would challenge you to not assume that your kid, if they’re used to screens, it might be a hurdle to present something different..
But definitely not…
Dr. Sarah (43:44):
But don’t assume they can’t.
Dr. Sarah (43:49):
Yeah, I’m curious if you have anything to say to parents who maybe are like, oh my God, my two could never handle playing on travel days because they’re so used to having a screen the whole time.
And that’s why I was saying that when you see my kids playing and things like, oh, my child would engage with that for just a second, and anything that I share, a lot of times parents are like, oh, it’s too late. We’ve already didn’t done this or that. It’s never too late. And it’s sort of building on this idea that maybe I should just expect a few minutes of play with this. But there’s something cool about being creative with a child who’s just expecting you to hand over a tablet and maybe preparing them ahead of time. We’re going to put the tablets in the overhead compartment so we’re not going to have access to them until a certain time on the plane. What are some things that we can pack for before that and being in it with them. I’m, my phone’s going to be away too.
Let’s come up with, let’s bring Uno and play together. I think eventually you can probably put a material in front of them and not feel like it has to be with you necessarily, and if there’s no tablet, but I think initially to start just thinking about doing that in kind of baby steps. You know. Not just immediately expecting your child to just run at materials that they haven’t engaged with or to just play endlessly when they are used to a tablet. And I think also not surprising them with this new way that they’re supposed to kind of stay busy.
Dr. Sarah (45:26):
Yeah, I think that’s really helpful and very permission giving for everyone. One, everyone at every stage. Oh, thank you so much for coming on. Absolutely. And sharing this with us. If people wanna learn more, we’ll put all your links in the show notes, but if people wanna learn more about the work you’re doing or where they can find some of these ideas or get inspiration, where can they find you?
Yes, please. We’re going to be sharing ideas on our Union Square play account @UnionSquarePlay for Instagram. And also you can subscribe to our newsletter at unionsquareplay.com where we’re going to send out ideas of things you could do at home if you’re not going away. And then my personal Instagram and resource for parents, based on my own personal journey and kind of educational background is @jenniemonness. And yeah, I think in combination you’ll be equipped and by listening to this too.
Dr. Sarah (46:26):
Yes. Thank you so much and happy holidays.
Thank you so much. Happy holidays.
Dr. Sarah (46:38):I really hope this episode helps you go off on any trips you have planned with a bit more confidence. And I wanna thank you so much for spending this year with me. 2022 has been the first full year of weekly securely attached episodes and it has been an absolute privilege to have spent this first year getting to know you. I so appreciate you taking the time to listen to writing your questions and to review the podcast. I have loved every minute of getting to interact with this community of supportive, compassionate, and dedicated parents. Parenting isn’t easy and I really hope you end this year showing yourself some self-love and profound gratitude. If there are more topics you wanna hear about in the new year or questions you want me to answer on the show, you can always DM me on Instagram @drsarahbren or email me at Sarah@drsarahbren.com. Happy holidays and see you in 2023. And don’t be a stranger.
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