How Do I Keep My Toddler Busy on a Trip? 14 Ideas for the Toddler Quiet Bag

My husband and I just went on a great trip! The trip involved flying, driving, and several hours of sitting in conference sessions with both kids who are now two and seven months old. Before we left I invested some time into building a toddler quiet bag as a survival tool. Mom was nervous about all the sitting time! I have been that mom digging frantically my purse for absolutely anything even remotely interesting to keep my little guy distracted in the office at church or in the car. I’ve even resorted to letting him pull all the contents out of my wallet piece by piece in a bid for a few more minutes of quiet. This time around, I was prepared. Our quiet bag ended up working amazingly! So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly list of ideas for your next outing or trip, here are 14 ideas for the toddler quiet bag to get your brainstorm started!  

A week before our trip we started practicing quiet time every day. We started with just two minutes and added a few minutes each day until we got to 45 minutes. As part of this practice time, I taught him a few simple sign language signs for “yes”, “no”, “stay still”, “Wow! Good job!” and “Look at this”. Some kids probably don’t need the sign language, but my son has a burning need to communicate all the time. He is not getting the concept of whispering yet, so the signs work for us. I used the same modeling technique that I used to teach my son to be gentle. His little three-year-old friend proudly demonstrated for us what it means to “be quiet and don’t talk”, and I praised him so profusely that my son was eager to try too! Two tips on the practicing. First, don’t over practice too close to (the day of) a big event. And most importantly, don’t practice with the actual toys! You want the toys in the quiet bag to be special and surprising! Here are 14 ideas for the toddler quiet bag that worked best for us.

    1. Stickers – I used some sample return address stickers I received that were for an old address. The quantity is lots more important than the quality here for young toddlers. If your toddler is really into stickers, they sell sticker books with reusable stickers.
    2. Lacing Cards – At two, my son is not quite ready for the classic flat lacing cards, but I found one that is a block of wood in the shape of a wedge of cheese with holes drilled in it that he loves.
    3. Hair Clip With a Spring – I discovered this one by accident when I got almost an hour out of it one day!
    4. Magnetic Puzzles – Melissa and Doug as well as other companies sell small magnetic puzzles that are perfect for quiet bags. Keep it in a plastic ziploc to prevent lost pieces.
    5. Snacks – Think small and neat. Cheerios work for young ones because they eat one at a time. It takes them forever to get through enough Cheerios to fill up, and quiet concentration is what we’re after!
    6. Books – I like small board books that my son is really familiar with so he doesn’t feel the need for me to read it.
    7. Magna Doodle – They make small travel sized ones that fit in a diaper bag.
    8. Crayons and Paper – I put two crayons in a ziploc and clip the bag to a pad of paper. The whole box of crayons is hard to manage sitting in a seat without a table.
    9. Rubber Bands – I only pull these out if I know I’m not going to get too distracted to make sure he doesn’t try to eat them.
    10. Magnets – The trick is to find safe ones that can’t be swallowed. Toddlers love how they stick together.
    11. Headphones – I’m a firm believer in very restricted screen time for toddlers, but in a sit-still situation there’s always that last resort option of watching videos on mom’s phone. Let’s be real; sometimes that phone is worth its weight in gold!
    12. Sensory Fidget Toys -Amazon or your local Walmart will have a selection. Most are a little advanced for toddlers, but my son likes his cheap bubble timer. You can find sand timers as well.
    13. Puppet – We have a little hand puppet that looks like a tiger.
    14. Linking Rings – I pulled a few of these out of my seven-month-old’s infant toy basket. My son loves linking them together and taking them apart.

My son is not perfectly quiet yet, but because of our preparation we did so much better than I thought we would! I would encourage any mom of toddlers to take few minutes to gather some toys and tricks to put in the diaper bag for quiet times, and if you have any favorite ideas for your toddler quiet bag, we would love to hear them!

Mommy Medicine is a group of moms that love sharing tricks, tips and strategies with our fellow moms. So send us your mommy questions you would like to see as the subject of a blog. We would love to hear from you!  Subscribe here to receive posts straight to your inbox!

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (10/22/2018) kingary (Flickr)


Jessica Hines

Jessica Hines

Jessica lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband Daniel and their three-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, and five-month-old son.  She is primarily a stay at home mom who works part time from home as a tutor and an administrative assistant for her church.  As a tutor Jessica has ten years of experience working with students in Math, Science, and English and is passionate about helping students regain their confidence and discover keys to understanding the concepts they are studying.  Prior to having kids, Jessica graduated with a degree in Dietetics from Arizona State University and spent several years working in the nutrition field doing menu planning and analysis for schools and long-term care communities.   
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