I’m going to start by saying that I’m not sure I always like the term “screen-free” as it is almost overused now, dare I say it, as another method of mum-policing, when tablets and iPads can hold their place too.
We all do our best to limit screen time, and I’m never going to judge any parent who does use screen-time when out and about (except maybe the woman in front of us on a 4-hour flight, who played the same 5-seconds clip of “my name is Iggle Piggle” at full volume on repeat… though there was no judgement, she just had alllll the angry-faced emojis thrown her way!!). I’m never going to deny using our iPad for screen time.
However, there are so many amazing ways now to keep kids occupied without those screens, and whether you want your little ones kept quiet while waiting for a meal in a restaurant, mess-free activities for a flight, some evening camping activities, or some educational quiet-time activities for home or holiday, here’s a few of my favourites.
Please note, these haven’t been gifted, so are genuine product reviews I’d like to share… particularly from small businesses who I like to support.
Button & Squirt
I don’t know where to start with recommending Button & Squirt as everything she does is just beautiful. Every animal is hand-drawn, with so much interesting information about that animal to help you and your little ones learn about endangered animals and unique creatures out there.
Our Amazing Animals alphabet cards and flashcards have become a staple activity for trips, from camping pods in Nottingham through to Alpine chalets in France. They are small enough to pack in your bag, while being packed with so much incredible information, and some stunning drawings.
Alongside these, we also have the Amazing Animals colouring book in our day pack, to whip out in restaurants or waiting rooms when we need to waste a bit of time. It is a perfect distraction, while small enough to slip into your day bag – we even hiked up to the Akropolis with it, where she cooled down in a little Greek cafe, colouring in her Amazing Animals!
I truly recommend checking out such an amazing small business for a whole host of educational, fun and beautiful activities and clothing for children of all ages.
My Busy Bots
We only recently came across My Busy Bots, but after picking up a few bags in the sale, I’d really recommend these.
Each activity is educational while remaining fun, and is separated into its own age bracket for age-specific activities. The main love of these, however, is that each activity comes in its own little high-quality zip bag – and each activity is educational too!
We have the Block It and Are We There Yet bags, supporting with writing and forming letters, however you can also get bags specifically for supporting with starting school, as well as bags designed for children who are 5 and over, with age-appropriate activities to support their learning in a fun way.
Again, being in a fun, individual bag, it means these can easily be slid into backpacks or hand luggage for travel-friendly entertainment.
Visit the Imagistones website here
Imagistones are simply beautifully hand-painted story stones, but they are perfect for every adventure.
With the goal to inspire young minds, there are so many beautiful designs to choose from, to encourage the little ones to create their own stories and adventures based on the stone pictures.
Every stone is hand-painted in the UK, which makes it even more special to be supporting a small business, but the quality is still fantastic, and every stone tells its own story.
You can buy them individually, as a lucky dip, in batches of 20 or 30, or even choose a selection of themed stones, such as pirates or transport.
Find out more about Fuzzikins here
We have only just recently come across Fuzzikins, but Lily is in total awe of them! She loves being creative, loves playing with small figures, and loves activities where she can draw – so Fuzzikins are a total win all round.
The little animals come with their own pens so you can colour and doodle on them as you wish, and even better, you can wash it all off to colour them all in again! There are some amazing little play packs too, including a beautiful little school, a little cottage and even a campervan (see photo below for Lily’s surprise next week!) – all which have plenty of accessories too!
These are definitely on our Christmas present list as they will make a really lovely gift, but are also great for a reusable activity when out and about!
Little Brian Paint Sticks
Nothing puts so much fear into me than the words, “can I do some painting please, mummy?” With flashbacks of dirty, spilt water, brushes, mess, more mess, setting up different paints, covering all surfaces, wet paintings left to dry, and all the other mess that comes with it, painting is something I admit to have dreaded, and never did I ever think that painting could be something that could actually come with us on adventures.
Little Brian Paint Sticks changed everything, and I’ve no idea how I didn’t know about these before! They’re the size of glue sticks, work like glue sticks, dry in 60 seconds, and have minimum mess… they’re now even our go-to after school quiet time activity while I’m sorting dinner, as she can just quietly sit and do some “painting”, I can just set her up with some paper and these paint sticks, and she can paint her pictures, then it can all be cleared up so quickly.
They can be used on paper, card, wood, glass, and even on windows or whiteboards, which are super easy to clean off afterwards.
No water, no spills, no paintbrushes to clean, no mess, no wet pictures hanging around to dry for days, just plenty of lovely colours to enjoy… happy Lily, happy mama!
Find out more about Face Paintoos here
Have you noticed I’m not a fan of activities where mess comes as standard? Well, Face Paintoos are another amazing product that have completely changed my outlook on things we can do when out on adventures.
Lily loves getting her face painted, but not only am I completely useless at anything artistic, but I know she is likely to smear the paint across her face within the first 20 minutes, covering her body, clothes and anything else she comes across in a brown smear of paint that takes forever to come off.
This is where Face Paintoos have come into play – and were even super easy in a tent while camping! They take about 30 seconds to apply, look perfect every time, come in a whole host of unisex designs, and can wipe off super easily whenever you’re ready for them to come off.
With everything from rainbows to jungle animals, small packs or party packs, you can get amazing results every time, super easily, without needing an ounce of creativity, and then wipe them off at the end of the day without it having smudged at all!
Let every outing, adventure or camping trip be personalised with a new amazing face design thanks to Face Paintoos! If I can do it, you can too!
Keep Em Quiet bags
Whenever we’ve gone away, I’ve always packed my own bag, made up of items from the Works or Wilkos to keep her quiet while on a flight or on a long car journey. When we went to Greece in the summer, I decided to give the Keep Em Quiet bags a go, and they were genuinely amazing – way better than anything I’d put together, and probably for the same total price too!
They come in a drawstring bag, packed with age-appropriate activities that are mess-free and travel friendly! You can choose bags for different genders, durations of journeys, and even return journeys too.
We chose a short-haul bag for age 3-5 for our daughter, and she not only was kept entertained on the flight, but also for quiet time in the shade, in restaurants, on the flight home, and still had plenty left for the camping trip when we got home!
There were crafts, puzzles, colouring, healthy snacks (which she demolished!) and more, packed into the little bag, and although I’ve always put together this kind of thing myself, I couldn’t recommend these bags enough, and I will definitely order another whenever we next fly.
Check out their website for some amazing ideas to make travelling with kids even easier – I’m keen to try the scooter bags next year, and maybe even the inflatable bed for kids for flying!
Little Boo Learning
If you’re looking for something fun and educational for your daytrips, that easily slide into a backpack or bag for a restaurant, then Little Boo Learning has some amazing personalised activities.
There are flashcards, wipe-clean sheets and velcro-matching activities, all available with the little ones name on them and in different colours too. You can find seasonal and themed activities or activities for school (which Lily like to call her “homework”) including writing and number activities.
We take them everywhere with us as they easily slide flat into bags, whether we’re on an overnight trip or taking a flight.
Lily’s obligatory first day at school picture was also made even more special by the wipe-clean boards from Little Boo Learning. Check out their website to see all the amazing fun and educational activities available.
OK, so I know it isn’t an ‘activity’ as such, but our Trunki comes on all our adventures – and has done for over the last 3.5 years! It is perfect for storing all the activities in, so Lily knows this is her ‘activity’ bag, and can go in and get something if she wants something else to do.
What’s more, it is travel-friendly, and has kept her entertained at airports while waiting for delayed flights (how anyone ever travelled through airports with kids before Trunki, I don’t know!!), while making sure she doesn’t have to put up with the long walk between gates/passport/baggage.
I’ve added it onto this list because in my mind it is still an amazing mess-free, travel-friendly activity, that we couldn’t travel without!
Do you recommend any travel-friendly activities for quiet time with little ones? Let us know! We particularly love supporting small businesses!