Thursday, 31 May 2012

Savvy packing: entertainment on the move

Matt the Husband and me, we're used to travelling light. We're also used to travelling without a toddler to occupy. Our holiday to Turkey was a first on most levels and never before have I exceeded the weight limit on first pack and had to dive in with arms flying wildly like windmills pulling items out one by one until I was satisfied we were under the 50kg allowed.

50kg. That's some packing. But was it savvy?

I'll admit I was petrified of being the mother whose child screamed the whole flight. And I was worried how we would cope, selfish adults that we are,  swapping the days spent lazily reading on the sun lounger, for days wringing out swim nappies, hunting for stray cats to stroke and beetles to count. Dreading I would forget something 'useful', I whittled down my original draft to a more manageable combat list, enough to keep the tears and tantrums from the door without costing an arm and a leg or taking up too much space. Here it is:

1) Plasticine: the 10 colours only saw daylight once while we were away, but Grace absolutely delighted in making models of Iggle Piggle and Macca Pacca as well as Mr Snow from the Mr Men and Grandma on a sunbed. Need I say more.

2) Books: we took a few lightweight Mr Men paperback with us. Grace hasn't seen these before as they've been in Grandma's back pocket so the novelty value lasted the two week holiday. We also took one old favourite for familiarity whenever the chips were down and she needed something more homely. I probably needn't have bothered as we can reel off the prose to 'We're going on a bear hunt' without the book and it was cited as we were walking along the coastal path. Am sure people thought we were nuts.

3) Puzzles: we took two puzzles. Often when we were enjoying a drink before dinner in the evening, these would keep Grace busy. Her mind would drift in the bar for a while and then she'd revert back to putting the pieces together.

4) Colouring: what toddler doesn't love to be let loose with the crayons? I printed off a load of cbeebies characters for Grace to colour in from the cbeebies website, and she loved seeing some of her favourites from the bedtime hour miles away in Turkey. Sometimes these sheets were better than the colouring book as her attention span is short and with the book she tends to flit from page to page doing a line on each page and flicking to another. With the individual sheets she appeared to concentrate for longer as there wasn't the choice of anything else.

5) Stacking cups and a ball. Very versatile, these cups made skittles to knock down with the ball, made sandcastles on the beach and were used as missiles in the swimming pool. Bonza.

6) The obligatory sticker book. Endless hours of fun, sticking, peeling off and sticking again.

7) Aquadoodle pad and pen - this was often whipped out in restaurants when she was hungry and inpatient. If only the same thing worked on the Husband.

8) A bead bracelet and a rubber watch from Poundland. These were my big-guns for the flight there and back. Worked a treat as they had the wow factor when she was overtired (night flights both ways).

9) A few Happyland figures. Several days on the trot, Grace carried them round in a little carrier bag and spent her time putting them in and out.

10) And of course, Mr Rabbit, the snuggly (and his two identical twins, just in case). Walks were spent often playing hide and seek Mr Rabbit.

 Along we way we bought a bucket and spade, an inflatable racing car for the pool and had to puncture repair her arm bands to stop her sinking.

Heavy as it all was, I don't regret taking it. Everything got played with and we got through the whole holiday without any blowouts. I think having some things from home in the hotel room really helped Grace to feel settled and it certainly helped me keep my cool when Grace was getting tired and ratty towards the end of each day.

Would I carry it all again? Yes without a doubt. I'm not saying taking everything and the kitchen sink is necessarily right, only that it worked for us. Equally, we met parents who had taken nothing apart from their child and a soother. Whatever floats your boat. I'm just chuffed we had such a lovely fortnight with Grace. And Mr Rabbit got to climb trees. It doesn't get better than that.

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