Whether your child is a full-blown jetsetting mini-traveller or is just curious about the world, this is a list of gift ideas that will hopefully inspire them to learn more and get them planning their next adventure. Got another great idea for a gift to give a mini globe-trotter? Please comment below and help add to the list!
If your child is more interested in catching worms than the travel bug then you may also find my guide to gifts for green-fingered and nature loving kids useful too.
N.b. I’ve aimed to provide general ideas for gifts with some links through to items we have already and recommend or that are on Beth and Roo’s Christmas lists. Where the items linked to are sold by Amazon then I will earn a few pennies (literally) should you go on to purchase that item via the click-through. Any no-Amazon links are just plain old sponsor/affiliate free links I thought you might still find useful.
Roo has long admired the night-light she has when she goes to Granny’s. It’s a light-up globe and it serves as both night comfort and the inspiration for a thousand questions. This is one of those few presents that has the potential to last right from preschool years until they leave home, with the added fascination of seeing how the boundaries change over their childhood. This light-up globe for home is right near the top of Roo’s Father Christmas letter this year.
Whether you’re off on an adventure soon or just looking to satiate your child’s curiosity about the world around them, books are always a winner. We love the Lonely Planet Kids range (read our review here) – they are aimed at specific age ranges and are both fun and informative.
They have stood the test of time in our house with Roo amazing me by recalling facts completely out of the blue from her book about people’s jobs around the world whilst we were away in California recently. Lonely Planet Kids also offer the most beautifully illustrated sticker and activity books for on-the-go fun too. Move over Peppa Pig and overpriced children’s magazines at the airport!
Every mini traveller feels the need to get involved with wheeling the luggage (or is it just my two)? By giving them their own manageable bit of kit to pull about you’ll keep them happy and hopefully avoid them pulling 25kg of suitcase over on top of them!
We are feeling a resurgence of love for our Trunki at the moment. It’s not big enough to pack many clothes in but it is absolutely perfect for packing all the kids’ entertainment gubbins away neatly for a long plane ride or weekend away. It’s also great for pulling them along on it through the airport and makes it super easy for little travellers to pull it themselves too. For non-Trunki fans there are some nice mini-pull along suitcases available elsewhere and I love the look of the mini-scooters with rucksack attached which seem to be popular this year. Just make sure whatever you go for it is topple-proof.
Roo was given a plain scrapbook for our USA trip and it was one of the best things we took with us. Roo had a place to stick all the leaflets, shells, stamps and photos she took and completing each day’s write-up was a handy and fun activity to have available when we needed some chill-out time inside. Since we got back she’s delighted in showing everyone the record of her travels. Hopefully it will serves as a reminder of the things she saw and did long after her own memories of it have blurred. Pritstick, kiddy scissors (don’t put them in hand-luggage), a pencil case and some crayons make nice add-ons.
It’s a biggie but the camera Roo was given for her birthday has to be one of the most used and eye-opening gifts she’s had. She has a polaroid as I wasn’t that keen on her spending too much time behind a screen (plenty of time for that when she’s older) and also wanted her to be able to have an instant physical result and to quickly understand for herself how the way she lined up her camera, chose a subject or picked different places to stand would affect the final photo. It’s been a massive hit on our travels and I’ve been amazed at how much patience she has shown learning to use it. Roo has the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 but this is not specifically a children’s camera (it took her a little while to be able to aim and shoot unaided). There is plenty of choice out there though. Don’t forget to pick up plenty of film too!
This is the topic for a post in its own right (watch this space) but you’re not going to go wrong with travel toys and activities. There are so many ideas but here are a few of our favourites: cards (snap, Happy Families, Uno, nature/geography flashcards, Top Trumps); sticker & colouring books; water paint books; water-colour pencils, Aquadoodle mat (more one for when you get there); play-doh (just don’t take it hand-luggage and keep away from the holiday home cream sofa); little play people and animals (ideally with a little bag to put them in – a small sponge bag works well), miniature board games; magnetic jigsaw puzzles/baby puzzles…the list goes on. Basically anything that packs away small and doesn’t make too much mess. The bonus is these kind of gifts can be used during non-travel times too!
Subscription to National Geographic Kids
As a child and teenager my Dad always bought me the National Geographic magazine. They were invaluable for school projects and whilst a lot of the words went over my head when I was younger, I spent a long time getting lost in photos of beautiful and mysterious landscapes, unfamiliar cultures and exotic animals. It no doubt fuelled my love of geography, my impulse to explore and travel and appreciation of conservation issues. The good news is that these days National Geographic also offer a magazine for kids, making a perfect gift idea for children who love learning about the World and are constantly asking ‘why’?!
We don’t go anywhere without our kiddy rucksacks, usually opting for the ones with detachable reigns. As with luggage, this gives children a way of feeling useful and somewhere to stuff teddy/jumper when they need to. For parents it provides reassurance when needed that their kid is not going to go awol in the airport or as an extra safety precaution when walking near busy roads, taking ferry or boat trips or walking on steep tracks or near cliffs. We tuck away emergency contact information inside Roo and Beth’s bags too, just in case they get lost and someone needs to be able to call us quickly on our mobile. We love our Littlelife bag for its character, safety features and durability but there are plenty of options out there to choose from.
Every child needs an atlas, whatever their age and no matter how much or little they travel. Use it for researching upcoming trips, finding out where your food and clothes come from or learning more about the places mentioned in Newsround. There are some lovely childen’s atlases on the market – Lonely Planet Kids have a nice one as do Barefoot Books or look at the range from Usborne -their picture atlas is accessible and they offer a sticker version too.
If you’re keen for kids to get some decent shut-eye on their next long car trip or plane journey then a kiddy travel pillow is a great idea. I was always a bit sceptical about them but with 10 1/2 hours on a plane coming up and plenty of road trips planned, I finally invested before our USA trip.
You will need to find the type that suits your child best but we tried three different ones: the Skip Hop Zoo Neck Rest
, the Trunki Yondi Travel Pillow and the Trunki SnooziHedz Travel Pillow and Blanket. In brief, our favourite by a long way was the Trunki Yondi, principally because of the magnetic clasp that means your child’s chin is also supported. Just make sure you get the right size (they come up small – large worked for our nearly 2 and 4 year olds). The blanket/pillow set was handy for the blanket bit but the inflatable pillow was pretty useless. the Skip Hop Zoo pillow was fine to start with but the children soon removed it and again, it caused their chins to loll down if they did drop off wearing it.
Being comfy and able to snooze whilst travelling is important for young kids when on a long journey and a great option when wearing PJ’s or a nightie might not cut it out in public. The girls love their onesie dressing gowns here – we use them for the late plane rides, long car journeys, camping, dressing up (there are some seriously cute designs out there) and for general at home use. A lovely gift that is both practical and fun. My favourites for Christmas 2015 are the penguin design from M&S and the reindeer one from John Lewis, although JL also really have a lovely festive Fairisle design too.
Stories from around the world
Spice up the nursery bookshelf and open your kids’ eyes wide with wonder and curiosity with some tales from other countries and cultures around the world. I am a huge fan of Barefoot Books and they have the most beautifully illustrated World Cultures range – definitely worth a look with the ‘Babushka’ story a lovely choice for Christmas themed reading.
World Table Mat
I admit it – I have a weakness for map related presents and this mat from Little Wigwam has been a firm favourite on our dinner table for a while now. Serving up your kids’ dinner every day on a map of the World though is a brilliant way of piquing their interest in where things come from. Soon they will be moaning in disappointment when you’ve accidentally thrown away the label on the bananas telling you where they come from. A great introduction and conversation prompt about the origins of food and trade.
If the children in your life are anything like my two then they will be forever gathering ‘treasures’ from all their days out, holidays and outdoor adventures. Give them a place to store their goodies and in the process, keep the house clear of bits of old dried leaf and random sachets of sugar with a picture on the back… I love Peel & Sardine range of tins and it’s possible to get personalised photo tins too (use some pics from your travels maybe)? If you’re on a budget or want a DIY gift project for a little sibling then you can always make your own using collage, paper mache or just prettying up an old box.
Whether for the local pool or a far flung beach holiday, a kiddy towel is bound to come in handy. My favourites are the ones made to look like animals, with the Cuddleroar Dragon Toddler Towel a strong contender on Beth’s Christmas list this year.
Plane travel with kids goes a lot faster when they can plug into a movie or tv. The only trouble is that most airplane headphones are hard enough to keep on your head as an adult let alone for little children. Roo and Beth both have their own headphones and there are some fun designs out there. At nearly two most models are a bit big for Beth but better than normal adult ones. We also use them for plugging into my iPhone for audio books on the go.
Don’t forget little extras such as a splitter (when two siblings are sharing a device to watch/listen on) and an adaptor for plane sockets (quality can be a bit poor if the plane socket is one of those with a double pin connection). Both can be purchased cheaply and easily online.
A portable music device
As above, music and audio books can be a great way to entertain kids on a long journey. TV/films can be too but I’m trying to hold out on giving the girls’ their own access to that as long as possible. If you’re looking for a present with some ooomph though then a portable music device for all their favourite tunes and stories is a nice idea. It doesn’t need to cost the earth either – you can buy a SanDisk Clip Jam MP3 Player in a range of bright colours for under £30. You could even pre-load it for an extra treat. Just check with the parents’ views on this first and don’t forget the essential extras such as chargers or protective covers.
Every day out or long journey will involve the need for food-on-the-go so a compact lunch-box and a completely leak-proof bottle is a really practical gift idea. Get one with your kids’ favourite character or animal on it and it becomes something they will love using too. I love the look of the RSPB Owlbert lunchbag with its handy bottle holder on the outside. I can’t vouch for their bottle though. Our most reliable leak-free small drinks cups/bottles to date have come from Munchkin with their Miracle cup top of my list to replace the next one of ours that gets lost.