Aside from my husband who is a tech junkie, my family tends to live in the dark ages. This isn’t because I am exerting some high moral opinion on electronics. It’s mainly because I am lazy. I never get around to charging anything, and I refuse to put games on my phone because well, it is my phone. My mom has actually given us a couple of her old iPads, and they are collecting dust on my nightstand.

My husband jokes that I would have been a perfect mother in the 80s. I would have gladly played my mix tapes in an awesome station wagon, and as he puts it, “I enjoy being inconvenienced” because I don’t want to keep up with advances in technology.

I actually typed this article on an Apple IIe.

This all leads to the fact that when we are out to dinner, at an appointment, in the car, whatever, we don’t have an electronic with us. We tend to have a game or toys.

After 8 years of carrying random toys in my bag to entertain my children, I am here to tell you about our favorite 5. If you have a long trip in your future or even just a visit to the dentist plus a bunch of errands, these 5 non-electronic toys will help your day go much more smoothly.

  1. Spot It. This game is amazing. You can play in a group or your child can play alone. It encourages quick thinking and visual perception as well. Spot It comes in various themes and is small and lightweight. While I know every child is different, you can somewhat ignore the suggested age on the box as well. My 3-year-old thinks this game is the best.

    Keeping busy while waiting for the dentist.
  2. Tegu Magnetic Blocks. These magnetic, wooden blocks come in small travel pouches (although you have the option of buying huge sets as well). We have a couple of sets of 8 blocks. I actually keep both pouches in my purse because everyone loves them so much. It is also a plus when you end up at a café or in an office that has a metal table. Who doesn’t want to listen to the sound of the block sticking itself to the metal? In addition, Tegu blocks are intentionally manufactured in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to create local jobs.  

    Take the Tegu Pocket Pouch to the pediatritian’s office and look like they best mom ever for not pulling out your phone to entertain your kid.
  3. Tell Me a Story Cards. Similar to Spot It, you can join in on this one or not. The box comes with 36 seemingly unrelated pictures. There are written instructions on how to “play,” but my kids usually just grab 5-6 cards and make up a story as they go through them. You can start by telling the story to them. However, I have a feeling that you will get halfway through your story, and they will be ready to go on their own. There are a couple of different themes as well. We have the robot cards.

    Tell Me a Story keeps little ones busy while big brothers and sisters have activities.
  4. Travel puzzles. This is a new one at our house. My older two have never shown a huge interest in puzzles. My 3-year-old, on the other hand, LOVES them. While he is in preschool, he has the patience of a preschool teacher while doing puzzles. That kid will sit for 30 minutes and do a 100 piece puzzle on his own. Because of this, I have started carrying smaller, cheaper puzzles around with me. This way if we lose a piece at swim practice or in the car, I don’t feel bad pitching the puzzle and sticking a new one in there. Slightly heavier, but you can also get puzzle books that have 5-6 puzzles (varying levels available) in the board book pages.
    The downside to a jigsaw puzzle book is that occasionally it is dropped by little hands and ALL of the pieces fall out!


  5. A sketch pad and colors. Don’t discredit this gem. There are so many options with crayons, markers, or colored pencils and some paper. This is ageless as well. My oldest loves to draw and can sit forever creating a masterpiece. My 5-year-old loves puzzle books or taking “notes” in a notebook. My youngest recently learned how to write his letters and can spend an entire car ride asking me how to spell various names and words.


Our team has some favorite non-electronic travel toys as well.

Rubix Cubes

Felt Books

Small container with Legos (glue a large piece inside the container so there is a place to build)

Matchbox cars

Wiki Stix

Melissa & Doug Water Books

What are your favorite tricks to entertain your children while you are out?

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Christy is the co-founder of Military Moms Blog. Originally from St. Louis, Christy moved to San Antonio, Texas, for college. She ended up meeting her Air Force husband there and has been on the move ever since. She has mostly lived in the Central Time Zone but also in Italy and England, and she currently calls the Mississippi Gulf Coast home. Christy has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, specializing in pediatrics, and although she teaches as an adjunct professor, most of her mad behavioral skills are used on her three small children. Christy loves to be active and spends her time running, swimming, and playing with her kids. She is an amateur DIY’er and will attempt any and all projects. She likes to stay up late and get up early, so you may find her running before the sun comes up, Internet shopping at midnight, and enjoying iced coffee in between!


  1. I’d buy something new and tell the kids they could open it when we started the trip. Those things tended to hold their attention longer. On driving trips I threw in a pair of skates for the rest area stops so they got some exercise. Good luck with the challenge!

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