Traveling with trays

The complete set of our in flight activity containers and two trays, ready for take off.

We are heading to California this week so I’ve been gathering items to surprise my boys with for our plane ride. I picked up some new coloring books and stickers, and finally invested in some Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper. I also liked the idea I found on Pinterest of decorating the plane window with gel clings, so I added those to my cart in the dollar section at Target.

Beyond that, I spent some thinking about how we work and play at home and what would make the boys feel comfortable on the long flights but also in the hotels during our ten day trip. The first thing that came to mind was how we pretty much always define workspaces with trays and immediately about a dozen lightbulbs went off at the thought of bringing trays on the plane.

First, it really opened up the possibilities of what kinds of materials we could bring. The lip of the tray will prevent small pieces from falling, rolling crayons, etc. I also remembered that using a car seat on the plane means the table doesn’t fold down from the seat in front. I had visions of magnets and dry erase markers and loose parts.

I set out to find toaster oven sized trays and hit the jackpot at the dollar store. I found trays and also came across a package with small containers that I knew would be great for putting together travel size activities.

Here is what I ended up with in the ten containers.


I thought I might be able to fit the Lego guys, but was thrilled to remember all the tiny extra pieces we’ve collected and filled the container to the brim.  Then, I cut a piece of Lego baseplate and glued it to a lid.


I know it might seem a bit mad to bring paint on a plane but I know it will be a huge hit.  We will be at the ready with paper towels and their excitement will make it worth it.


Nuts and bolts.


Colorful wood beads and string.


I made this color matching activity with clothespins and paint samples.  I cut the samples to fit in the container and glued a sliver onto the clothespin.  Using the gradient scale will be challenging for my older son.  For my two year old, I will give him two choices at a time to make it more appropriate for him.


I intend on encouraging my five year old to use these magnets to practice patterns and of course some independent creativity.


These magnets came as part of a set to build a car.  I could not fit the wheels into the container so they will be using their imagination rather than following the directions.


Last set of magnets!  I pulled these letters off our dishwasher.  Both boys engage with them often, they will be surprised to see them on the airplane.


Loose parts.  I think this is my favorite container 🙂


I’ve had this mini stamp pad forever and just found these little number stamps at Michael’s not too long ago.  They are the perfect fit for one of our activities.




Amazon affiliate links are included in this post, however, I purchased most of my items from the local dollar store and scoured my house for other items.



Surreal is the word that I’ve been using to describe my life these past few weeks.  My 5 year old son started kindergarten this school year.  My world is upside down once again at the start of another September.  I always imagined myself with children, but they were always babies and toddlers in the pictures in my imagination.  Now, I have a child who gets on the bus every morning and returns six hours later with homework.  I knew it was coming but somehow it still managed to sneak up on me.  I checked off the items on the supply list but I felt like I was watching someone else head into Staples, not that I was actually buying folders and marble notebooks.  I’m proud of myself that I didn’t have a panic attack on the first day, in fact I actually didn’t even cry when the bus drove off with him (with no kind of restraint whatsoever, just freely moving about in his seat!!!).

I did have champagne though.  And I had my mother and my husband, thank goodness.  I probably would have crumbled without them.

We are now getting into our new and structured routine which I find both irritating and comforting all at the same time.  I’m feeling inspired and tired, motivated and sad (missing my little big boy and the freedom of summer).  I really just want the feeling of surreal-ness to go away at this point and I think I will be able to focus a little better.  My husband is back to work, there’s a minute or two of coolness in the air every so often and there was a full display various types of squash at Trader Joe’s today so this all must mean that things are getting underway in the school calendar.

Hopefully life will start to seem real again, soon.

So, one really good thing that is resulting from full day kindergarten is that I feel like I might be able to focus a bit on blogging again.  I’ve been utilizing Instagram to document the adventures with my boys but many followers ask questions and I often want to expand on my reasonings and share more photos of our process.  I will answer those questions to the best of my ability and share how we incorporate nature, mindfulness, the Reggio Emilia approach, etc. into our home and life.

Thank you for following along!