Book ideas for kids on the go

Our picks that’ll take you from the airplane to the hotel room and back home again

We always make (a little) space for books when packing. And over the past 20 months of Eliza’s life, we’ve collected an assortment of them from our travels, gifts from friends, and gifts from our parents who graciously held on to editions we had when we were young. (In fact, as I write this, Eliza is standing at the bookshelf calling out for reading time: “books, books!”)

During the two months we’ve been in Providence, Rhode Island now, we’ve made multiple visits to our local bookstore, Books on the Square. In advance of more upcoming travels, we talked with their children’s buyer to ask if they had recommendations. They showed us a few activity books as well as the sticker book we purchased and highlighted as a bonus below. They also recently recommended Poppy and Vivaldi, a musical masterpiece that Eliza happily hears multiple times a day.

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It’s hard to decipher, so I’ll point out: Eliza’s shirt says “Books are Rad” (not “Bad” or even “Dad”) at the public library in Sean’s hometown of Andover, Mass.

Here’s our criteria for the books we bring along on our travels: they’re lightweight and ones that we love to read; since we don’t have full library privileges on hand while traveling, we only want to bring the books that we (or Eliza) will enjoy reading repeatedly. (We’ve also made great use of local libraries while traveling, with branches in Listowel, Ireland and Salamanca, Spain feeling like regular stop-ins. We highly recommend looking up and visiting local libraries while traveling!)

So here you have it: our top-five favorite tried-and-tested books for travels, as well as one non-book that you might be able to pick up at your local bookstore:

  1. Indestructibles books, especially Baby, Let’s Eat by Stephan Lomp. You can bring more than a dozen of them in the same space that one hardback book would take up. Maybe it’s because we’ve been in one place for a few weeks, but Eliza has really started to like Home Sweet Home from the series too.
  2. Jamberry by Bruce Degen. It’s sturdy and portable and full of fruit, checking all of my boxes. Plus, it’s fun for parents to read and rhyme. And the artwork allows for Eliza to point out prancing ponies, skating elephants, hiding bears, marching bunnies, and more.
  3. Down the Back of the Chair by Margaret Mahy. (Here’s our post about discovering this gem at Little Unity bookshop in Auckland, and here’s our post about the Christchurch playground named after the author). The illustrations are pretty wild and entertaining on their own, but it’s the story (and the voices we use to tell it) that makes me smile every time.
  4. A Cache of Jewels by Ruth Heller. The rhyme scheme is fun and the vocabulary she uses might have you learning a thing or two along with your child. But to be honest, this was a surprise: it was flexible and lightweight so ended up as a last-minute add-on in Michigan that ended up being a global hit for us. Now even we parents know about gams of whales… and other collective nouns.
  5. I am a Bunny by Ole Risom. It’s a classic and we have the edition Sean had from his childhood that’s still in print and sold in stores. And Eliza adores when Nicholas the bunny is hiding under a mushroom, which helps us with two things: 1. Feeding her mushrooms and 2. The ability to spot mushrooms when we go on nature walks together (though I’ve been on city walks with her before where she calls rocks ‘mushrooms,’ so perhaps her imagination is already blooming).

And the bonus non-book: Travel-themed reusable sticker pad from Melissa and Doug will be coming with us on our next couple of months of travels, but consider the entertainment value of stickers in general. A sticker book called ‘Getting Piggy With It” was a hit, with us putting little piggies all over everything (and talking about what activities the piggies were doing), and a page of fruit stickers accompanying a purchase of mango-scented lip gloss still entertains us.

Which books do you bring with you on your travels (whether it’s across the country or across town)? And have you ever gone out in public without remembering to take off the stickers your child has plastered over your legs? Oh, is that just me?

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Reading one of Mama’s favorites: How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

We’ve also made a point of picking up a book or two for Eliza in the places we’ve visited and these make for great mementos, as well as a chance to use our budding language skills too. So far, her collection includes books that help with Polish pronunciation in Poland, an intro to French we picked up in Paris, and Paco y el Rock while in Spain (another musical book in the Poppy and Vivaldi family). Don’t forget to save a little space in your suitcase or be ready to donate some of your old ones to a little free library along the way. Soon enough, you’ll have whatever books you bring memorized, so hopefully you’ve chosen ones you love! (Or learn to love the ones that are with you.)

P.S. Our little one is still a bit too young, but we can’t wait to try the book mentioned in Cup of Jo. And the above suggestions have been great for when we’re on the go, but we’re also looking forward to having books about being on the go once we’re settled in one place again.

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