family_gift_ guide_kidsLast week I posted about several gadgets that traveling parents might find handy while on a family vacation, and this week it’s time to turn to some clever products that are geared towards kids – which by association, ought to make their parents a little happier during the trip, too.

Trunki Ride-On Suitcase, $39.99
The UK website for Trunki bills its product as “the world’s first ride-on, pull-along suitcase,” going on to suggest that towing your child around on the case will permit you to “wave goodbye to travelling tears and tantrums.” Well, that’s no doubt a good-natured exaggeration, but one thing’s for certain: A four-wheeled carry-on that a child can pack herself and then ride on at the airport is a darn good idea. Among the U.S. companies distributing Trunki is toymaker Melissa & Doug, which carries the original case, the blue Trunki Terrance. The hard plastic of the 4-pound case means that it will function both as a durable suitcase and dependable vehicle – it’s designed for kids three and older who weigh up to 100 pounds. If you like the idea of owning a travel gizmo that will almost guarantee double takes and comments from passersby, this is a good icebreaker for the road.


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Wikki Stix Bendable Yarn, $3.25
Crayons and colored markers are staples of the family vacation toolbox and probably will be forever, but these and other implements do havethe potential to be messy, point out the makers of Wikki Stix, which are “made of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a microcrystalline food-grade, non-toxic wax.” Imagine waxy pipe cleaners that you can bend into shapes and you get the idea. A starter kit of 24 sticks – four sticks each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple – can be tucked into a purse or pocket for a restaurant diversion. The crafty stix are recommended for children three and up.


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Lucky Bums Inflatable Sled, $24.95
One day your babies will go off to college and enjoy rites of passage that might include speeding down a snowy hill atop a cafeteria tray (that eventually will be returned to the dining hall, of course). Until then, it might be fun to pack the whimsically named Lucky Bums Inflatable Sled for your next family getaway to a winter clime. The round, 39-inch vinyl tube is recessed in the middle, so it will theoretically transport two riders down a snowy hill. One handy safety feature: two grippable handles for the ride down. The sled weighs in at two pounds and like most inflatables can be folded, which makes stowing it in your luggage or shoving it into the closet afterward a snap.

Leap Pad Reading Pen and Maps, $89.99
More than 10 years ago, the Leap Frog company’s Leap Pad Learning System was a hit with parents and their kids, but the book-like clamshell design was bulky and heavy. Plus, you needed to fit booklets inside of it so that your kids could read them with a pen stylus that was connected to the device. While I’m wistfully holding the hulk of one now — it saw three of my kids through many a car trip – I must admit that the smaller handheld models that took its place (the company discontinued the original in 2007) are easier for traveling.

Among the newbies from Leap Frog is the Tag Map Super Bundle. For the uninitiated, the Tag is a pen that stores audio information from books (and in this case, maps) that you buy separately: When you run the pen along printed books and maps, they talk back to you. This kit comes with three maps – of the USA, the world, and the solar system. One of the delights of the older system was a timed game that let your child see how quickly she could point the pen at a U.S. state when it was called out, and this model functions similarly. Geared toward kids ages 4 to 8, the Tag will likely pack appeal for older siblings, too. And parents should be happy that their kids are learning their geography – appropriate for your family travels and, of course, for school, where your kiddies will have a huge advantage over classmates who perhaps aren’t as handy with a map.

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