Our four daughters are young (6yo and younger), so toys have been an important part of their lives until we began travelling. Once we moved into our tiny horse truck, all toys were abandoned in favour of fitting more practical items into the small space. So our young family has learned to adjust to this difference and after six months with practically no toys, we’re confident that toys are not necessary when travelling!

I love toys. I’ve bought most of the ones that we own, but while on the road, space is an issue, and toys that can be easily cleaned up is an even bigger issue. The girls currently possess a tiny collection of toys (from a variety of sources), and this little motley crew seems to be enough to keep them occupied.

Toys that travel with us, August 2011
This is the girls' entire collection of toys that travel with us. Some of them were given to us by friends, others unknowingly pilfered, one was found and the teddy was bought from an op shop by David.

Girls playing with their toys, August 2011
In this game, our girls had brought all their toys to a ball, where they danced together on the toilet lid!

So what do our children play with without a variety of toys on hand? How do we keep our daughters occupied?

We’re travelling, which means the scenery changes. The playground changes. The shops change. Every place we stop contains new adventures and interesting pathways to unknown destinations. Instead of playing with toys, we do things together. On days with good weather, we’re outside all the time. Our ever-changing outings provide the stimulation that previously had to come through interaction with toys.

Our girls have learned to be innovative in creating their own toys. They assign anthropomorphic characteristics to random objects — sticks, leaves, feathers, shells, rocks, flowers, etc., can all be made into people, fairies, animals or monsters. It’s amazing to watch our three oldest girls enter into the same fantasy — using found items to talk and interact with each other. I’ve had to become innovative too. When we lost our collection of sand toys, I felt devastated — until I realised that “spoons and bowls” from our kitchen drawer are just as effective!

Our daughters enjoy drawing and colouring. Every couple of months we need to buy some more blank paper, crayons or pens, and they’re so well received. When the weather doesn’t permit us to play outside, the girls love to sit inside the truck (or in someone’s house) and draw. We’ve noticed wonderful advances in their imaginations and drawing techniques in just a couple of months.

We involve the children in the tasks that occupy us. Although on the road, our days are full of the menial chores that make a household run smoothly — meals, washing up, tidying up, shopping, packing away, washing clothes, etc. All these can be shared with the children. We don’t assign chores to the girls. Instead, David and I tackle our tasks with a positive attitude and discover that in doing so, we attract our daughters to our sides — with them asking if they can help. Together, we share the jobs and the girls learn valuable life-skills from simply living alongside us.

Our children play with other children’s toys. We often visit other families, and they usually have toys — lots of toys, more toys than they know what to do with. So they’re happy to share. And our girls love the variety that comes with the different families and haven’t really haven’t missed out on anything that’s available in a toy store! I’ve had to learn to let go of my so-called high expectations when it comes to letting our children play with others’ toys. When our girls meet new friends and are exposed to toys that previously I may have “sheltered” them from, I trust that these toys are going to be okay for them, and that — at the very least — it’s a temporary thing.

All these factors combine to make our children highly imaginative in their play, independent in their entertainment, creative in their expression and well-rounded in motor skills. If you’re hitting the road — even just for a family holiday — why not leave the pile of toys at home and trust that your children will find other things to play with!