Family Travel Lab: Toy Box In Your Hair

Something about the thought of long, back-to-back train journeys alone with a five-year-old sent me into a bit of a travel games research spin – which is how my travel entertainment post went from (well, you saw it before, right? never mind then) to this.

But somewhere in there I thought no, I can mix this up a little. I can totally reinvent this wheel. Dagnabit, I can reinvent it so good that by the time I’m finished nobody will even remember what a wheel is! (What’s a wheel? they’ll say, when they come across the word on this blog post of mine, and I’ll say, it was a really useful thing we once had, but that’s over now, shame.)Β In other words, here’s an idea I’ll be experimenting with on our trip. I call it…

Toy Box In Your Hair

Toybox in your hair. Like it says on the tin.

Toybox in your hair: like it says on the tin.


  1. Person willing to wear kitschy hair clips/bands.
  2. Kitschy hair clips/bands.
  3. (Optional) Comb.

Play suggestions:

  • Pretend/doll/storytelling play
  • Basic craft: make puppets with addition of coffee stirrers or cutlery
  • Decorate clothing/hats/toys/parents
  • Play “hair dresser” on semi-willing volunteers
  • Give them as gifts to new friends
  • Experiment with the tensile strengths and scratch-resistance of various nearby materials
  • Make overly decorative catapults

Please add your own play suggestions and/or start taking bets on which of the obvious (to everyone else) things wrong with this strategy will occur to me first, as applicable.

Update: I have to include a link to this article about the existence of the non-existent sociology department of MIT in return for permission to post A googling it. Because I asked P to go fiddle with his hair so I could take a photo. Don’t worry too much if you don’t get it.

Update again: so, alright! Apparently I didn’t do it properly. It was supposed to be a joke about how documenting something can bring it into being, which I guess at least means A has fully accepted the fate of his hair during this trip.


This idea has obtained a QUALIFIED PASS. Basically, it works, but more is not better – a few hairbands and clips are just as good as a lot.

I bought a lot with the idea that the extra could be used as gifts, but once P had identified them as “his toys” it was difficult to give any away. At the same time, neither of them could think of a game which involved more than two to four clips at a time, so there was a serious case of diminishing returns on anything over a small handful. I still think they make nice little gifts, but I’ll separate them into “ours” and “give away” piles from the outset next time, and I’ll keep the “ours” pile down under six items.