Not-so-secret weapons: the ten transition-time tools I keep in my bag

When we were preparing to meet our children, I remember ceremoniously swapping my compact handbag (which typically contained keys, wallet, phone, and maybe a lip balm and a book) for The Mum Bag, which was comparatively cavernous and contained everything from nappies to plasters to finger puppets via emergency chocolate (yes, that last one one was mainly for me).

As the girls have got older, the contents of my bag have changed a bit, and thankfully it’s no longer full of ziplock bags of pants, but the contents still fall in to the same categories:

  • entertainment/distraction,
  • calming/comforting, and
  • health/hygiene.

These tools are usually deployed at times of transition: coming out of school, waiting for doctors’ and dentists’ appointments, in the car to their grandparents’ house, that sort of thing. This is the time when they struggle most with their behaviour and I whip out one of my not-so-secret weapons to help them cope.


Entertainment and distraction
To entertain and distract I carry fidgety/chewy toys for Charlotte (1), an I-spy book for Joanna (3), and colouring and puzzle books for both of them (7 and 8). If they get bored they can get grumpy very quickly. I’m fine with letting them get a bit bored at home so they learn to entertain themselves, but that’s not always what I want in the doctor’s waiting room. The sensory stuff helps to stop Charlotte chewing/breaking other things she happens upon – also a plus when we’re out and about.

Calming and comforting
To calm and comfort them we have snacks (5), reward stickers (6) – for cheering them up when they didn’t win the game/get a house point/get to sit where they wanted at lunchtime, and bubbles (9) – these are incredibly useful for calming our children down from a meltdown, because they regulate their breathing and distract them from the strop, all at the same time. I have learned to love bubbles, and so there’s always a slightly soapy ziplock bag in my handbag.

Health and hygiene
Our two are permanently covered in mud/pen/snot/lunch so I carry wipes (2) to try to make them presentable, and I also have plasters, not usually for actual injuries but for Charlotte’s many scratches and cuts – imperceptible to the naked eye – that require my attention and TLC, usually when there’s something she doesn’t want to do. Plasters are a kind of magic for Charlotte’s behaviour, and if it works, I’m going to go with it.

Obviously those Freddos (4) are mainly there for me. (As if I need to spell that out.)

I don’t usually have all of these with me unless it’s a long journey or there’s a likelihood of sitting in a waiting room for a while. But the snacks, stickers and bubbles are permanent fixtures, and the rest get added in depending on what I think is likely to be deployed on any given day.

I’m always on the lookout for small, portable things to help Joanna and Charlotte manage transitions and find that the party bag filler section of the supermarket can be brilliant for small entertainments. Amazon has lots of party bag fillers you can buy in bulk – things like those little plastic mazes, small notebooks, chewy bracelets, etc. I also whip the toys out of McDonalds happy meals before the children get hold of them (they really don’t need any distraction at mealtimes) and save the decent ones for producing when required.

I’m curious about what other parents have in their bags. Is yours similar to mine? Or are there other things that work well for your family? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook



  1. ahopefuldad
    28 September 2016 / 4:32 pm

    I’ve just packed my bag ready for intros. Thanks for all the tips. I should be prepared for anything. I feel like a scout!

  2. 26 January 2017 / 1:10 pm

    Love this. Love, love, love! I have a similar “go-bag” of coping skills. The bubbles are my favorite!

  3. 27 January 2017 / 9:30 am

    Thanks for your comments! I edited the link you posted because it was routing somewhere else – I hope this is the post you meant. Sounds great!

  4. Jayne
    18 April 2018 / 8:49 pm

    Tangles are good or thinking putty. My youngest finds dot to dot calming or a small car for when he has called. Foam stickers which peel off to be sticky help him concentrate. My bag is similar

    • 21 April 2018 / 4:36 pm

      We’ve just added thinking putty to our repertoire too – it’s great, isn’t it? 🙂

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