Photo: Nickolaus Hines

The Disappearing-Art Buddha Board Keeps My Toddler Occupied on Long Travel Days

Family Travel
by Nickolaus Hines Apr 26, 2024

When my daughter Margot was born, my wife and I made a promise that we would still travel as much as possible and take advantage of free or discounted flights for babies under two. We held to that promise more than we thought we’d be able to — Margot has already taken 20 flights from coast-to-coast and to three countries, with two more international trips scheduled before we have to start paying full prices for her.

That said, we’ve quickly learned that it’s a lot harder to keep a toddler entertained on long flights and during travel downtime than it is a newborn. No one toy, book, or tip (applying and ripping off tape is a longstanding hit) can entertain a 17-month-old for long. A mini Buddha Board has made its way into our must-pack list as something that holds her attention more than most.

Buddha Board makes canvases that respond to water brushstrokes. As those brushstrokes dry over the course of up to 10 minutes, they disappear and the drawer is ready to start again. It’s billed as a type of mindful meditation — the name is a reference to the Buddhist principles of impermanence and letting go.

I’m not sure mindfulness is what’s going through Margot’s head as she swishes the brush this way and that, but it certainly holds her attention. She’s always eager to show us her work before it goes away forever (yes, my camera roll of Margot’s drawings has taken the place of putting things on the fridge, and then some). Importantly, it avoids marker stains, can’t be eaten like a crayon, won’t rip like a coloring book, and takes no clean up other than wiping up any spilled water.

Plus, the five-square-inch board fits easy in my backpack next to whatever magazine I’m taking along with me.

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Photo: Nickolaus Hines

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The mini Buddha Board has a notch to hold the brush and a tray that can hold just enough water for a drawing (when accounting for spills). We’ve pulled it out in hotel rooms as we got ready and set it on the tray table during long flights. Admittedly, the jerky movements of a child make spilling inevitable. But with a water-loving baby like Margot, spilled water is just a fact of life.

The company doesn’t recommend using fingers or anything but a clean brush to paint on the board. Oils can permanently damage the surface. Little toddler fingers will do what little toddler fingers do, however, and our Buddha Board has held up well to a couple months of hard use. I know it’ll have a permanent spot in my carry-on for many trips to come.

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