Even the most daring parent will be put off by the idea of entertaining toddlers and preschoolers on a long car journey. Children can become agitated, complain excessively, drop items a million times, and refuse to nap.
But here’s the deal, fellas. Practice and planning lead to great road trips with even the most rambunctious kids. The more you do it, the more your children will understand what to anticipate. And, as a parent, the better prepared you are with various (independent) activities for children to do, the more you can relax and enjoy the ride.
If you’re travelling by vehicle with a 2-year-old, you’ll need things to keep them occupied. A cross-country car trip with a 2-year-old isn’t that awful if you’re prepared, in my experience. The greatest car trip activities for little children are easy, mess-free, and something they can do on their own. Here are the finest car trip activities I’ve come up with for 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and preschoolers!
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Road Trip Activities with Little Kids
Melissa and Doug Water Wow Books
These exciting little books are great for church, quiet time at home, and especially lengthy car journeys. (In fact, you can’t go wrong with anything Melissa and Doug make.) There is no mess, and children’s like the way the color emerges on the page by “painting” it with the water brush. Simply have some water on hand to replenish the water paintbrush throughout the journey!
Apps for children
Download these applications to your phone or tablet before you go to offer your kids some instructive screen time. I intend to have options on both the iPad and the Kindle Fire. You can also download some documentaries and youtube channels as well as Netflix shows.
“Phones” and laptops
If you need a break from entertaining them, consider instructional electronic toys. We have a VTech laptop that runs through the alphabet, shapes, and music. When I’m working on my laptop, my kids want to take this out so they can think they’re working as well!
There’s also the LeapFrog Scribble & Write tablet for kids. My kids nicknamed it the “green phone,” and it’s been a lifesaver for entertaining my toddler on lengthy car rides while also teaching him to write his alphabet.
Children like completing the tasks in workbooks. I enjoy going to the dollar shop for cheap alternatives for road trips, and Amazon offers a few nice selections as well! The main disadvantage is that you may need to read the directions to smaller children who can’t read yet but yet want to do the task correctly. Obviously, my child cannot read, yet he is unconcerned by the activity. He simply paints and scribbles!
I owe this brilliant exercise to my older sister! Take a metal tin or tin lunch box, giant popsicle sticks, and a roll of magnetic tape with you. With a Sharpie, write sight words on one side of each popsicle stick. They can construct “sentences” or try to reproduce the words with letter refrigerator magnets.
I enjoy this Melissa and Doug magnet set since the magnets are large enough to avoid choking.
Color Wonder Stow & Go Crayola
The Crayola Color Wonder goods are fantastic since they only appear on the special paper that comes with the kit. The Stow & Go kit is ideal for the vehicle since it doubles as a tiny workstation and has a compartment for markers and stamps.
Seek and Discover Books
Check out the library for some I Spy or search and discover books. Kids will spend hours combing over the pages looking for hidden treasures, giving you plenty of opportunities to relax, read, or nap.
Oh, the food! It’s my favorite part of a road trip! It’s an art to choose the right snack for kids on a road trip. It has to be portable, not too messy, not too crumbly, reasonably nutritious, and something the kids would eat.
Apple slices, string cheese (if you have a cooler), dry cereal, bananas, bell pepper sticks, homemade cereal bars, applesauce pouches, homemade mini muffins, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies or Bunny Grahams, Cliff Z-bars, fruit leathers, and animal crackers are my favorite snacks.
Atlases and maps
Nothing makes me happier than including my children in the planning and execution of a trip. Giving them a blueprint of your route or goal provides them with a sense of control in situations that are well beyond their comfort zone.
Simply print a blank map of the United States or your state and write your road trip itinerary on it using a Sharpie or pen. Then, as you walk, let them paint and embellish the map. If you’re travelling through many states, you may engage in more participatory activities such as having them draw an X across each state as you arrive or exit.
Go to the library and get some free CDs of books to listen to as a family. Remember that kids may grasp a narrative at a greater level when they listen to it than when they read it, so don’t be afraid to choose a chapter book!
You may also go to Audible (Only $5.95 a month on your first 3 months) and download several children’s audiobooks on your phone!
Print some educational worksheets and place them in a binder for your child to use throughout the journey. Include a three-ring binder pouch for pencils, pens, and crayons. Put the worksheets in plastic page protectors and give the students a dry erase marker to use over and over.
These bendy, sticky tiny sticks will keep you entertained for hours. I included them in my kids’ travel-themed Easter baskets, and they’ve been having a blast with them.
They’re ideal for a car trip because they don’t make a mess and the stick aspect keeps them from dropping all over the place. Check out the Wikki Stix blog for more fun ways to use them on the road.
We don’t have portable DVD players, so we download Netflix movies and shows on the iPad and strap it to the back of the headrest using this incredible tablet holder. The only drawback is that we need to keep the iPad charged, so we use one of these extra-long charging cords.
Children like perusing toy catalogues and daydreaming about the possibilities. Tell your children to mark the names they wish to include on their Christmas or birthday list. To make it more difficult, have older children improve their writing skills by copying the names of the toys onto a separate piece of paper to construct their wish list.
Go to the Dollar Store and purchase a cookie sheet or two for the road trip. Stock up on inexpensive magnets in the shapes of alphabets, numerals, shapes, animals, and characters. Give them spelling problems, have them perform patterns, or simply let their imaginations run wild.
Pipe Cleaner Sensory Play
Make holes in the top of an old coffee can and let children to put pipe cleaners through them. An old cardboard box or shoebox, a colander, or an empty coffee creamer container may all be used in the same way. Or, you know, just let the kids make anything they want out of pipe cleaners.
This might be as basic as an empty notebook in which they make diary entries or as elaborate as a customized book with questions and spaces for photos. It provides the capacity for three different excursions, and parents may assist their children in recording their own recollections.
We have a lot of flashcard sets at home with sight words, easy arithmetic problems, Spanish phrases, and shapes, but I detest cleaning them up when the kids drop them all over the vehicle. Pro Tip: Put them on a large binder ring so you don’t have to tidy up cards at each rest break.
These are without a doubt one of the finest presents my daughter has ever received, and my son will be receiving one for his third birthday this year. We use them frequently to keep the kids calm at church, and they also work wonderfully on road trips.
Boogie Boards are LCD writing tablets that include a stylus. Just make sure to get a spare pair of styluses because your child will undoubtedly drop or misplace the original. Despite the fact that it has a stylus clip at the top.
My kids are completely fascinated with stickers. If we ever sell our house, I’m sure I’ll have to spend an entire day looking for stickers on every surface. We love these reusable Melissa and Doug sticker books for road trips since they don’t get stickers all over the car seats and windows.
See also: Most Epic Sticker Books For Toddlers
Necklace Made of Cereal
Make a necklace for the kids by stringing some Fruit Loops or Cheerios on a piece of string or yarn. Allow them to go to town on their cereal necklace when they’re bored and hungry! This should keep them occupied for at least a few minutes…
I enjoy reading in the vehicle, so it’s a good idea to set out some peaceful reading time for the entire family. Bring your favorite books from home, borrow some new ones from the library, or surprise the kids with a new book just for the trip. Play some classical music and set a timer for 20 minutes when everyone needs to be somewhere.
See also: Books That Teach Kindness To Children, Help Your Kids Learn From Their Mistakes With These Books And Activities, The Worst Children’s Books (You Should Probably Avoid), Children’s Books About Perseverance and Which Books To Read And How To Determine Your Children’s Reading Levels
If you have a favorite children’s CD or playlist on your phone, play it and let the children sing along. We enjoy Disney and Daniel Tiger music, as well as Cantar y Jugar (Spanish songs) and Seeds Family Worship.
Allow each kid to bring along their favorite pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal. When it’s time for an afternoon nap or quiet time, pull over to a rest stop and assist everyone in getting comfy and snuggled in. Make sure they have something calm to do or look at, and set a sleep time for them. They may not sleep, but at least you’ll be keeping to your regular schedule, which helps to organize the day.
Letter Tracing Worksheets
Purchase a book that includes letter tracing activities, or print some off. Allow smaller children to practise writing their names or letters of the alphabet over and again. Allow older preschoolers and kindergarten students to practise tracing sight words. Powerful Mothering offers free printable name tracing worksheets.
Tape in Various Colors
Give your children a couple rolls of colored masking tape or Washi tape and let them rip, shred, and create as much as they like.
If you’re a fun parent who trusts her children not to wreck the car, let them paint and decorate the windows with these fun window markers! When they’re finished, use a moist paper towel or baby wipe to clean the windows.
Podcasts for Children
I am an enthusiastic podcast listener, which means that my children are frequently forced to listen along to programmes on parents, business, or personal development. That made me wonder whether there are podcasts specifically for kids! There are some fantastic alternatives, even for the youngest of listeners.
Some we can’t wait to try: Disney Story Central, Story Pirates, But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids, and the Sesame Street Podcast.
Toys from the Dollar Store
Give each of your kids a few dollars and let them choose their own car trip toys from the Dollar Store. Then store them until the trip, so they’ll seem fresh and exciting while you’re on the road. The kids will experience a feeling of pride and ownership, so ideally they will take good care of and use their toys. My boys always love to get little cars and on-to-go games from the dollar store. Also, balls of all sizes and colors are awesome too, just beware they will fall under the seats and younger children could have a tough time with that.
I’m serious, you guys. Since we’re in the Dollar Store, pick up a couple of inexpensive calculators for the journey. My kids assume they’re phones, therefore calculators are cool and thrilling to them. Teach your toddlers or kindergarteners how to enter simple math problems!
Before you go, make a road, racing track, or railway track out of colored tape on a baking sheet or piece of cardboard, and bring along some toy cars and trains to play with.
Roll a lot of tin foil into a ball and let the kids shape and mould it whatever they like. Of course, this isn’t ideal for very young children who put everything in their mouth, so use your best judgement as to which ages this is acceptable for.
I’d be negligent if I didn’t include this iconic road trip gadget. This small travel version comes with stamps and a “pen” to let you create masterpieces.
Teach Them Travel Songs
99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall, Ants Go Marching, This Old Man, Down By the Bay, and if your kids appreciate Jake and the Neverland Pirates, try the Roll Up the Map song!
Questions for Discussion
Prepare ahead of time a jar of conversation questions for kids scrawled on pieces of paper. As a family, take turns pulling questions from the jar and answering them. Here are some suggestions: Which of the following is your favorite (food, animal, treat, toy, or movie)? What would your superhero name be, and what abilities would you possess? What causes you to (laugh, weep, or become angry)? What is one of your strong suits?
Scavenger Hunt Using the Letters of the Alphabet
Look for the letters of the alphabet in alphabetical sequence, or have the kids check them off or circle them on a piece of paper as you discover them.
Books of Jokes and Joke Books
Look up jokes for toddlers or preschoolers on the internet and write them down ahead of time, or look for kids’ joke books at your local library.
Here’s a wonderful choice for students in preschool through second grade.
Or simply let your children to make up their own jokes. Obviously, the jokes will make no sense, but the children’s will have a great time making them!
Set a timer for one minute and see how many red automobiles you can count in that time. You may do the same with cows, houses, trees, birds, or any other item that comes to mind.
Scattergories for Children
Take turns selecting a letter and just listing all the words that began with that letter that we could think of.
The Quiet Game
Congratulations if you can persuade your children to participate in this one! We’re all aware of how this works. The one who can go the longest without making a sound is the winner! Raise the stakes by giving the winner a snack or “new toy” from the Dollar Store.
This game could be played in two ways. 1.) One person is “it,” and he or she attempts to make the other passengers in the car laugh by any means possible. Everyone else has to try hard not to laugh! The individual who can spend the longest period of time without laughing wins. 2.) Two individuals compete by trying to make each other laugh with or without sound (you choose). The first one to chuckle is the loser.
Something Good/Something Bad
This is something we do every night with dinner, but it would make a fantastic end-of-the-day car trip conversation. What was the most positive thing that happened to you today? What was the one negative aspect? This has also been referred to as high/low (the high point of your day and the low point of your day).
Let’s Play a Game of Mad Libs
Of course, this game is most suited for elementary school-aged children, but you can absolutely make it work with younger children for a lot of laughs. Mad Libs Junior books provide lists of funny phrases from which to pick, and The Pinning Mama offers free printable Mad Libs Style Stories for Preschoolers.
Keep a clipboard in the car, and select an official thing to keep track of before the start of the road trip. How many school buses will you see throughout your journey? How many deer are there? How many Montana licence plates are there?
Once you’ve decided on your thing, have everyone make an official guess and write it down.
Telling a Story
Tell us about how Mom and Dad met. Tell them about your college study abroad experience (the PG version). Tell a hilarious tale about a time when you were a child and got in trouble. Children adore hearing snippets of their parents’ life.
Then let your children to tell you their own stories (the time they scored a goal in soccer, the time they learned to ride a bike, their first day of preschool, etc). Warning: if your children are anything like mine, these stories will take around 47 minutes apiece.
Choose basic activities for very young children, such as “guess which animal I am.” You have the option of making noises or describing the animal.
For older children, you may make it more difficult by asking them to “guess which song I’m humming.” or “guess which food/plant/place I’m describing.”
A traditional car trip game is “I spy something (insert color).” Though it is extremely boring for Mom and Dad, children like having their parents guess what they are thinking. The wonderful thing is that even the youngest passengers in the car may participate.
Toddler and Preschooler Road Trip Activities Bottom Line
it’s not difficult to keep toddlers and preschoolers entertained while stuck in a car on a road trip if you’re armed with these awesome games!
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“GENTLE PARENTING IS A LIFESTYLE THAT EMBRACES BOTH YOUR PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BEHAVIOR, NOT ONLY TOWARDS YOUR CHILDREN, BUT TO YOURSELF TOO“— SARA HOCKWELL-SMITH
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