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Whenever we are planning to travel in the car for long periods of time, I always get a little anxious wondering what I will do to help my toddler pass the time. While kids enjoy looking out the window to a certain extent, let’s be honest, the time passes awfully slowly for them in the car. Be prepared with some of these fun and simple car activities that you can do with your toddler.
Scavenger hunts are a great way to keep your toddler entertained for a while, as they will be kept busy searching for items and circling them on their list. You can even create your own scavenger hunt specific to where you’re traveling, if you know that there will be certain things that they can keep an eye out for.
To keep it engaging and fun, you could always entice your kids to participate in the challenge by offering a small treat when they find all the items on the list. Perhaps a cookie or a little candy as a fun reward for completing their scavenger hunt.
I’m sure you’ve been there before…your toddler is quietly coloring happily until they drop their favorite crayon on to the floor. Then, you’re trying to steer the car while rooting around with one hand trying to locate the cherished lost crayon. Sound familiar?
With Crayola’s Stow & Go coloring kits, your toddler won’t lose their art supplies while you’re driving. The Color Wonder series is also great because the special markers only make marks on the special paper that it comes with, so you won’t find colorful scribbles all over your backseat when you arrive at your destination (I’m speaking from experience here).
These popsicle stick puzzles are fun and simple to put together, and they provide lots of entertainment for car rides. You’ll need a tray of some sorts for your toddler to use as a tabletop, and a great option would be a baking tray with a small lip around the edges. By using a baking tray, you could make this activity even easier by gluing on some magnetic pieces onto the backs of the popsicle sticks, so they stick to the cookie tray and don’t fall on to the floor of the car.
Print whatever fun images you like, or you could even use family photographs to mix it up a bit! Whatever image you choose, your toddler will love putting these puzzles together again and again!
Books are always a great way to pass the time during a long road trip. There are so many wonderful, colorful books for toddlers to enjoy, that they will love flipping through some books during your trip.
You could read your toddler a story, if someone else if doing the driving. Or, if it’s just you and your kids on the road, set them up with a book bin full of fun, new books that they haven’t seen before. Hit up your local library before your trip, and select some fun new books for your kids to explore while in the car.
For older toddlers who may not be quite as prone to dropping crayons on the floor, they might enjoy having their very own mini coloring box to play with on long car rides. These are super easy to make, and you could even enlist your toddler’s help in creating them.
Just pick up a travel first aid kit that you can find at your local dollar store, to use as the base of the mini coloring box. Use a hot glue gun to stick a pad of sticky notes to the inside lid of the box, and fill the other half with a few crayons or short pencil crayons. Voila! Your toddler has a nice little coloring pack to take with them in the car.
#6 Felt Board
Felt boards are so fun and versatile, and you can create them to suit your toddlers interest. This post provides tips for creating your own DIY felt board, and then you can customize to suit your little one’s preferences.
Does your toddler love cars and trucks? Set up your felt board like a road, and give them some felt cars and trucks to play with. Do you have a princess in the making? Design your board as a castle, and give your toddler some felt dolls and outfits so she can have endless fun playing and pretending!
Toddlers love to do “big kid” stuff, and they love to draw and write in workbooks suited for their age. Luckily, these days, there are tons of great workbooks on the market, and many are well-suited for toddlers who are 2, 3, and 4-years old. They introduce beginning printing skills, color recognition, numbers, and so much more.
Pack some pencils and crayons, and some kind of tray for a table top, and give your toddler a workbook to work through during your car ride. They will love playing school and learning some new skills while they’re at it.
#8 I Spy Books
I Spy books or Seek and Find books are so much fun for kids, my two are hooked on them! They provide endless fun as your kids try to find all the images in the puzzle. There are many different versions of these books, from beginner level that are great for toddlers, to more advanced and complicated levels that would be suitable for older children.
When you’re visiting your library and grabbing some new books for your toddler, keep these books in mind as well and try to pack a few of them. The images in these books are so detailed and colorful, that your child will love pouring over the pages, even if they’re not interested in searching for the specific items.
How did snacks land so far down on this list? Snacks should be at the top of the list, because let’s face it, it’s not a road trip without something to eat! Not that you want your toddler to be eating for the entire time, but snacks can certainly provide some much-needed entertainment, sustenance, and enjoyment for your little one.
One of my favorite things to do for my guys when we travel is to get a container with multiple compartments (think Bento boxes or something like it) and fill each little spot with something different – some healthy stuff, some junky stuff, and some things that they haven’t had in awhile so they’re new and exciting. My kids love sifting through the different snack bites and deciding what to eat. Whatever you decide to bring, definitely keep some snacks handy when you’re heading out for a road trip with your toddler.
#10 Wikki Stix
Wikki Stix are tons of fun, compact to bring along with you, and provide endless entertainment for your kids. They’re simply sticky, bendable sticks that can be shaped and molded into whatever creation you desire.
These are great to bring along on a road trip, because they come in a handy little container, and because they’re sticky, they don’t often end up on the floor of the car like everything else. If you’re putting together a little activity bag for your toddler, definitely throw in a container of Wikki Stix for them to play with. You’ll be glad you did!
#11 Sticker Books
Do you remember the paper doll sets that we used to play with as kids? Well, these reusable puffy sticker books from Melissa & Doug are pretty much the same thing, except so much better because they stick to the pages, so they’re perfect for road trips.
My kids have almost every one of these sticker sets, and they love them! They love to dress up the characters, and the pages each contain different scenes that allow for endless pretend play. My daughter is horse obsessed, so she absolutely loves the barn and horses one, while my son gets a laugh out of putting funny outfits on the pirates in his book. Great entertainment, and perfect for car rides!
Do you recall that baking sheet from #3? It serves multiple purposes for car rides! Grab a fun pack of magnets, and your toddler can use the baking sheet to build and create all sorts of things!
There are so many different packs of magnets that you can purchase, and your local dollar store or craft store would carry many of them. Whether it’s letters or animals or shapes, your toddler will enjoy sticking them to the baking sheet and making different pictures. Put together a little case or reusable bag to keep all the pieces together, and you’re all set!
#13 Busy Wallet
This could quite possibly be the best toddler car activity I have ever read about, and I sure wish I had thought of it when my two kids were little. I don’t know a single kid who doesn’t enjoy rooting around in their parent’s purses and/or wallets, discovering cards and treasures galore!
But, despite them loving this pastime, it’s not always a great option to let them pull out all the cards and receipts out of my wallet, because most times, I don’t find all the pieces again. Instead, create a “busy wallet”; grab an old wallet that you don’t use anymore, fill it with old cards and slips that they can play with without worrying about them getting lost. Such a great toddler activity for those long car rides!
This is another simple DIY project that you can put together before your road trip. Grab some colored craft sticks from your local dollar store or craft store, and hot glue velcro pieces to the end of them. Pop them into a handy container, and you’ve got a fun little activity that will keep your toddler busy in the car!
These colorful craft sticks can be put together to make letters, shapes, or anything else that catches your little one’s imagination. I love open-ended activities like this, because I love to see what my kids will come with. This is great for developing their creativity and imagination, and sticking the velcro pieces together is excellent practice for their fine motor skills.
Let’s be real here, if you’re going on a long car ride, there will likely be some times when you and your toddler would benefit from some quiet movie time. My kids were pretty good on road trips, but they also enjoyed snuggling up with their snack container and watching a good show. Often, they would doze off and have a little snooze afterward as well.
If you have a portable DVD player that you could bring along with you, then check out this list of educational DVDs for toddlers. These are some of my kids’ favorite shows, and I love that there is some educational content in them as well. Stock up on some of these videos when you visit your public library to grab your toddler books, and you’ll be all set for your road trip!
#16 Window Markers
To the moms who are relaxed enough to allow their toddlers to do this – you guys are my heroes. I have to be honest here, I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to let my guys do this in the car. However, if you’re a chill mom and don’t mind your little ones drawing on the windows, then this activity is for you!
The great thing about these, and the thing that may win me over, is that they’re incredibly easy to clean off. You simply wipe the windows with a wet paper towel or baby wipe, and the marker comes right off. So, grab a few of these, and let your little one walk on the wild side by drawing on the windows for a while. Just be sure to show them the difference between window markers and regular markers!!
#17 Toddler Podcasts
Podcasts are something that I definitely need to get more familiar with, because there are so many out there these days that are absolutely fantastic! There are great podcasts for pretty much any topic or age group, and toddlers are not left out!
Sometimes we need to take a break from technology, but we are still looking for something to keep our little ones entertained while we’re driving. Podcasts are great for that because they require that your kids sit quietly and listen to what’s being said, using their imagination as they do so. Download a few of your favorite podcasts before setting out, and you will have some great toddler entertainment at your fingertips.
#18 Magna Doodle
How could I provide a list of car activities and not include the ever-loved Magna Doodle? These toys were so popular when I was growing up, and my kids continue to love them as well. My daughter received one for her 2nd birthday, and it has been a cherished toy ever since.
There are so many different types of Magna Doodles today, some that come with little magnetic stamps as well. Regardless of which one you choose, the great thing about these toys is that they provide endless fun for your toddler. They can draw and erase and draw and erase till their heart’s content, which makes this an awesome car ride activity for toddlers!
#19 Toddler Apps
While I’m not a huge fan of resorting to technology to entertain the kiddos, I also have to be realistic and honest, and I’ll admit that my kids definitely use tablets on long car rides, when they’ve exhausted the list of other activities.
That’s not to say that I’m down on technology either, because there are some fantastic apps out there these days that are great for teaching early literacy and math skills to kids, all while being fun and engaging. The trick is to find some good-quality apps that are educational and fun at the same time. This list is a great start, and it provides some great ideas for apps depending on the age of your kids.
#20 Discovery Boxes
Kids love surprises, and they love to discover new things. If you plan ahead, you can put together a few little discovery boxes to share with your toddler intermittently throughout the car ride. It breaks up the trip, provides an element of fun and surprise, and will provide some entertainment for your little traveller.
There are tons of different ideas for discovery boxes, and the beauty of this is that you can tailor them to suit your child’s interests. Pop in some fun little dolls and outfits from the dollar store, do a color matching activity, or play “Pin the Tail on the Bunny” using bunny cutouts, some velcro pieces, and colored pom poms for the tail. The possibilities are endless!
I hope this list has been helpful in planning your road trip with your toddler! In my eyes, the trick to a successful road trip with little kids is being prepared, packing a few surprises, and loading up on fun and healthy snacks.
Which activities do you think you will use on your road trip? Drop us a comment below to let us know! Feel free to share this list with anyone who may be setting out on the road with their toddler; hopefully it will help to provide some entertainment for them too!