We recently took my two and a half year old daughter with us on a 350-mile road trip. I knew I was asking a lot for Pooky to sit in her car seat for hours on end. We planned in several stops to allow her to stretch her legs, but I still needed to entertain her for all that car time in between the breaks. I gathered a variety of activities that helped us all have an enjoyable trip.
There are many great well-known road trip games (such as I Spy and the License Plate Game) that your family can play on road trips, but I find that most of these traditional games are too difficult to play with toddlers since their reaction time isn’t fast enough to catch sights that are whizzing by as you drive. So for entertainment on this road trip I focused on things my daughter could play inside the car.
Our vehicles do not have a dvd player, so I had to come up with other ways to occupy my tot. When looking for things to bring along for this task, I had certain criteria. The item had to be something my child could manipulate independently, it had to keep her attention for a long time, and it had to be something that would be less likely to get lost in the back seat. Following is a list of the items that met the criteria and helped our trip be more enjoyable for the whole family. (This post contains affiliate links, but I purchased, used, and recommend all items listed.)
First of all, part of our road trip success came from being organized. I found this over-the-seat organizer and packed it as full as possible with snacks and activities. I placed it over the back of the driver seat since I was the passenger and would be able to reach into it better from that position.
A Magna Doodle is a great mess free entertainment option. There are no small parts to choke on or lose.
We love reusable stickers! Pooky likes them because they’re much easier for her to manipulate than regular stickers. I like them because it means I don’t have to scrape stickers off the car (or plane). We’ve had this set for almost a year and have taken it on several trips with us. And it’s still in new condition (except I deconstructed the pad, so I could just pack one or two of the pages.)
Books are a wonderful option for the car (unless your child gets motion sickness). Pat the Bunny was our traveling favorite for a long time. You can read more about why we love this book here. We usually pack a variety of interactive board books for our trips.
I love these Imagine Ink coloring books. They’re mess free because the marker only colors on the special paper. The fact that you’re only dealing with one marker saves on mess too. These things are so fun and portable that I take one almost everywhere we go. I recently took it with us to the symphony. (Tip: when the book and marker are all used up, save the marker lid as a back up in case you lose a future one.)
While not inexpensive, these magnets are well made and offer a lot of entertainment and educational value. I see this toy as an investment because we will get years of fun and learning out of it. For traveling, I put a handful of the pieces in a baggie and off we go.
An “I Spy” bottle can be fun for toddlers and other young kiddos. I actually made my own version of one instead of purchasing this. If you’re interested in making your own (they’re super easy to do), check out the pins on my DIY Toddler Toys board on Pinterest.
I was so excited when I discovered Imaginetics! It’s all the fun of stickers and magnets in one convenient package. All the colorful pieces are magnetic and kids can rearrange the scene over and over on the file-folder type magnetic background. Both the pieces and the background are beautifully vibrant pictures.
The one thing that reliably entertains my toddler for a lengthy period of time is the iPad. I try to save it as a last resort and I load it with toddler friendly apps and videos. I have a tablet protective pillow similar to the one pictured that I find really handy. Not only does it make it more comfortable for Pooky to have the iPad on her lap, it also protects the device if she drops it. This makes a handy travel pillow as well.
And don’t forget the snacks! I prefer snacks that are less of a choking hazard such as freeze-dried yogurt bites and fruit puree pouches.
Whatever items you choose to pack for a road trip, try to make sure some of them are brand new (to the child) so their novelty will help keep the child’s attention for a little longer. Of course, be sure to include some old favorites such as a much-loved stuffed animal.
That’s our list of toddler entertainment options we find helpful to travel with.
For more articles with travel tips, check out my Family Travel site at Bella Online.
What about you? What have you found to be a successful way of occupying your young children on road trips?