Time for a Road Trip
This family loves a good road trip! We’ve driven to Colorado and Florida multiple times over the past several years and love the memories we have from these very long car rides. Let’s get real: it can be stressful at times to be stuck in a car for twelve hours with two small kiddos, but we try to set ourselves up for a win by bringing some really fun car activities.
You wouldn’t have to bring all of these - it may be too much if you’re tight on space. These are all things and ideas we’ve acquired over the last few years when we travel. I have a spot in our playroom closet where I keep all of our travel activities, and it is so handy to just grab and go!
Car Activities for Kids
Cookie Sheet (one with edges!)
You may think I’m crazy, but this is one of our favorite road trip hacks. We bring a cookie sheet with us on our road trip - why? It makes a super great magnetic lap desk!
I scrounged up some magnets from the Target “dollar spot” several years ago, and they’re still in great condition and came in their own zip pouch. We also have magnetic letters, shapes and numbers for them to play with on the sheet. The girls use it for coloring, to balance snacks, playdough, you name it.
I found this cutie pink cookie sheet at our local grocery store, HEB. The girls love it.
Young Wild + Friedman Mini Playdough Kit
One of these precious mini-kits has been on my list for quite a while. Julie Friedman has put together some amazing creative, fun and beautiful sensory kits for the littles in your life. She has a standard size box, but for the purpose of a road trip, I’d grab a mini-kit to fit on the cookie sheet. They can set the box on the cookie sheet in their lap and use it as a table.
We’ve been doing personal notebooks for a couple of years now. I waited until Emma was old enough to be trusted with markers and stickers. It’s nothing fancy, but the girls always feel so special (and even like to help making them) when they see these.
EasyTeesy designs helped us out with the cute notebook labels, which was a treat for the girls to see their own name.
Here are the supplies needed to build your own notebook:
1” 3-ring binder
pencil bag with zipper
crayons, markers, pencils
name tracing pages
number/alphabet sticker game
plain paper (3-hole-punched to go on the rings)
I made the name tracing pages by downloading a free tracing font and plugging their name into a document. Print the sheets and put them in a sheet protector. That way they can be reused with a washable or dry erase marker. Emma is practicing one uppercase and the rest lowercase letters while Eliza is working on all uppercase letters. I love the DIY aspect of this because what they’re working on changes from trip to trip.
This sticker game - such a fancy name - is so simple, but they love it. Write the alphabet or numbers 1-15 on a blank sheet of paper. Then, create corresponding circle labels out of blank garage sale stickers. The kiddos can take the circle stickers and hunt for the letter to match. My 5-year-old blows through this pretty quickly, but she still has fun with it.
Here are two special notes on giving your kids stickers in the car. (1) They may or may not end up all over your windows if you aren’t specific with instruction. It doesn’t bother me, but I know some people don’t like decorated windows. (2) I like to peel off the outside filler on the sticker pages - you know that extra sticker that sticks but is just the outline? So, I spend a few extra minutes when I get their notebooks ready to pull off the edges. This makes playing with stickers so much easier for them.
The plain paper is for doodling! i’ve torn out coloring pages and put them in sheet protectors so they can color the same picture more than once if they want. I know sometimes my kids have the most fun with some markers and plain paper.
I’ll discuss this more in a minute, but I also snagged a few new books and coloring books for the car. It helped that Target had just put out a bunch of Fancy Nancy goodies. The “Mess Free” Crayola coloring books are a hit, but you can only use the special “Mess Free” markers on them. We have a separate bag for these markers when they want to use them.
This is my new favorite toy, and we made it together! We already had these containers that were unused regularly, so we repurposed them to make bead kits. Disclaimer: Emma is 5 and Eliza is 3. I wouldn’t give a 1-2 year old beads in the car.
Here are the supplies needed to make your own bead box:
small, segmented box with snap lid
several different bead choices
ribbon, bracelets, nylon for stringing
We found pretty much everything in ours from Michael’s craft stores. We put them together, and they love them! I definitely would tell them to be super careful in the car, so we don’t end up with beads everywhere. I also think the cookie sheet would come in handy here, too, as a lap desk.
This one is so much fun, and everyone in the car can play! My girls are always asking me to make up stories and sometimes, my brain just struggles to be creative. That’s what storytelling cards or dice are for!
A couple of years ago, I saw the idea online to make your own storytelling dice. Use stickers of your kids’ favorite characters and Mod Podge them onto wooden dice. Roll the dice and tell your story using the elements rolled. We loved it in the car, but we ended up losing our dice.
I found these cards and also a dice game in the Target dollar section last year. I’m sure you could make your own or find some online. This was one of favorite car activities because even the driver was able to participate.
Small Dry Erase Board
I invested in these a couple of years ago from Lakeshore Learning , and we’ve even ended up using them at home, too! You might not be comfortable giving your child a dry erase marker, but we just make sure to tell them it’s not washable (though, it usually comes off easily).
These boards are great for doodling, practicing letters and they’re magnetic. Win, win, win!
The girls really like these Brain Quest questions, and this is another activity that can involve the entire car. We picked ours up at Target, or you can order online. They offer different age ranges and topics, and I love the size of them for a car trip.
I found some of these at Target in the dollar section as well as Hobby Lobby and Michael’s. Blank books are a great way to give your kiddo a project in the car. Set them up with stickers, crayons and whatever else they might need to create their own book!
It will vary across ages: my 3 year old pretty much wrote an “E” for her name on every page with lots of scribbles, and my 5 year old came up with an airplane theme and asked me how to spell all of her words. It was really fun watching them complete their book.
Car Activity Tips
I’m not going to lie, but there are parts of road trips that can be stressful. Everyone wants a snack, someone spilled, or maybe they’re sleepy but don’t want to fall asleep. Having prepared activities is a good way to combat some of the grumps on a long car trip.
One of the most important things I’ve learned on our different trips is that I need to keep the activities with me, up front on the floorboard. On a road trip to Colorado, I made the mistake of wrapping up surprises and putting the basket in between our second row chairs. Oh. My. Goodness. My children would not leave me alone about the “prizes”. Now, I keep them up front with me and just pull something new out every hour and a half or so. We love to use this bin from Target (gray & white striped bin in pictured here).
Also, I mentioned this earlier about the coloring books and books. I’ll make sure not to show these to them until they seem them on the road trip. I try to keep whatever is in the basket fresh: swap out some of the beads, add lined paper instead of blank paper, new stickers, etc… I tend to pick up these types of items when I see them on sale or for a good deal and save them for occasions like this.
Another fun fact we’ve gleaned from several years of road trips is to clean up between activities. I remember I just gave Emma a bunch of stuff all at once on our first trip, and it turned into a disaster. I couldn’t get back there to clean it up, she was upset, and everyone was grumpy with the mess. Now, I give them something to do, like their personal notebook, and then before they move on to something else, we make sure the marker tops are on and zipped up in the bag and all the pages are tucked away in the notebook.
Oh! One last thing…when all else fails - don’t forget the iPad. :) But in all seriousness, we let them watch some movies and play games from time to time on these forever long road trip hauls.
If you’re hitting the road for Spring Break soon, have fun packing up some fun road trip car activities! Happy traveling, friends!