Long car trips with kids SUCK. There’s no other way to put it. They just suck.
When we go to visit family, it’s at least a 5-6 hour drive, or close to 12 when we vacation at the beach. Our boys are 4.5 and 3, so they need a lot of entertaining while we travel. So it’s either come armed with a ton of great ideas to engage them in quiet play from their 5-point harnesses or let them watch ridiculous amounts of TV on a portable DVD player or iPad. I don’t know about you, but I like a little both — handing them toys to stimulate their mind and also letting them zone out a bit. However, I don’t want to load down our precious car space with a ton of toys. I want to conserve space and use what we bring in the most efficient way possible.
I have seen some great ideas for car travel activities with kids via Pinterest (See bottom of post for all the things I’ve Pinned for travel with kids!), and decided to try some out this trip. I had to make a few tiny purchases, but it had a huge payoff. And now, friends, I present to you…
Take some of the puzzles your kids have (I suggest using simple ones!) and stick magnet strips on the back so that they can do their puzzle without the pieces ending up all over the car.
2. Magnetic “Paper” Dolls
I found this cute magnetic doll set at Dollar General for $1.00. No boys sets, but both of my boys loved dressing the little magnet girl in all kinds of outfits.
3. Magnetic Shapes
Our local Dollar Tree had several magnetic shape sets for $1.00. Both boys loved creating little scenes with the shapes, which have strong enough magnets to keep them from sliding everywhere.
4. Matching Games
My boys love the Octonauts and I found this Octonauts Tot Pack on 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. I cut out the matching character game, laminated them with clear contact paper, and finished up by adding magnet strips. I had already done the first part months ago, so before our trip I only had to do the magnet part. They have more amazing Tot Packs and Preschool Packs for homeschoolers and more at 1 + 1 + 1 = 1!
5. Travel Bingo
MomsMinivan.com has some awesome printable car activities. We really like the Bingo games. I had previous had the boys put their Bingo card into plastic page protectors and used those cheap dot stickers for markers. That worked okay, but not great, because with their preschool-sized coordination, they needed a flat surface to put their Bingo card on while they looked and then added their markers. I trimmed the page protectors a bit so they would fit onto the cookie sheet, then used 1-2 circle stickers to stick it to the cookie sheet. Time for Bingo!
6. Magnetic Letter Fun
If you have a little one learning their ABC’s or learning to read, there’s all kinds of things you can do with a set of magnetic letters! Practice letters, sounding out words, spelling short words, and more!
7. Coloring surface
This is kind of a no-brainer, but why spend lots of money on a car lap desk when you can use a $1 cookie sheet for the same purpose? It’s a great surface for coloring/drawing/creating, washes clean, and the edges keep markers from sliding away!
8. Table for eating
When we take trips, we do a lot of eating in the car, and little kids sometimes have trouble with this. Having a flat surface that can steadily hold their food still really helps!
A few bonuses:
Just because you’ve arrived at your location, the fun doesn’t have to end. If you have a refrigerator at your destination, all those magnet games can be played there!
I store all these games and such in Ziploc bags, because I’m cool like that. I want them safe from sippy cup spills but in a container that doesn’t take much room at all.