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Keeping kids occupied on road trips without electronics

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

What are some suggestions for keeping kiddos occupied in the car on roadtrips without electronics? And what ages do you think your best tips will work with? I have a wide range of ages and the olders are just fine with reading, but the little is always hard to keep occupied! 

post #2 of 38

I just went on a plane ride with my 22 month old. I brought stickers, books, a new baby for her, some bandaids to play with (what child isn't obsessed with bandaids?), coloring supplies, and some other quiet toys. I kept everything in my bag and she didn't know I had any of it until we were on the plane and about 30 minutes into our first flight. She was totally occupied for our flights and was actually quiet. I found that just buying a couple new items (at yard sales and from the dollar store) kept her occupied better than stuff I had brought from home that she had already played with. I hope this helps.

post #3 of 38

some little ones need breaks more often to help them keep focused. they are high energy kids who need to move their body. that means in the car make more stops. on flight walk around more. 


with dd intrigue was the factor. how do things work. she was not a toy person so i would bring different bottles with different caps for her to figure out how to drink water out of it. even if it meant she got wet. or different pens where you had to do different actions to make them work. same thing with small tupperware. how does the lid come off. 


though one time in an hour long drive - i sang what was it 80+ verses of if you're happy and you know it. she was totally into it and woudlnt let me stop.


however what do you mean by occupied? leave you alone, sit quietly in their seat? what is your level of expectation. those were impossible for my social toddler. what worked for her were people and interaction. we've done lots of long road trips and loooooooooooong flights and as long as dd had someone to talk to she didnt need anything else. 

post #4 of 38

Sticker books have been a favorite of ours - they've always seemed better for car rides than coloring books for us.


We try to stop frequently (2-3 hours), to avoid anyone getting carsick -- but on the same note I often also bring lollipops as I think it helps the carsickness too.  And I'll make sure to have a favorite kid song or story CD to listen to, and everyone has pillows for easier falling asleep.  


Sometimes a hoop with fabric prepped for embroidery (with 2-3 threaded needles) is a good activity, and littler kid practice sewing boards with shoelaces (or the plastic cross stitch boards).  


I've sometimes allowed for those mini bubble bottles in the car for a long trip.

post #5 of 38

A view-master was a favorite pre-reading car toy for my kids.


non-messy art supplies (such as color wonder) and a lap desk


kid-friendly music


I agree about new things, but I also found that putting things away for a while before the trip made them more interesting ON the trip.

post #6 of 38
Love Magna Doodles and books on tape. Not the healthiest but licorice too. It's not messy and takes a while to eat. If you know some landmarks we have be on the look outs for which I always said I would give .25, but I'm not sure I ever did. We play an ABC game too- you need to find a word in order for each letter of the alphabet; you could pair up olders and you gers. We went 15 hours each way every summer from the time our kids were 2.5 and 10 days old. Never any personal electronics.
post #7 of 38
The kids and I drive (without DH) 8 hours to my mom's house every summer. What works for us is that I give each kid a lap board so they have a flat surface, and hand them each an activity bag right when we start, with a small notepad, a few crayons, a little new toy of some sort, and a couple of healthy snacks.

Then, in a box on the passenger seat up front, I keep individually bagged snacks (so I can just pass them back without driving unsafely) and 3 wrapped gifts for each kid. I tell the kids that after 2 hours of good behavior, they can open a gift. The gifts are teeny, stuff like matchbox cars, flavored lip balm, sparkly crayons, etc., but boy does the sight of gift wrapped items in the front seat ever keep them focused on good behavior!

That "good behavior" usually requires my participation, like playing the alphabet game with them or something, but I enjoy that. And we always stop twice, once at a nice rest stop (where we get an ice cream bar from the vending machine and go for a walk) and once for lunch. It breaks up the drive into manageable chunks for all of us.
Edited by limabean - 5/21/13 at 8:52am
post #8 of 38

Those felt-board toys, or the ones with the magnet pictures would keep my girls busy for a long time. Maps, games of I-Spy, stitching toys, lots and lots of snacks (ones they don't normally get!), and even some made-up-mommy stories (favorites: Virginia and Olivia, who have to spend a lot of time in the car, but magical things happen along the way that make the trip go faster; and Ricky Raccoon who runs into all kinds of trouble).  


And a lot of breaks!  If it's a trip you make regularly, kids can look forward to certain stops.  On our way to the beach, we stop by a lovely lake for lunch to tromp in the water and throw and skip rocks.  Littles are easy to encourage to tear around a rest area lawn.  We even took a break on our way up to Mt. Rainier in WA and played for 2 hours in the runoff.... in the gutter of the parking lot!  People were setting off on hikes down to the real glacial river down a steep hill-- breathtaking, raw, rugged, violently beautiful-- and we spent our time stomping up and down this gutter playing with sticks and rocks and leaves.

post #9 of 38

We always played games. A few that I can recall -  

- I Spy 

- the license plate alphabet game 

- a song lyric game we made up where one person recites a line and the next person has to come up with a different song that is thematically linked or inspired by the first song 

- spot the wild animal (points for rarity) 


Games are good for distractions but they do require your attention. It may not be a solution if you wanted them entertained without your participation. 


Honestly, I find electronics are a pretty good solution for boring stretches of travel. We've never used DVDs, but iPods with audiobooks and music and handheld electronics can be helpful. Reading isn't a good solution for us due to struggles with motion sickness. 


Another good tip is to start your road trip as early as possible - like 5 or 6 a.m. early, if you can manage it. The kids tend to fall back asleep and you can get 3 or 4 hours of driving before stopping for a late breakfast. Then you can drive on for a few more hours before stopping mid-afternoon. That way, you can all enjoy some exercise and activity or sightseeing in the afternoon and a nice dinner, so you are all refreshed for the next days' travel. 

post #10 of 38

We don't do electronics in the car either. My older two (8 and 6) enjoy card games, reading and drawing (just have a clipboard handy and enough pencils to go around).


Younger DC (4) enjoy's stickers, sticky tape and drawing.

post #11 of 38
We regularly do 3.5 hour car trips to visit family, and my super high energy, bouncing off walls, can't sit still 2.5 year old can do them without stops and only music (non-obnoxious kid music like Caspar Babypants) and looking out the window. Sometimes one of us will sit back there with him. He just points out all the trucks, cows, and horses and sings.
post #12 of 38

We had special markers for drawing on the inside of the car windows (wipe off like dry-erase), listened to audio books, and played all the mind numbing games like I-Spy. We also enjoyed Travel Bingo (the board with the little plastic sliding windows)


I used to drive 5 hours each way almost every Sunday to visit my mom. The Dumplings were 3 and 4, and for several years thereafter. We would leave early in the morning, arrive around noon, and visit till bedtime. I had them convinced for years that EVERYONE wears a diaper in the car. This avoided many potty stops along the way. They would sleep all the way home. The challenge for me was to drink enough coffee to stay awake until 12 or 1, but not stop to pee. It became a point of honor...orngtongue.gif

post #13 of 38

Card games - a lot of popular board games have been made into card versions - Life, Scrabble, Battleship, and even Tetris. We have quite a few of them and they're really fun, and easily portable. 

post #14 of 38
Magnet dolls, small toys, a small Tupperware of legos or k-nex, picture books, art stuff, books on CD, singing to the radio, joining in on imaginative play, new and special snacks, and lots of stops at city parks.
post #15 of 38

We have a set of travel game cards, I think they are usbourne. A lot are games we already knew like eye spy, 20 questions etc but picking a random card from the box makes it a bit more exciting.


A stop watch, we take it in turns to time and see how many red cars/lorries/caravans we see in 2 minutes.


Audio books, though I may need a change from Harry Potter. It's been the only one they agree on for a while. Sometimes they take their own headphones and DSs to listen to



Snacks & more snacks, a lot of the time we plan to travel over a meal time so they can be kept busy eating. Does leave a lot of crumbs in the car though.


For stops bubbles are easy to take along and get the burning off a bit of excess energy.

post #16 of 38
Food, Scotch tape is amazing at keeping little ones occupied.
Having the kids keep track of the map works.
I have a road trip with a 2yr old, 3yr old and 13yr old coming up.
Our biggest issue is keeping the kids from bugging eachother. Normally we travel by car, but will be getting a minivan to keep everyone from touching
post #17 of 38

This thread is very timely for me. I'll be traveling 13 hours soon with a 9 month old and almost 3 year old. What kinds of snacks and new foods do you all like to take?

post #18 of 38
Originally Posted by chel View Post

Scotch tape is amazing at keeping little ones occupied.


For some reason, this reminded me of Cat's Cradle, the string game. Cheap entertainment for a little while. 

post #19 of 38
Scotch tape is genius!
post #20 of 38

We did YEARS of road trips when I was a kid, and now we do them with our fam.  Here are my tips: a container/carry all for each person.  This can be a back pack, storage cube, whatever to store eace person's things (my mom had those fold up accessories cases that hang on the back of the door.  She would hang them on the back of the seats, and then each of us had our own space.  DS usually takes a backpack or a storage cube.  We usually have some travel games (guess who is popular), some drawing stuff, audiobooks (downloaded from the local library), and some sing along CDs.  Kids rotate who chooses a group activity (20 questions is popular), and in between we have individual activities. 


I always plan out the trip with good places for bathroom stops, breaks, etc.  We usually bring some balls, bubbles, and play stuff to play with on breaks.  I like to research public parks in the towns we are likely to stop in, since then we can stop for a picnic lunch and play on the playground at the same time.  During one day where it was going to be a long day of driving, we stopped at a park with a water feature and stopped to play for an hour after lunch.  Then after a nice potty break and dry off session, the kids all slept in the car and we got through the day relatively unscathed.  We have also been known to stop at McDonald's for a fruit smoothie and use of the indoor playground.  We do not eat the food there, but usually will buy something for a snack so the kids can play (but we can easily hit 105 in the summer and we just can not play outside).


Snacks - we usually have a wide assortment of cheese, homemade chex mix, trail mix, fresh fruit, crackers, cereal or granola bars, fruit leathers, etc.  We have a box for dry snacks, and a cooler for drinks and cold snacks (i freeze water bottles and use them to keep everything cold, then we can drink the water.


We also keep a trash can in the car so everyone can through away their trash

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