We’ve all been there. In the car. With a screaming toddler. 20 minutes from home. It’s the start of all good horror movies. Don’t worry, I’ve got you, girl! This post is all about life-saving car activities for toddlers for road trips.
Car rides can either make or break a toddler. Mostly break. But it doesn’t always have to be that way! We were so scared before our first road trip with Oliver, but thanks to a little preparation, it was so much easier than we thought it would be. We’ve also used a lot of these travel activities for toddlers for shorter car rides. Homeboy never gets in the car now without packing his little backpack with at least one toy he chooses and one we help him choose (that we know may keep his attention longer). I’m here to share what we learned and the car activities for kids we use to make both long road trips with kids and short car rides bearable and dare I say enjoyable? Yes. I dare. This post is all about life-saving car activities for toddlers.
LIFE-SAVING CAR ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS
One of the most important things to remember when prepping for a road trip with kids and toddlers is to make sure that you have a good balance. A balance of old and new and passive and active things. When I say passive and active, it’s like the difference between watching a movie and doing a puzzle. With one, your mind isn’t as engaged as with the other. Toddlers need a good balance of this.
As much as I want to be able to have a good link for you on this, I have yet to find a travel tray that I love and doesn’t feel too clunky. For now, we use this as a travel/activity tray that has worked super well. It’s not perfect, but it does the trick which is honestly all I’m going for now. It’s so nice! He can eat his snacks on it and play on it without having to keep everything on his lap!
Activity Binder – letter tracing, coloring pages, etc
When I was younger, I LOVED. a cute little binder with all of the fun things to do. This cute binder can house coloring pages, blank sheets of paper, traceable letters, and sticker charts… you name it! We put this together with Ollie’s help and he’s loved it! He requests it now on short rides which must mean it’s working! We even attached a little crayon with hot glue to a little string that he could use for these short rides to draw or color. Here are some other blog posts with awesome printable content for you to use in your toddler’s activity binder!
Have you seen those giant busy boards on Etsy that are so cute and look amazing? Well, this little guy is a travel version of the busy boards at a fraction of the cost! This busy board is one of our favorite car activities for toddlers. It’s got buckles, zippers, a snap, and shoelaces to help keep your toddler entertained. Who knows, maybe they will learn to tie their shoes by the end of your road trip??
Straws in a Bottle
This is one of our favorite car activities for kids that you can make super fast! You just get an empty bottle, but some straws or pipe cleaners in there and that’s it! Watch your little toddler try to get the straws in and out with their cute little fingers. If you want to make it more challenging for them, you can cut a hole in the bottle a little to give them a smaller opening to push the straws through. You can also use pipe cleaners instead of straws.
Calculators // Car Activities for Toddlers
These magical contraptions are super fascinating for toddlers! The number is there and then it’s not and now there are a lot of numbers… it has kept Ollie’s attention for up to 20 minutes once! We love having one for him to play with on road trips.
Similar to the felt board, anything sticky can be super entertaining for kids! Unlike the felt board, these sticky items can stick to almost anything! We like to get a new sticker book from the dollar store before each road trip for Oliver to play with. It’s always fun to find stickers in the car for weeks after a road trip. It means he played hard!
Easter eggs/containers with New Dollar Store or Target toys
You’ve heard it before and I will say it again, new Dollar Store toys will save your sanity! Or the Dollar Spot at Target. We love putting the smaller items, like tiny cars, in little Easter eggs for Ollie to find. During the road trip or car ride, we will give him one every now and then throughout the car ride. We also wrap some of the bigger ones for him to open up. It’s like Christmas!
Books // Car Activities for Toddlers
Clearly, books are always a good option! We love the flip-the-flap books because it’s more than just pictures and tends to keep his attention just a smidge longer. “I Spy” books are also fun because there is so much on one page that can keep their attention.
Magnets in a Tin Lunch Box
I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was the cutest thing! Instead of getting a cookie sheet to put the magnets on, get a cute little metal lunch box! It is still just as fun, but with a container to house all the cutie little magnets that you get. Here are some fun magnets!
Tiny Laptop // Car Activities for Toddlers
Josh’s grandma got this cute little computer for Ollie last Christmas and he has loved it! He loves being able to “work” with us and loves taking it in the car and hearing all of the fun animal sound effects. There are songs on there too that he can dance or sing along with.
Leap Frog Letter Tracer
This little tracer is super cute! I found it in one of my late-night Amazon scrolling sessions. It helps little kids trace the letters and numbers through 10. The letter traces is compact too which makes it perfect to take on road trips with kids. Also, your child will become a genius by playing with this. That’s how it works, right? Haha.
Magnetic Drawing Board // Car Activities for Toddlers
If your child is big into drawing/doodling, this little drawing board is perfect! It’s easy to erase and also comes with some fun animal shapes for them to use. Ollie is still not super into drawing (scribbling), but he is starting to get the hang of it and this is such a good way for him to do that.
Water Reveal Pads // Car Activities for Toddlers
If you haven’t heard of these water reveal pads (I call them water magic books), you are missing out! I loved these as a kid and Ollie is dying over them. Each water coloring book has a little pen that you can fill with water. All your toddler has to do is use it to color in the book and the picture and colors will reveal! Once the water dries, the colors and images go away and they can do it all over again.
Vtech Rock and Pop Music Player
You’ve got your music for long car rides, and with this, so does your toddler! How cute is this little music player? It’s even got headphones so that you don’t need to listen to the same song that plays over and over. Ollie has loved his music player so much. He gets to choose his own music and the buttons are big enough for him to press without accidentally pressing something else.
We’ve recently started listening to audiobooks on Spotify, and it’s been kind of fun! It’s funny watching Ollie go to our phones to look for the picture or the movie when we listen to audiobooks for Disney movies that he’s watched. It’s also so fun to hear “what’s that noooise?” in his cute guttural way when he hears sound effects from the audiobook. If you want to use this one, I recommend starting out your toddler on the audiobooks before a big road trip so they know what to expect and aren’t overwhelmed or disinterested because they don’t understand it. Here is the link to the Disney audiobooks. They are short and so cute.
Similar to audiobooks, there are some fun and cute kid-friendly podcasts that you can have your toddler listen to.
Storytime with Philip and Mommy
This little toy has held my son’s attention for longer than I have ever expected. This is literally his favorite thing to get and he gets so sad when it finally breaks off. As far as car activities for toddlers go, sticky hands are one of our favorites. So much so, that we bought a giant bag of sticky hands from Amazon to have on standby.
These are all the rage and for good reason! Ollie is still not quite to the point of building on his own, but we’ve seen definite improvement as we’ve had him play with magnetic tiles more and more. Magnetic tiles are also perfect for road trips with kids because they tend to stick together!
Take Along Railroad
We love Melissa and Doug products and for good reason! We got this cute take-along train set for him for Christmas and love using it for car rides. The train set can either go on his travel tray or just on his lap and have the sides of his car seat hold it up. He can play with this little train set for so long! You can also get other types like a little town or a farm. They are all super cute car activities for kids.
Interlocking Puzzle Blocks
These interlocking puzzle blocks have been huge in helping Ollie get acquainted with building things on his own! Because of their bigger size, they are perfect for his little hands and for road trips!
Bonus Car Activities for Toddlers
Toniebox Audio Player
The Toniebox has been a heaven-send for us on road trips with toddlers. It is a great way for Ollie to be able to have some screen-free play that is age appropriate! He can choose the audiobooks he listens to and he can change them on his own! It’s huge! There are other similar audio players, but for younger kids, the Toniebox has definitely been a better fit.
Felt Board // Car Activities for Toddlers
Felt boards are always fun! I always thought it was so magical to be able to stick things to felt boards and have them stay! As a parent, it definitely makes the clean-up easier. We found this cute little board from Amazon with all these fun shapes. Ollie is definitely a fan of the cars.
Well, that’s a wrap! 20 lifesaving car activities for toddlers! Oh and some bonus road trip activities for kids as well! Now when you want to go on a road trip with toddlers, you don’t need to ask yourself, “How to entertain a child on a long car ride?” Instead, just ask yourself, “Which of these activities should I bring?” Happy travels!
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