Tuesday, February 9, 2016

MORE Ways to Keep a Toddler (and a Preschooler) Busy on a Road Trip

Several months ago we went on a big road trip that lasted almost two full weeks. This was the first major road trip we'd gone on since adding a second kid to the mix. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to maintain my sanity while keeping the two of them entertained, it had been hard enough with just one!

I knew I already had a good collection of ideas from our experience with Erik, in fact this post I did about our major road trip with him has been one of my most popular. That post really sums up a lot of what we did on this trip, so I do recommend you check it out as well. Even though all the old ideas are still good, I knew we were going to want some new things in the mix to keep the kids interested. I spent a fair amount of time searching for ideas and assembling supplies, but it was totally worth it. Here are all the activities I came up with, hopefully you'll find something in here that might work for you too. I put each one in its own zip top bag and put everything in a backpack so I could keep it handy and organized. 
And here is more information about everything we did. Links take you to the sites that inspired us, or to amazon.com. 

***Coloring books, colored pencils, and a pencil sharpener. I purchased a new coloring book for each kid so that they would be new and exciting. I chose to pack colored pencils instead of crayons because in warm weather crayons may melt all over the inside of your car, and because Sharli eats crayons.  
*** Glow in the dark bracelets and cheapo flashlights for keeping the kids busy after dark. 
*** Books! I bought a new book for each kid. Having something new and exciting makes such a huge difference. We also packed a big bag of our favorite books from our own shelves. Erik is getting big enough that he can follow a story without needing pictures to be entertained, so we checked out Mr. Popper's Penguins from our library and read that aloud as we drove. That was a fun one for us adults too, definitely one I'd recommend!

***An I Spy bottle. I somehow didn't get a picture of the kids playing with this one. It wasn't a huge hit, but it did keep them busy for a few minutes here and there.  
***Magnet Discovery Bottle. This one wasn't much of a hit with my kids. I think we ended up throwing it away part way through the trip because it was taking up room and nobody wanted to play with it. Who knows though, maybe your kids would love it. 
***Pipe cleaners. These were to be used on their own to play with, as well as to be used in our Pipe Cleaner Drop and to make Pipe Cleaner Shapes, both of which are outlined here. For the Pipe Cleaner Drop I ended up wishing I'd used one of those little snack size Pringles cans, since the full size one was kind of unwieldy for Sharli. Plus, the smaller things are the less room they take up in the car. I also remembered too late that we learned with Erik that sticks work better than pipe cleaners for this one.  
*** Sticky Sticks (and matching game). These have been one of the most favorite things we made for this trip. Months later they still get played with a lot. This one is so easy to make. You just attach velcro dots to craft sticks and you're done. If you want to make the matching game then you cut shapes out of paper and write the name of the shape on them. Even if your child isn't reading yet, there is still great value in giving them chances to become aware of print in the world around them.

***Open and Close Activity This one was pretty easy to put together. I looked around the house and the dollar store for small containers that I thought little hands could open and close and put them all in a bag together. It turned out that some of them were pretty difficult for Sharli to open, so I incentivized the work she'd have to do to open them by putting fruit snacks inside. 
***Button Snake. This was an activity I had intended to be more for Sharli, but Erik loved it! He begs to play with it at least once a week. I somehow failed to get any pictures of this one, but the link above has all the info.
***Pom Pom Magnets. These were super easy to make. I just picked up some thin magnets from the craft aisle and hot glued pom poms to them. The magnets I found were in little strips, so I glued a whole line of pom poms on with my hot glue gun (the adhesive already on the magnets wasn't enough to do the job) and then just snipped in between the pom poms with scissors. Throw in a cheap cookie sheet (I got mine for just under $1) and you have a great magnet board, as well as a hard surface for you kid to set on their lap for all the other activities as well. Both kids really enjoyed these magnets. Erik pretended they were cars driving around, or made pictures with them. Sharli mostly just enjoyed dumping them onto the tray and then putting them back in the bag. 

***Lacing Cards. We've made these before for Erik to play with, but that was a long time ago. They were a hit then and they are now too.
***Clip Sticks Counters. Erik might have liked these better if he weren't too distracted by all the other stuff in the activity bag. They were easy to make, all you need are some craft sticks (which is handy, since you'll want some for the Sticky Sticks too), some circle stickers, and a few clothes pins.
***Ping Pong Ball Puzzles. I thought this was a pretty clever idea. You can make an infinite number of puzzles, and increase the difficulty by increasing the number of balls so it's an idea that can grow with your child. Pick up a cheap package of ping pong balls, salvage an egg carton from your recycling and you're ready to go. 
One thing I talked about in my first Road Trip post was the power of snacks. If all else fails just throw some food to your kids and that should keep them quiet for at least a few minutes. Two snack ideas that made a re-appearance from our last road trip were edible jewelry and Surprise Snack Mix. Check out this post for more details. 
And because I'm super nice, I've been working on figuring out the perfect mixture for the snack mix so you all don't make the same mistakes we have. I learned last time that there are some snacks that don't play nice with the others. Our problem snack this time around was the frosted circus animal cookies. They did great until the car got too hot and the frosting melted. Then everything stuck together and got really messy and difficult to eat. Oh well, maybe next time it will be better. Our mix this time included the Circus Animal Cookies, fruit snacks, M&M's, and Goldfish crackers (except ours were the cheap brand so they were penguins instead of fish). I tried to include a mix of textures and flavors to keep things interesting.
I think that about covers it. Now that we've got a third little one in our home I'll have to let you know how things go next time we go on a major trip, but for now this should be enough to go on. Have a good trip!

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.


  1. I'm so excited to find this list but I wish it was more than 26 hours before our trip!!! So many ideas I want to try but I will have to choose wisely lol!