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101 Toddler Activities ~ Road Trip!

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Having recently gone on two separate camping trips, I have had time to ponder what to do with that child crying in the backseat. See photo above. And that was before we even left the house!

Each camping trip was a five hour drive away from home, which was a bit much for our 17-month-old, even with a few stops. I wish I could say that he always was this docile:

Or this playful:

But that was not the case! I wish I had researched some of these options in advance. Which is why I am losing no time sharing them with you!

  1. Hang soft toys from links within reach for interest, and so you can retrieve them easily when your baby throws them!
  2. Sing. Bring a selection of CDs or make your own mix of songs on a CD or iPod to play for your kids!
  3. Play the color game with cars or buildings. Probably just the sound of your talking will interest your child, and they may join in if they are old enough.
  4. Traveling toys. Pack a special bag of “car toys” for the trip, include a few board books and sturdy, washable toys that can handle getting dropped over the side of the car seat. A lot!
  5. Talk. Studies show that children aren’t being talked to nearly enough. Take the time with a captive audience to talk to them and let them talk to you. As them about specific details of what they look forward to the most. What they enjoyed the most. Share your own ideas.
  6. Count how many card, birds, cows you pass ( pick an object that is showing up with regularity and is familiar to your child.)
  7. Create. Bring along quiet toys for restaurant stops – a crayon holder is great for keeping crayons in their place, and might make a fun ‘trip surprise’ to bring out at the first pit stop.
  8. Soap bubbles. Okay this is for the brave of heart. I read this on a website, and perhaps if an older child or adult was in the backseat, this might be a good activity. Blow out the window or in the car… it’s just soap after all. (Your thoughts?).
  9. Stickers. Get a little notebook of paper for your toddler to apply stickers into over the trip. This is a good time to use up all those address label stickers. Or maybe select stickers that have to do with your trip – if you’re going to the beach, find some fish and beach related stickers to engage your child.
  10. Felt boards. Create your own felt board by gluing a large piece of felt to a sturdy piece of cardboard. Then give your child felt shapes to stick to the felt board. You can create your own shapes or buy some precut shapes! Soft, quiet fun for the car ride!

Bonus: I found a lot of great traveling with children tips and ideas on Mom’s Minivan site.

Share some of your tips for traveling with toddlers! Would love to add to my repertoire!

Have you checked out the rest of my 101 Toddler Activities?

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AmyJanuary 26, 2014 - 10:37 pm

So odd. I was actually looking FOR rear facing toddler activities when I found this! Ha! We hve our 36in, 32 lb, 24 month old rear facing and a lot of the posts I see about toddler car activities don’t work very well for RFing. Anyway..I appreciate your post (and that your child is RFing! ;) ). I especially love your “talk” suggestion. Sometimes you forget to talk to your kids In the back seat (especially when they’re rear facing!).
A couple other things I found that I’m going to try out (for our 6 and 10 hour road tripa comig up) are:
-glitter bottles (and maybe other “exploring bottles)
-wrapped gifts, given out after a timer goes off (during a fussy period, ill ask her to sit quietly/calm down for — minutes, set the timer and then give a present to unwrap after)
-iPad movie (this will be on the last leg of our trip)
-photo books (of the people we’re going to see)
-glow in the dark stars/objects velcrow to ceiling (for the night travel)
-musical instruments (I plan to only give her a bag of small instruments – harmonica, maracas, tambourine – 10-20 minutes before a bathroom/gas stop. It will give her some time to make noise, but not too much time to drive me crazy ;) )

And I love the idea to have bubbles T the rest stop. My daughter also loves to crawl around the front seats when we’re parked, so that will be another rest stop activity :)

maryApril 20, 2013 - 7:57 pm

love your ideas. you might also consider window clings instead of stickers. i hate when stickers get everywhere and i can’t remove them without them falling apart. i also take wooden puzzles on our trips

kellyJanuary 30, 2013 - 10:58 am

This will be perfect for my kids on our way to California. 12 hours in the car with 2 kids is hard but this will definitely make it easier!

LouiseSeptember 5, 2012 - 12:32 pm

about to embark on a 7 hr road trip from CA to AZ this weekend with myself (a single mother) & my 20 month old daughter. so glad i read this article…i’m a lil worried! we r gonna head out right after daycare/work at 4:30pm, stop for dinner after an hour or so, change her into pjs and hopefully she’ll sleep most of the way! ha, wishful thinking! ;)

Julie KierasAugust 25, 2012 - 8:04 am

Hi, this is Julie the owner/writer of this site. I notice a lot of comments on this post are about the rear-facing car seat. And many comments are getting quite heated and borderline rude. I’d like to ask that comments be related to the post topic itself – which is road trip activities, NOT rear-facing car seats. Otherwise, I’ll be forced to close comments to this post because I don’t like to censor/delete comments, but I don’t like to see my readers attacking each other like this. :( Thank you.

mdhenkeAugust 25, 2012 - 1:15 am

Seriously??? Get a grip people. Love your kids and raise them the way you want, but don’t preach to others or be judgemental because they don’t do things your way. We all love our children and want what is best for them. Just enjoy the blog and the great ideas! Thanks Amanda love your ideas!

Amanda EAugust 10, 2012 - 10:29 pm

While I do agree that rear facing is the best for accidents, sometimes it just can’t be reality.

I tried three different convertible car seats, and none of them would fit in my car rear facing. My 14 month old had outgrown her infant car seat and needed to upgrade to the convertible. We are not financially able to get a different vehicle at this time, so we had to turn her forward.

Also, some toddlers can’t stand being rear facing, either because that want to see upfront or their legs are cramped, so they can throw tantrums. If a toddler is screaming in my back seat, I am going to be distracted and probably going to be more likely to get into an accident.

So in a perfect world, we would all have our kids face rear for as long as possible, breastfeed until they are in kindergarten, not drink a drop of alcohol until they are 21 and not have sex until they are married, but life isn’t perfect.

ValerieJuly 4, 2012 - 11:51 am

Or colored pencils

AmandaMay 17, 2012 - 12:21 pm

Please stop with the car seat judgements! Every parent is trying to do what is best for their child. No one has ANY right to tell another parent they are doing it wrong. There is enough negativity on the internet, please don’t add to it. Keep your rude comments to yourself.
Amanda recently posted..Ninety Nine Things

AmandaMay 17, 2012 - 12:18 pm

Me too! That’s the first thing that popped into my head.

Trixxy MinxxMay 16, 2012 - 1:12 am

Any tips for flying with a 1yr old and a 3yr old for entertaining them during the flight? :)

Bethany GMay 7, 2012 - 7:12 pm

So many great ideas!!! Personally I wouldn’t do the sticker thing, but that’s because I cringe inside when I see cars with stickers all over the window and I KNOW my little Pookie would be one of those kids that HAS to put the whole sheet of stickers on the window!

NatalieApril 2, 2012 - 11:11 am

Really great ideas. I am taking a nine hour car trip to the Outerbanks with my 15 month old next week and these tips will definately come in handy! Btw: Couldn’t agree more Courtney. Stick a bunch of mother’s on a message board or blog and let the debating and judging ensue.

CourtneyMarch 11, 2012 - 8:34 pm

Great road trip ideas! I’m not sure why this turned into a car seat debate…Everyone here loves their children and no judgement is necessary. Let’s support, uplift, and encourage one another in parenting…it’s a tough job!

onemadjanMarch 4, 2012 - 6:18 pm

One thing about crayons, to my dismay in hot weather they MELT! so if traveling in summer consider water color markers instead.

auntielouisaMarch 2, 2012 - 12:25 pm

I think using wedding/party favor bubbles in the car would work well. There is so little in the tube that even if it all spilled there would be little mess.
auntielouisa recently posted..Easter Egg Hunt Bag

AnnaFebruary 29, 2012 - 3:02 pm

I happened across this picture and Pinterest and had to click to take a closer look. How awesome to see a properly restrained toddler, rear-facing and happy!

AnnaFebruary 29, 2012 - 3:00 pm

I happened across this picture on Pinterest and had to click to take a closer look. How awesome to see a properly restrained toddler, safely rear-facing! :)

AnneFebruary 26, 2012 - 11:11 am

I was so excited to see the little guy still rear facing! It is much safer and recommended until AT LEAST two years old, but preferably for as long as they meet the rear facing requirements of their seat. My daughter will be 4 in June and is still happily rear facing! In the same seat this little guy is using, actually. Here’s some pictures of her, perfectly comfortable, happy, and SAFE: http://pinterest.com/anne08/extended-rear-facing/

StacyFebruary 25, 2012 - 5:23 pm

I made my kids some “lap trays” out of cookie sheets. There are lots of ways to enhance it for a more interactive tray – paint it, cover it in felt, etc.. and lots of toys you can add to it to make it more fun..

I blogged about it for Oh Baby Baby Foods blog here: http://ohbabyfoods.blogspot.com/2011/05/avoid-back-seat-banter-on-long-summer.html
Stacy recently posted..The Perfect Gift for your Minimalist Mom

Amanda79February 22, 2012 - 3:49 pm

Having your legs bent is no big deal and most kids don’t care. Rear facing is a lot safer than forward facing. A child forward facing can have internal decapitation if in a car accident meaning there necks can be ripped from there spines do to the force. If rear facing the child will be pushed back into the seat instead of forward giving them more support….sure in a serious accident they can break there legs but would you rather them have broken legs that can heal or a broken back that could lead to a paralized child or possible death. Please view crash tests videos on rear facing and you will see that it is much safer…and the longer rear facing the better. In the UK kids rear face up to 6 years, sometimes longer.

LauraFebruary 20, 2012 - 3:37 pm

Actually, they recommend that children face backwards until 2 now.

sharolFebruary 17, 2012 - 7:26 pm

No. A rear facing child is 5 times safer than a forward facing child in an accident. My oldest was rear facing until 5.5 years old, and my 2yo and 4yo kids are still rear facing. I am a CPST, and am so happy to see more and more parents practicing extended rear-facing to help better protect their children, and potentially save their lives.

HANNAHFebruary 17, 2012 - 10:03 am

Wouldn’t any type of car accident be horrific for the child? rear facing or not?

May I suggest you drop your pretentious attitude?

GaynorFebruary 12, 2012 - 3:03 pm

Good on you for doing extended rearfacing i’m also a mommy who rearface my daughter is 21months and i plan to rearface till atleast 3yrs old and I get alot of critism for it. but i’m doing what is best for my daughter.

Really?February 6, 2012 - 1:45 pm

May I suggest that you do your research before giving other parents (bad) advice?!?! Turn him around? He is ONLY 17 months and should remain rear-facing for as long as possible. Kudos to his parents for doing their research and doing the best that they can to keep him safe while in the vehicle!

Janete VargasJanuary 30, 2012 - 12:42 am

maybe its time to turn that little guy around, he needs to stretch those legs and see what’s going on front a front view … nice ideas for a road trip … thanks

Erin @ A Full HeartJanuary 13, 2012 - 1:42 pm

Pipe cleaners entertain my crew for HOURS on road trips – it was really amazing how long they were amused by them. The only caution for the 2-3 year old crowd is watch out for the ends, they can scratch a little. Mine had no problems, though!
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KristenJanuary 3, 2012 - 11:32 pm

Thanks for the ideas! I needed these. Just pinned it too.
Kristen recently posted..Wrapped in twine

RachealDecember 13, 2011 - 9:21 pm

I went on a 12 hour trip with just me and my 3 boys. There were a few things that saved my sanity. 1. Snack bag- multiple Mom approved snacks that they were allowed to eat as many of as they wanted, I divided up things into snack sized baggies so even if we had a mess it was small. 2. New games or toys every few hours when we had a rest stop I just went to the trunk and pulled out something new. 3. tin foil a whole roll they had so much fun making stuff and it’s easy to clean up. 4. pipe cleaners again lots of imaginative play and their creations could be taken apart for a new idea. 5. On the trip home we picked up some Redbox movies to watch as it was getting dark and it was harder to play when you can’t see your projects. We just turned them in when we got home. I’m hoping to make a cross-country trip this summer to see my sister and I’m excited for the drive!

Stephanie HeywoodNovember 23, 2011 - 12:55 pm

For my little one (almost 2 now!) I made and “I spy bag” and filled it with little things (mainly “baby chokeables- meaning toys that are too small for babies like mismatched barbie shoes from her older cousins, bells, shaed confetti or foam stickers (that have the adhesive removed), fun shaped beads and erasers) that keep her entertained. It is also a good way to teach her things like circles, hearts, etc. I plan on making more of them with different theams like Christmas, Halloween, shoes, Polly pocket clothes etc. and rotating the bags. Even my husband plays with them and he gets excited when he notices something new.
Another one of her favorites is those cheap Martigra bead necklaces that you buy at the dollar store. I have had those in my boredom bag for forever and even other kids at church always want to ply with them too. When they start chipping I just cut out that area out of the beads and then twist the ends together to knot it back up. I don’t recommend it in the car for tiny tiny tots to avoid getting stuck or choking, and even at her age i only give them in the car after she is buckled in and take them off before un-buclkeing her- otherwise the beads get stuck in her shoulder straps.
I try to pack healthy snacks, and one of my favorite is Sprout’s dried fruits (from those big buckets that you scoop it out from)- especially apple rings and pineapple that i mix together in a large ziplock then part it out to smaller ziplocks. I tell my tot that it’s “fruit candy” and offer it when she is being good or as a healthy snack.
My little one also loves those flap lift books or cloth flap lift books.
She also loves to play with her sized sunglasses and hats. She likes to put one pair on and off then go to the next pair.
I wouldn’t recommend those aqua-doodle travel boards for young tots. She quickly gets bored of drawing and always ends up sucking all the water out of the pen and biting the tip to death- hopefully when she is older she will like it!

CourtneyNovember 6, 2011 - 2:53 pm

We live in Hawaii but travel back to visit family on the mainland often. I am looking for ideas to keep my toddler busy on the 10 hr plane ride. Some of these are helpful but all I seem to ever find are ideas for car trips, not plane trips. Any suggestions?

T Rex MomAugust 18, 2011 - 12:08 am

We don’t do well with long car trips. Thank you for the suggestions. I wish we had these ideas a week ago.

Yeah for still being rear facing. Us, too.

I’ve been enjoying the toddler activities, too. Thanks.

I hope you’ve been well.
T Rex Mom recently posted..Cabin Trip Part II – Fishing

Colleen PAugust 15, 2011 - 8:45 am

We’ve made the drive from MA to OH several times with kids, and I’ve found that the kids loved to unwrap “presents”. For the way there, I gift-wrapped a bunch of little toys and snacks from around the house, plus a few new things. Every so often, I’d pass one back to them to unwrap. On the way home, the grandparents sent a few extra “gifts” which made the kids really excited!
I think I’d pass on the bubbles, because it would get sticky after a while, even if they didn’t spill the bubble container. Maybe bubbles at the rest stops?

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