Road tripping with kids? The thought of entertaining toddlers and preschoolers on long car rides can have even the most laid back of parents reconsidering their trip. Which is why I’ve gathered our tried and true easy and fun road trip activities for toddlers and preschoolers.
After years of taking road trips for summer holidays, to visit family and to move across the country we have some pretty cool tips, tricks and ideas to make your next road trip more fun, and less stressful for everyone.
Practice and preparation are key. The more you do it, the more your can’t sit still in one place for even 2 minutes toddler or preschooler will know what to expect, and the easier it will become. In our experience, the best kids car activities are easy, mess free and something they can do on their own.
Here are the best road trip activities for 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and preschoolers 3-5 years old.
Don’t forget to grab our Family Travel Planner so you can stop stressing about trip planning & logistics, and keep everything organized and in one place.
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FUN TODDLER ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES
Little Kids Road Trip Activities
Surprisingly we’ve found entertaining toddlers in the car was not always as hard as we first thought. The trick is to plan ahead and have a variety of activities you (and they) can pick and choose from. Toddlers and preschoolers don’t always have long attention spans, so lots of smaller activities can really save the day.
Make sure to bring activities that suit your child. You know your kids best. Choose one’s you think they’d like.
But don’t stress if you don’t have one. We’ve done many family road trips without an activity tray.
Mini Coloring Kits
Coloring activities were always a favorite for our kids. To manage the likelihood of said toddlers throwing crayons around, keep only a few in a small container they can easily open.
If you are short on time (who isn’t?), then mini coloring kits like these were always a hit.
Or you can make your own. Grab a small empty first aid kit from the Dollar Store or local box store like Target or Walmart. Hot glue gun a square post-it pad on the inside (top). Put in a couple of crayons, or pencil crayons. Whatever fits. Learn how here.
Mess Free Coloring – Melissa and Doug Wow Books
We’ve loved these WOW books for years. Super handy to keep the kids entertained on long or short car rides, at restaurants, or even much needed quiet time at home.
No mess! Your littles will just paint with the water brush and color appears.
Melissa and Doug have lots of great products for toddlers and preschoolers.
Best Road Trip Kids Activities: Kids Activity Books
Age appropriate kids activity books can keep your kids from “are we there yet?!?!?” every 30 seconds. Sometimes you just have those long stretches of road you need to get through. Plus they are educational, and screen free.
What are their interests? Try one of these kids car activities:
- Dinosaur coloring book with fun dino-facts
- Magical Unicorn Activity Book
- Baby Animal Mazes and Coloring
Road Trip Scavenger Hunt
Your kidlets will be spending lots of time looking out the window. Why not get them to do a road trip scavenger hunt.
Or if they are a little older, this Road Trip Bingo game would be a fun car activity.
PRO TIP: Have a travel backpack for each kid. Inside they can keep all their toys, books, road trip activities & some snacks all in one place. Check out our list of the best travel backpacks for kids and toddlers.
Anything magnetic will help reduce tears from having their pieces fall on the floor every 5 seconds where you can’t reach. Just make sure there are no small magnets or pieces for them to swallow.
Toddler Busy Books
While if you have time, there are a lot of super cute, and fun DIY busy books you can make out there.
If you aren’t so crafty, or are short on time, this Montessori busy board is ready for your toddlers to have fun in the car. While they also learn key motor skills to help them dress themselves.
Seek and Find Books or Hidden Picture Books
We always used to hit up the library before heading out on a road trip. Seek and Find Books and My First Hidden Picture books were always a crowd pleaser. One that kept the kids busy for up to an hour or more some days.
Sticky, bendy sticks you can make trains, cars, flowers, bracelets anything your kids can imagine out of.
Check out this cool Wikki Stixs article on games to play on road trips for more fun ideas.
Magnetic Drawing Board
A no mess road trip activity for toddlers & kids.
The Magnetic Drawing Board can be a great sensory toy, and a relaxing screenfree activity for the car. Put on some raod trip music, and the kids will have focused fun for a long time.
Boogie Board – Reusable Writing Pad
Best gift ever. A Boogie board is an LCD writing tablet that comes with a special pen (stylus) you can draw on and erase over and over again. You may want to consider grabbing an extra stylus or two, given these tend ot get lost or thrown on the floor of the car.
Reusable Sticker Books
Kids love stickers. A reusable sticker book is even better as they can move their stickers around more than once. Plus you don’t have to worry about peeling stickers off car windows, your seats or somebodies hair.
Screen Time – Watch Movies & Play Games
When little Miss S was younger we tried to avoid much screen time if we could. However sometimes you need a little something to distract them when they get antsy. The IPad or a tablet does make an easy kids car activity.
You can load up some episodes of their favorite tv show, or a toddler / preschooler friendly movie or two. It’s good to have as a back up, just in case. Give yourself some grace, and a break. Traveling in confined space for 13 hours with young kids is exhausting.
Grab a subscription to the Family Amazon Prime or Disney Plus for the month. With Prime you get music and movie/ tv streaming.
Some toddler & preschooler friendly apps we loved, or that come highly recommended:
- ABC Mouse
- LEGO Duplo Trains
- Toca Monster or Toca Nature
- Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Daniel Tiger
- Busy Shapes
- Moose Math
- Khan Academy Kids
- Epic – Reading App
Listen to Podcasts
Podcasts are a great way to keep young children focused and happy. Now that my daughter is a little older, she still likes listening to them while she draws, cleans her room or for those long travel days by lane or car. Some of our favourites include:
- Wow in the World
- Story Pirates
- Brains On!
- What If World
- Ear Snacks
Listen to Audiobooks
I almost said books on tape….Showing my age there. Listening to audiobooks is another great way to skip the screens on long car rides and family road trips. And avoid the hoarse raspy voice from having to read Peppa Goes to Ballet Class for the 7 gazillionth time. Ask me how I know!
Grab an Epic reading app just for the kids.
You may also like the Best Walkie Talkies for Road Trips
Create a Road Trip Playlist
Think epic 80’s tape mix, but for the 2020’s and the younger crowd. My partner is the DJ in our family. He has an eclectic taste in music; everything from German metal bands to classical music, country, ska and pop. You don’t have to be stuck to just kids music from Sesame Street (unless you want to be.)
Play Old School Car Games
Sometimes the simplest things are the easiest, and cost the least. Pull out some of those old school games you used to play on road trips when you were a kid.
License Plate Game
See if you can spot license plates from all the States (if in the US), or provinces / Territories (if in Canada. Whoever spots it first gets the point. The one with the most points wins at the end. Or skip the points.
Invent a story as a family. Each person takes a turn telling part of the story with a sentence or two. Create your own fairytale…start with once upon a time. You can make a time limit for the story, say 10 minutes, or after each family member has had a chance to say 3-5 sentences.
If ever there was a game that evokes summer vacations and riding in the back seat of my childhood car, squished between my brothers to keep them from fighting, it’s I Spy.
One person chooses an object, and the rest of the players have to guess what it is.
Road Trip Questions & Would You Rather
Road trips are a great time to ask your kids about the world and their thoughts. You never know how they will respond, but there is guaranteed smiles and laughter. Especially if you start a round of would you rather…… Would you rather have to drink everything from your nose or eat everything with your belly button….
Check out our list of road trip questions to ask.
DIY Road Trip Activities for Kids
When I had more time ( and energy), I made all sorts of DIY travel activities for my youngest when she was a toddler and preschooler. Pinterest has lots of great low-cost DIY ideas, if you are looking for screen free, fun car activities.
I used to put these in their own individual soft pencil case to keep them organized. If you grab the ones with holes, you can make a travel binder to keep your kids road trip activities all in one spot.
Popsicle Sticks with Velcro
Grab a pack of popsicle sticks (multi colored for more visual interest), and stick-on those velcro circles from a craft store or the dollar store. Stick the velcro circles on each end of the popsicle sticks. Your toddler can then make different shapes with them. Little Miss S loved this one the best out of all the DIY road trip activities I made.
Make A Word Popsicle Sticks
Continuing along the popsicle theme, create sight word popsicle sticks. You will need:
- Metal tin or lunch box or small cookie sheet in a pinch
- Popsicle sticks
- Roll of magnetic tape
- Sheet of pictures with simple words underneath they can make (optional).
Attach pieces of magnetic tape to the popsicle. Write letters with a sharpie on each popsicle stick. Have your kids try to make words out of the letters.
Or alternately, you can use a First Words magnetic poetry kit, or magnetic letters with your small metal tin or lunch box.
Lego Mini Boxes
Make use of all that lego that is underfoot and driving you crazy. You can grab most of the crafting items cheaply at the dollar store. What you’ll need for mini lego boxes:
- Small square plastic lunch container with lid
- Small square thin lego board
- Glue gun
- Handful of lego pieces
Glue the base lego board to the lid, put a handful of lego pieces in the plastic container once dry, and there you go. Cheap and easy in car entertainment for kids.
Or if for some reason you don’t have lego (tell me your secret!) grab this travel lego building case
Rolling, Rolling, Rolling Spools of Ribbon
Unrolling and then rolling back up spools of ribbon can be a fun toddler car activity that can be used again and again. You may just have to be the one that rolls it back up though.
Pom Pom Skills Activities
Get those fine motor skills working. Pom Pom tweezer activities can be fun. What you will need:
- Big and small pom poms
- 3-4 small plastic cups ( take out sauce sizes)
- Kid friendly tweezers
Get your kids to sort by color, or number of pom poms into the empty plastic cups.
Make Cereal Bracelets or Necklaces
Give your kids some cheerios or fruit loops and a pipe cleaner and have them make cheerio bracelets. Bonus, they can have a snack when they get hungry.
Play with Glow Sticks
If you are driving at night, kids will get a kick out of playing with glow sticks.
Bring out the jokes! Whether you are naturally funny….come on, parent jokes are the best, or need a little help, everyone will be smiling.
Here’s a great option for kids 3 to 6.
PREPARING FOR YOUR FAMILY ROAD TRIP
Quick Tips for successful road trips with kids aged 2 to 5
Taking long car rides with kids can be challenging and exhausting. Here are a few tips that have helped make our road trips easier:
- Age appropriate road trip entertainment – Make sure your road trip activities are age appropriate and suit your child.
- Bring a variety of kids road trip activities you can switch out regularly
- Start your day early – There’s usually a sweet spot where kids are still happy in the mornings. Start earlier, and they may even nap for a bit in the car.
- Make frequent stops to let the kids run around and use the washroom.
- Prioritize some fun kid friendly stops along the way your children will enjoy. A trip to the zoo, a cool playground, a short hike or a stop for ice cream.
- Drive less each day if you can.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Bring a first aid kit, a clean up kit (wet wipes, hand sanitizer, extra clothes, small garbage bucket), and a container in case a kid gets sick.
- Bring a couple of large towels – Clean up unexpected diaper explosions, or use as picnic blankets, rolled up as a pillow and even shade for a back window.
- Check out out camping with kids hacks – make camping easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
Conclusion: Kids Car Activities
You really can have fun family road trips with young kids. We’ve made so many fun memories on road trips with our littles. They often bring up special or funny moments we’ve had long after the road trip is finished.
But if you’re planning a long drive with a toddler or preschooler, make sure you plan some great road trip activities to keep them entertained. You’ll be glad you did.
Preparing for your Road Trip
- Packing List Essentials for the Family
- Yummy Road trip snacks. Kid (and adult) approved!
- Summer travel tips to stay on budget & maximize family fun
- How to save money on road trips (and not miss out)
Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
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