Travel Games & Tips for Toddlers
by Laurel Smith (Road Trip
The main thing to keep in
mind with toddlers is to plan a stop every 2-3 hours to let them get out
and stretch their legs. Sometimes those car seats can be pretty hard to
sit in for several hours in a row, so give them a little break as needed.
Here's a list of ideas to keep them busy and happy on the road.
Games & Ideas for Toddlers:
Prepare ahead with paper
bags of items to be given out every 25, 50 or 75 miles -- marked on a map
with the location, it takes a little bit of preparation to do this but
it REALLY helps young children. In each bag put a wrapped item -- usually
a small toy. Then in some of the surprise packages you can add juice or
a snack, stickers and a piece of paper, or something pertaining to the
trip that you can talk about.
some colored construction paper to cut out some "tickets" for your trip.
Give your child a pre-counted baggie full of tickets. Every half hour (or
every 30 miles) they can turn in one ticket to you. When their tickets
are gone, the trip has ended! This really helps young children
get an idea of how much time is left on the journey. Go here to print some
travel tickets from Momsminivan!
Give everyone a sheet of
aluminum foil. Have them mold it into anything they want: animal shapes,
Frisbees, balls, jewelry, crowns, headband, necklaces. Be creative. Here's
a link to article I wrote about more ways to have fun with aluminum
Such as Magna
doodle, Etcha Sketch,
and small white boards with dry
erase markers. These are great and very popular with toddlers and moms!
Make a mini car racetrack
Use with little Matchbox
type cars. Take a shoe box, draw on a racetrack before you leave, or have
the child draw one on when you are driving and you have a racetrack and
Pack a new bag of multi
colored pipe cleaners (about $1 or so) and let their creativity run wild.
They can make letters, flowers, animals, chains, jewelry, twist ties in
their hair, practice braiding, and by the end, just balls of many colors.
my article on Pipe Cleaner Fun!
(submitted by reader Penny W. Thanks!) Need help? Try
a Pipe Cleaner activity
These are fun, and you can
even make your own. Use a large piece of felt for the back ground mounted
on a sheet of cardboard, and cut out characters and shapes from different
colored pieces of felt. Tell stories like the 3 pigs or Little Red Riding
Hood using characters you've made. Let your child manipulate the pieces.
You can buy these or make
your own by cutting out shapes from thin cardboard and using a hole
puncher near the edge every inch or so. Then take a shoelace or a
piece of yarn with some tape wrapped around one end and "sew"
all the way around your shapes. Big kids might enjoy having a "Lace Race"
and see who can sew their card the fastest, or who can make the most
interesting sewing stitches. Try
or Sewing Cards for fun.
Similar to felt boards,
but the pieces are made from thin plastic that sticks by static cling.
These are also fun to stick on the windows of the car. Be careful not to
block the driver's view. Here are a few fun Colorforms suggestions:
Make animal sounds and let
your children take turns naming the animals. If your children are able
to do so, let them take turns making the animal sounds and have you guess
Teach your kids to like YOUR Music
Hey, it's worth a try!
Get a tape of the kind of songs you HAVE to sing to-- such as Respect,
The Big Chill Soundtrack, even some Elvis tunes if he's your man. Or
just play the music you liked when you were a teen and see if you can brainwash
them into liking YOUR music before they become teenagers themselves. (This
really can work -- My 5-year-old-knows all the words to "I
Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor just from singing along in the car with
Play Classical Music
When it's time to calm the
kids down, a little classical music helps young children.... so does a
Dr. Suess tape, or a story tape.
Have a Puppet Show
Do the show in the car,
in the hotel, or anywhere, kids love puppets! Break up the monotony by
having your puppet "tell" the kids what's coming up next on the trip. If
they won't listen to you, maybe they'll listen to a silly puppet. Then
give them a chance to each have their own puppet to "talk" to each other.
Tip: Give each child a "Trip Bag"
This can be a backpack for
each child, or a canvas bag or even a big plastic bin that is used specifically
for road trips. Kids can load it up with all their favorite road
trip stuff an other toys so they can have it all handy and easily accessible
to them in the car. You can even decorate the bag to designate it as their
special trip bag and use it to collect stickers or pins from various trips.
Like this original Wooly
WIlly game. Use the magnetic wand to draw hair, eyebrows, whiskers, or
a mustache on Willy's smiling face! Or try the doodle balls, or others.
These magnetic games are always very popular with my kids. They ask when
we'll be taking a car trip just so they can play some of these games. Keep
them stashed away and used them only on the road so the novelty stays fresh!
Sheet Magnet Board
Use an old cookie sheet
and a collection of magnets such as ABC magnets. Older children might like
to use it as a tray for snacks or for playing cards or other games.
Play it sort of like 20
Questions. Take turns thinking of an animal and giving everyone else
clues about it until they can guess it. "I'm thinking of an animal
that has a long neck and eats leaves", or "I'm thinking of an animal with
sharp teeth, a long tail and spots...". Tailor it to fit all ages of kids
in your car.
Chalk and black paper
This makes an interesting
artwork and is easy to clean up. You can use colored chalks or just
a box of white chalk and black
Name the clouds
What do they look like ?
Find as many different shapes as you can.
Silly Sound Game
Make up your own. Make sounds
for different things you see. For example, say "beep-beep" when you see
a yellow car, "ding-dong" when you see a yellow house, "ho-ho-ho" when
you see a red house, and "honk-honk" when you see a goose, etc. You
want things that you don't see too often. Big kids like this game too.
Take turns telling silly
jokes like Knock-knock jokes or riddles.
This is especially fun when
the kids use their creativity to make up their own jokes. Even a two-year-old
can tell jokes! They may not make sense, but they sure are hiliarious.
If you need help getting started, try a good
joke book for kids like these:
Hilarious Jokes for Kids -- paperback edition
The Rainbow Game
at Amazon for about $4.99
Everything Kids' Knock Knock Book
Jokes Guaranteed To Leave Your Friends
In Stitches -- paperback edition
at Amazon for about $6.99
Call out a color and they
have to find something that color. Make the older kids find five things
while the 2 year old looks for one. Pink and Purple are the hardest! (Submitted
by reader, Jessica ~ Thanks!)
This one is always a hit
with my kids, especially when they were preschoolers, and it's self contained
so you can't lose any of the pieces! It's fairly small and fits into a
backback too. The secret to keeping it fun is to keep this stored away
and ONLY use it on long trips, so that it is fresh every time. Available
at Amazon (about $9).
this one ahead of time. Use a large soda bottle or a large clean
peanut butter jar. Fill it no more than 2/3 full with uncooked rice
or birdseed. Then put in about 20-25 small objects (safety pin, plastic
bugs, button, M&M, nut, bolt, paper clip, penny, bead, piece of macaroni,
tiny lego, and other misc. toy pieces or stuff that is probably rolling
around in your kitchen junk drawer.) Keep a count of the items and
write down the number of items on the outside of the bottle. Put the lid
on tight (super-glue it if necessary). Let the kids take turns
rolling the bottle around in their hands until they find them all. Kids
of all ages love this game. You can make more than one treasure bottle
so kids don't have to take turns - put different items in different bottles.
Car Seat Travel Tray
found this travel tray called "Snack
& Play" Travel Tray for car seats. It's a softer-sided version
of a travel tray, and it helps keep their things from sliding off the sides.
is a great way to enable your child to do many activities while trapped
in his car seat! Strap it to the car seat and it povides a handy tray for
all kinds of things, including a cup holder. VERY popular
with Momsminivan readers. Genius!
you've got an escape artist or a run-away child, do yourself a huge favor
and get a toddler harness like this one. It's also called a "Toddler Tether"
or a "Security Harness". Sometimes you can find them at department
stores that sell child safety items. I found one online at Amazon
that sells a really cute one that also doubles as a small pack for your
child and is fun to wear. This is really great for airports and amusement
TV - VCR - DVD for your car
you're all out of other ideas and they're trapped in those car seats, let
them watch some of their favorite videos. It's a little expensive, but
it might be worth it for your peace of mind if you can afford it. You can
get tv-vcr combinations that will plug right into your car lighter.
Car Games- Are We There Yet?
Starring Ice Cube (ages 3-8)
If you already have a DVD
player, this is a great alternative to regular movies. This cute DVD is
interactive and made especially for the road. It teaches the kids several
easy and fun road trip games that they can play even when the DVD is turned
off. The music is funky too. My 6-year-old really enjoys it.
Keep them happy with food and snacks!
Make Your own trail mix
Make it with stuff that's
on sale: mix dried fruit, nuts, M&M's, cereal, goldfish crackers, etc./
together. Put servings into small sandwich bags to be passed out
at the appropriate times.
Mix ALL different kinds
of cereal and package in individual zippy bags. Or just package individual
kinds of cereal in bags. Pass them out for breakfast in the car.
Pack a picnic for lunch/dinner
Eat in the car, or at a
roadside stop. This saves a lot of time over eating at a restaurant. It's
also less expensive, and often times a lot cleaner than some of the Interstate
fast food places I've seen.
dipped in Sprite (keeps
them from turning brown)
Bottles of water
This is the only drink my
kids are allowed to have in the back of our van. It's healthy and makes
cleaning up spills a lot easier than juice or soft drinks. All that sugar
just gets them too hyper in the car anyway.
If you freeze these first,
they help keep other stuff in the cooler cold on the road. Drink them as
they thaw. We only get these out if we are having a picnic at a roadside
rest stop. Otherwise, it's only water in the car.
Fruit roll ups
Now they even have tattoo
roll ups. Oh the fun you can have with food!
Use plenty of zip lock bags for everything
Use them to store small
parts of games, toys, for clothes, food, individual snack packs, wipes,
and for storing dirty diapers when you can't find a trash can at the rest
a box of baby wipes or travel wipes in the car -- helps
with everything. If you don't have room for a whole box, put some in a
quart sized zip lock baggie!
If possible, put toddlers in a Pull-up if they haven't
been toilet trained for at least a year. It makes cleaning up accidents
so much easier if you can't pull over to find a bathroom in time!
Bring a Travel Potty in the car
those toddler emergencies when you can't find a clean bathroom anywhere!
ALSO - You can line the bottom of a little potty with a disposable diaper
so that nothing spills out -- especially helpful if you aren't able to
rinse it out. There are some nifty travel
potty products available that fold up flat, and can even store
toilet paper, wipes and extra liners.
Use a plastic "toy leash"
stuff within reach with a child-safe plastic leash. Attach one end to car
seat strap, the other to cup handle or favorite toy. Your child can
retrieve what he drops without you having to hunt for it in the back seat
(while you are trying to drive!). Here's an example of one called a Bottle
Bungee which can also be used on toys.
Pack a handy change of clothes for mom and the children
that is easily accessible in the car..
Bring pillows and blankets for comfort.
Lay towels or old sheets on the seats to keep the car clean.
Makes it easy to dump out all those crumbs that seem to get everywhere
during a car trip!
Bring sleeping bags. For some kids these can be
like a "home away from home" to make them feel comfortable when sleeping
in unfamiliar surroundings. Or try a Toddler
Travel Bed to make them cozy at your destination.
Leave really early in the morning. Traffic is light,
kids are sleepy and you can usually drive several hours without stopping.
Make your stop for breakfast your first stop.
Pack your car the night before
I have a whole article about
this lovely tip! Read it here.
Make at least one stop last an hour or two right before bedtime if you
are traveling late into the night. Let the kids
run around outside and wear themselves out so they will sleep and you can
Keep an emergency first aid kit in your luggage.
Include cold medicine and pain reliever just in case.
for moms traveling alone with children:
Only stop to go the the
bathroom at busy gas stations or restaurants where there are lots of people.
LOCK your doors and take all of your children with you when you go to the
bathroom or pay for gas. Stop for gas at stations where you can pay
via credit card at the pump. Park in full view of the attendant.
seat with a tray, flattens, goes entirely into dishwasher for cleaning,
straps to any straight backed chair for hotel room feeding.
Toys for the hotel: keep
it simple: take a book, a stuffed animal and a set of stacking cups (doubles
as a bath toy).
Use a white noise machine
when staying in hotels to drown out the outside noise and keep your kids
sleeping. I have one that makes nature sounds like rain and waterfalls.
It works great for grownups, too.
Stay in a Hotel that serves
breakfast and leave early.
Be sure to check out the section on travel freebies.
You can find some great free phone cards that are wonderful to use from
any phone, free driving directions, lots of good magazines, travel catalogs,
shopping catalogs, and books to read while on the road all for free.
Ideas for the Car
Games for Big Kids
Games and Ideas for Babies
For games for preschoolers and older children - Click
Don't forget to check out the Freebies!
is a former schoolteacher and mother of three who has logged thousands
of road trip miles both as a kid and a mom. Visit her website for
more than 101 travel games and activities for kids at MomsMinivan.com
article is copyright © Momsminivan.com and may not be republished
in whole or in part on other websites at any time, or print media
without permission. If you would like an article to use on your website,
please see the articles that are available for reprint here.
Seat Travel Games Tin
For kids of all ages. A travel
tins with various activities. Comes with magnetic pieces & activity
cards. Hours of Fun!
Available at Amazon
Seat Survival Kit
From Klutz. A full-color book
of car activities, plus a game pad, and a vinyl pouch full of everything
you need Hours of Fun!
Available at Amazon
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