Screen Free Car Activities

I love going on vacations, especially to warm, sunny places! But I often fear making the roadtrip with 3 kids. We don’t have iPads and we don’t let our kids use our iPhones, so I worry about the kids getting bored and having a meltdown from being stuck in their car seat for so long.

However, we have successfully made 2 family trips (6+ hours and 8+ hours roundtrip) with only 2 tiny meltdowns—I’d say that’s pretty good odds when traveling with a 5, 3, and 1 year old!

Here are some of my secrets to traveling with kids:

  1. Pack lots and lots of snacks for kids and adults! I like to pack healthy snacks like grapes, apples, carrots, granola bars, fruit leather, but I also throw in a few treats because it’s a fun and deserved since they are in their car seat for so long. I try to do sugar-free fun treats to help keep things calm :) I like to put everyone’s snacks in gallon-size ziploc bags so it makes them feel special that they can choose their own snacks.

  2. Pack a water bottle or sippy cup for each person so they can stay hydrated. I made the mistake of filling water bottles with sugar-free Gatorade as a fun surprise for the kids one time and paid for it later! The water bottles were empty within the first 30 minutes of our trip and we had to make bathroom stops every 30 minutes for the next 2 hours of the trip. Whoops!

  3. Pack grocery bags, paper towels, and an extra pair of clothes in the car for trash, messes, and in case of car sickness. I have 2 kids that get sick almost every trip…poor babies.

  4. If your kids have an animal or blanket that they sleep with let them have it close by on the roadtrip just in case they need a comfort item to help fall asleep.

  5. Let your child pick a favorite toy to take with them in the car.

  6. Let your child pick a few of their favorite books to take with them in the car.

  7. Pack activities for each kid. I try to pack activities that meet the interest of each kid. I tend to over pack on activities, but you never know what will entertain them the most, so I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I try to keep all car activities a secret for the kids until we get in the car because then everything is new and holds their attention a little longer. Here are some car activities that have been successful on our trips:

  1. I made a peekaboo board for my daughter from a piece of cardboard, baby wipe lids, pictures, and textured materials. This was a huge hit! She loved lifting the lids to see the pictures of family members and feel the textured items.

  2. I also made a game from an oatmeal container where I cut holes in the lid, and she was able to slide pencils into the holes. She was also able to take the lid off and do the game all over again by herself.

  3. I packed the Dimpl Baby Popper that fascinated all my kids.

  4. Stickers are always a big hit with my kids. I got these puffy sticker books (Puffy Sticker Career Set and Puffy Sticker Farm) for my younger kids and these awesome Paint by Sticker books for my older one. We enjoy these activities outside the car too!

  5. I also liked these lacing animals. The kids liked them, but they weren’t as big of a hit as I thought they would be. they only played with them once.

  6. Magna Doodles are a great car trip activity because they are mess free, the pen is attached to the board making it less likely for little fingers to drop it on the floor, and drawing and coloring is always a fun activity!

  7. I like to packet a cookie sheet from the dollar store for each child. These make great coloring surfaces or can be an activity to do with magnets. I attach magnets to the back of puzzle pieces for my older ones and bring along animal magnets for my younger one. I have also attached magnets to the bottom of laminated car mat printouts found on Pinterest for my kids to have a place to drive their cars.

  8. I also enjoy making a binder for each child that includes a map with directions from our home to our destination; a pencil pouch with crayons, pencil, and a couple cars; “school” activity pages so they can practice skills they are currently learning; coloring pages specific to the child’s interests; scrap paper; and a book full of stickers. This binder just makes it special for each individual child because they get to have their own crayons and their own coloring pages to enjoy.

  9. And last but not least, when everyone is getting tired and ready to be at the destination (which is usually the last hour of the drive home) I pull out the temporary tattoos and let the kids pick a couple to put on. It takes them a while to decide which ones they want, which uses up traveling time. Then I wet a paper towel and tell them to place it wherever they want, cover it with the wet paper towel, and count to 30 (at least they are working on counting skills haha). Then they spend the rest of the drive admiring their new art.

I don’t pack all of these things each time we travel, but I wanted to provide you with the things I have used for different trips that have been successful. If you have any other ideas to share please comment below. I’d love to hear them