Traveling with Kids: Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy
Every year we do a “traveling with kids” post because we travel a lot and are always on the look out for fun, fresh ways of making traveling with kids easier on everyone. This summer when we travel, we’ll have a 2 year old, 4 year old, 6 year old and 7 year old. Thankfully travel is getting easier than it was, but my just-turned-2 year old still very much dislikes being in her car seat for more than 30 minutes. She just yells, “Stuck! Stuck!” and is so frustrated that she we won’t let her out. You think she’d get used to it by now. 🙂
When we take long trips, I like to break up the trip into 30-60 minute segments and have on hand a list of ideas of what would fit into each one of those. So, first 30 minutes, listening to the radio is totally fine because we JUST GOT IN THE CAR, YOU CAN’T BE BORED YET! A snack can be a 30 minute segment because seriously, eat slowly kids, enjoy the road, count some trees. I don’t feel like I need to have their trip planned, but I like to be ready with ideas for when we’re on the brink of emotional chaos (it just happens). Here are some of my segment ideas:
Joke books of any size, shape, or color are great for elementary kids. My kids love to ask us jokes and Jake really enjoys trying to guess the puns. From my perspective, he’s annoyingly good at it, but my kids think its awesome, especially when he can be stumped. Joke books are perfect for a segment of car-driving time.
Audiobooks. Grab some books on CD from your public library (or download them onto your ipod- this is seriously an option these days through many public libraries! no overdue fees!). Some good ones that we have really enjoyed include:
- A to Z Mysteries
- Calendar Mysteries
- James and the Giant Peach
- All the Fudge books (Fudge, Super Fudge, Fudge-o-Mania, Double Fudge, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great)
- Gregor the Overlander (for older audiences)
- The Tale of Desperaux
- Bippalo Seed by Dr. Suess
- Magic School Bus
- Nate the Great
- Mercy Watson
- Where the Wild Things Are
Flap books. My 2 year old LOVES to open flaps and this a serious time distractor for her. You better believe we will be armed with some of these this summer. My other kids really liked these at her age too, so we have a decent collection. Our favorites are the Little People ones because they have lots of flaps and the books are made really well. We also have a Dora one that we’ve renewed as much as we can from the library and must now give back. They also have ones for other popular characters- Elmo, Thomas, Curious George, Dr. Suess, etc.
Activity and Sticker Books
Invisible Ink Travel Pads: Anyone else remember these? They still make them, and if your kids haven’t seen them, they will be amazed by them. There are a gazillion different ones, so I’m sure you can easily find one to that will work well with your child’s interest.
Galt Toys makes activity pads for a wide range of kids: dot-to-dot books, magic painting (i.e. only water needed), velvet coloring (the girls love these best!), and travel sticker books. We’ve tried all of these books, and while we weren’t a big fan of the magic painting (very dull colors), the kids have used the rest of them and really like them. These are great for keeping kids busy both in the car and in the restaurants during vacation.
Bananagrams: The On-the-Go Edition is perfect for the ones who love words. While I think they really need to make a magnetic Bananagrams game to play in the car on a set of cookie sheet, this on-the-go book will have to suffice. This small book is filled with over 600 puzzles. Each page gives you a set of letter tiles and asks you do something (add a letter, take out a letter, etc.) to make a word. Asante and I LOVE bananagrams and you can only imagine that we’ll be trading this book between the front and back seat!
Peaceable Kingdom makes some reusable sticker cases that I’ve heard some great reviews of. This is a good idea for even the youngest in the car, and come in a variety of themes: airplanes, funny faces, U.S. states, and world map. If you’re traveling by airplane, I hear these vinyl stickers even stick to the airplane windows!
For the kids who can’t read/write in the car, or who easily get carsick, I have an idea. Usborne Books has a great line of “50 Things To Do…” cards that are great for family fun in the car, airplane, at grandmas, in a restaurant waiting, wherever. For example, 50 things to do on a car journey includes a card like this:
PocketDoodles makes a whole line of doodle books that are fun for kids to do alone or together. They have superhero books, general travel ones, monsters, cities, etc. etc. All three older kids have been really liking to draw lately, and also like to crack each other up by their drawings :).
Magnets. Magnet sets, magnet books, DIY magnets, whatever. Magnets are just really fun. Of course be careful when little ones are around so they don’t ingest them, but even my 2 year old likes them (while we supervise her closely because I don’t trust her with anything these days). If you’ve afraid they will drop the magnets, have them play with their book, game, etc, on a dollar store cookie sheet!
Travel Desk. We have two of these- the Alex one and the Star Kids one. The Alex one is nice for smaller laps, but I’d recommend the Star one for kids in the 5 point harness seats because this one clips around their seat and provides a nice “table” for coloring, playing with figurines, etc.
Bendaroos. These require so little packing room that I just don’t know why you wouldn’t bring them. They are really fun for both kid and adults!
SpotIt. Easy for anyone ages 3+ to play, and a good one for kids in the backseat to play with one another.
Slugs and Bugs: We love Randall Goodgame and friends with all of our hearts. We tend to not buy a whole lot of music, but we are first in line to buy each Slugs and Bugs album. It’s fun for the kids, it’s fun for the adults, and it infuses some great messages (and sometimes Scripture!) into the day.
Seeds: We stream these on Spotify and the kids have learned a lot of Scripture through these songs.
Jack Johnson: Sing a Long and Lullabies from the Curious George movie. Jack put out a children’s CD a while back, and our favorite song is the Three R’s, but they are just all good!
Barenaked Ladies (yes, you read that right, and yes, they made a kid album!) has a great one called Snacktime. I see a theme emerging– we enjoy mainstream artists who make kid music!
Magic School Bus: The complete set of Magic School Bus is an amazing resource to have around in general, but we like to bring them on road trips to watch in the car because they are interesting, super educational, and are well-liked by both my 4 year old and 7 year old and I CALL THAT A WIN!
Liberty Kids: We just picked up this one from an amazon deal last week. This series surrounds American History and is really well made and appropriate for early elementary kids. Why not learn a little American History while strapped in a car seat for 8 hours?
Scholastic Book Stories: Scholastic puts out several sets. We have this one (but definitely did not pay that amount of money for it- do not pay more than $15 for this!!), but there are other good ones too. I like these because they feel less movie-like and more book-like. The kids are exposed to good books while they think they are watching a movie.
What’s In the Bible?: You know how we feel about this set of DVDs. We finished them up a month or so ago, and the kids have been asking if we can go through them again. The setting of the DVD is in a car on the way to grandma’s house, so they thought it’d be fun to watch it when we’re in the car going to grandma’s house this summer. Indeed, it would.