As a mom, ‘vacation’ does not quite have the same definition as it did before having kids.
I do not get time off from my job. However, I can try to focus more on making sure I am doing all I can to make the trip as organized and enjoyable as possible for my family which makes it more fun for me as well.
Try out some of these ideas on your next road trip with kids to ease your concern about ‘what to do next’ with your children while traveling.
1.) Try lap desks
I know there are fancy lap desks that attach to car seats from kid product catalogs, but I picked up a couple of plastic lap desks from Michael’s (about $7 each).
2.) Alter puzzles to take them along
I did this for one puzzle and the pieces never fell out. It added a level of fine motor challenge as well since the pieces were ‘sticky’. This is also a great option for storing the puzzles at home. No more pieces falling out of all the puzzles when they are pulled off of the shelf!
3.) Make a dry erase scavenger hunt and coloring sheet
I simply copied and pasted some images found on-line into a Word document and typed labels under each image to add some print awareness/reading.
After sliding the printed ‘worksheet’ into a plastic sleeve, I had an instant dry erase scavenger hunt that my kids could use to mark what he saw as we were driving.
You can make a few of these and place them in a binder so that older children can be looking out for a larger array of items. I thought I would make a couple more to change out for each day of our 3 day drive.
Try to coordinate the images with the scenery of your drive so that they are applicable to each area of the country. (For example, I would not use a picture of mountains when I was driving through Nebraska.) The back side of the paper can be slipped into a plastic sleeve and used as a coloring sheet. The artwork can be erased and a new picture can be drawn over and over again!
4.) Speaking of dry erase markers-Draw on the windows!
5.) Make a large ‘I Spy’ bottle
We used a 2 liter bottle to create a jumbo-sized bottle for some ‘I Spy’ fun. I used simple things found around our home: a safety pin, crayon, pencil eraser, beads, small foam shape, coins, rocks, pom poms, pipe cleaner twisted into a small spiral, etc. You don’t need to go out and buy little do-dads. Check around the house: even a Lego brick, or a googly eye will work!
I had my son help me put the bottle together, and I took pictures of groups of the items that we put inside before they were added so I could create a worksheet as well.
(Copy and paste the pics of each group of items in the bottle into a Word document as shown for the scavenger hunt, and print it out.) I slipped it into a plastic sleeve and my son placed an ‘x’ over the items or group when he found them.
My toddler liked looking at the bottle as well. She poked at the side of the bottle in order to pop items that were stuck to the side (due to static) back into the rice.
6.) DVD Case Games
My daughter could spin the CD with her finger and point to the shapes while visually exploring them. My son could point to and say what numbers were listed, and we could talk about them. I could also ask him to find a certain number. There are a lot of options for this simple activity-good for taking into restaurants to kill time when you can sit right next to your child.
For older preschoolers, you can make a matching game version of this activity:
8.) Speaking of clouds
Take along paper and crayons, or just use the plain paper inside the page protector sleeve with dry erase markers, to draw the clouds. Encourage your child to observe the clouds (this may even spark a discussion of the water cycle) and draw the form on their paper.
(Check out the book It Looked Like Spilt Milk for a great accompanying story.)
9.) Bubble fun
Hold the bubble wand up to the air vents. The air will blow the bubbles into the back seat for your child/children to grab.
This was a great little diversion at one of our rest stops before I was ready to get the children strapped back in for the last leg of our ride home.
When my husband and I are together in the car, I can ‘blow’ the bubbles while he is driving to break up any frustrating moments of sitting too long.
10.) Kid songs
Take along your child’s favorite sing-along CDs or movie soundtracks.
Often, you don’t have to show the movie, just play the music as an alternative. I know this helps when negative moods are growing and it allows my children to feel important when they get their music played too.
When I was a child I always felt that it was a big deal to have my music choice played on a road trip!
Keep a group of favorite songs or finger plays written on index cards in the car for moments when your child(ren) want to sing or chant. Many times just simple moments of interaction break up the drive enough to allow for a calmer trip, or buy you a few more moments to get to that next rest stop!
I think the key to traveling with children is if they are content to just watch the trees go by, let them.
I hand these activities out when they are requested or before the mood turns grumpy. We don’t have to always entertain our children either. Just calming the mind and observing the clouds is healthy.
Children need time to relax-or time to learn to relax-as well as we do. We can think about how we can ease the tougher moments and longer stretches of travel for our children, and ultimately ourselves.
These activities worked well, got scattered all over the floor of the backseat at times, but were picked up easily when we stopped.
The “Ineeda” Box Car Emergency Kit at Rips in My Jeans
Road Trip Drawing Prompts Free Printables at Picklebums
Follow my Travel with Kids board for great easy tips for traveling with kids.
What road trip with kids have you taken? What tips can you share to make traveling with kids a little bit easier?
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