Summer vacation is upon us, and if you are like most families, you will probably be taking a trip at some point over the next few months. Are you looking for a few screen-free ways travel ideas to keep the kids entertained in the car?
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Art Supplies — When I’m packing for a car trip with kids, the first thing I make sure I bring to help keep the kids busy in the car is art supplies. I’m talking basic stuff here: spiral notebook (or a clipboard with computer paper), stickers, and crayons. When it comes to crayons in the car, I always pack these twist up crayons, that way if they get lost in the hot car, there is less chance of melting issues. As for stickers, I put some in a baggie and then tons of extras in another bag. This way I can restock the sticker supply as needed when we stop for bathroom breaks, etc. Another hint when it comes to stickers: if your little one has trouble peeling them off on his/her own, peel off the background sticky stuff, leaving just the stickers on the sheet.
Books — We always have books in the car, but when we are traveling I make sure to add a few of their favorites and their LeapFrog TAG books, too. I also add a couple hidden picture books. They have these in a wide variety of topics and for all ages. For younger kids, look for ones that show you a picture of what your are searching for on each page.
Magnets and Cookie Sheet — And, that brings me to the next thing I always take while traveling: cookie sheets and magnets! (Word of advice: make sure the magnets stick to the cookie sheet ahead of time. One year I grabbed a cookie sheet that wouldn’t work with magnets, and I had one unhappy child!) To decrease the chance of fighting over magnets, I divvy them out ahead of time in baggies. I have 2 complete sets of ABC and number magnets. I also have a new magnetic dress up doll I got for a dollar at the dollar store and some car magnets. Want to take it a step further? Make a few simple backgrounds on some paper for them to use. Better yet, bring some plain paper and they can make their own backgrounds while traveling!
Cookie trays also make great inexpensive drawing boards or play surfaces. They are perfect to drive small toys cars on while traveling. (Got to have a few small cars or my son won’t be a happy traveler!)
Water Books — Just about every kid loves to play with water. And most kids like painting, too. Why not combine the two in a fairly mess-free activity for car travel? I originally found a couple Water Wow books at Big Lots for a few dollars each. They were such a hit that I picked up a few more by Imagine Ink (I think they were $6 each) at the book store. Definitely worth it! I just fill the water pens up ahead of time and put them in a ziplock bag, ready to go. When the kids finish “painting” a book, I take and set them on the floorboards to dry, and they are ready to paint again in no time! Since it’s just water, the biggest mess you’ll have is the amount of water in the small water pens — if they just squeeze it everywhere instead of painting with it. (Aquadoodle is also a great way to paint with water in the car!)
Still don’t like the idea of water pens in the car? There are a variety of other books that allow you to color with special markers that don’t mark on anything except the pages in the book. (We love this Suprize Ink one.)
Odds and Ends — Then there are the “odds and ends” I’m bringing on vacation this year. I have Post-It Notes, ready to be drawn on and then displayed on windows, the ceiling, or the kids themselves. There are small cans of Play-Doh, which they can mold into a variety of shapes using those cookie sheets as a table. Pipe cleaners can also be fun for kids to bend and create their own people/animals. Finally, tangrams are always fun. The kids can use these on the cookie sheets to build a variety of houses, cars, animals…whatever they think of!
Snacks — Make sure to have plenty of dry snacks on hand: dry cereal, goldfish crackers, pretzel sticks, raisins. Snacks like this don’t make a huge mess and are easy to vacuum up later. And, as long as you are giving out snacks, why not make an activity of it? Stick a few pipe cleaners and dry cereal in a baggie and they can string their own snack bracelets!
Now you’ve got over 10 screen-free ways to entertain kids while traveling. Here’s How to Survive a Hotel Stay with Kids.