So, before we went on our trip I gathered items together to keep our 3 1/2 and 2 year old children entertained during the 15 hour trip. I promised to let you know which of these car activities worked for us.
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Car Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Art Supplies: I brought coloring books, spiral notebooks, crayons, and stickers. Out of those, the one that kept them entertained the longest was sticking stickers into the spiral notebooks. I had a second bag of stickers stashed away for the return trip, so if they used them all up on the way down we still had some for the way home. I highly recommend doing that if your kids have complete control of the stickers.
Magnets and Cake Pans: I had tucked two small cake pans in the car for magnet work. The 3 1/2 year old loved this, and I heard her having conversations for the magnets as she played. The 2 year old didn’t care for the magnets at all.
The cake pans did hold some purpose for our 2 year old. He used them to push his cars in, and that way the cars didn’t fall on the floor while we drove. I had made a little felt car “road” to play with, but this just frustrated him. Again, something an older child might like, but the 2 year old just wanted to push cars around on the cake pan.
The cake pans also worked great for the felt dolls I made. My daughter’s face lit up when she saw them! I only gave her a few of the clothing pieces while we were in the car, but I heard her talking for the dolls and dressing and redressing them over and over. When she was finished, she just passed the cake pan up so I could put the pieces back in the bag. (I’m pretty sure she could have done that herself, actually.)
Water Wow Coloring Books: A BIG hit was the set of Water Wow coloring books we got at Big Lots. Both kids loved these. When they ran out of water in the little pens, I just set the books on the floor of the passenger seat so the air conditioner could dry them quickly. I’d fill the pens up at the next stop and we were set to color again. I definitely recommend these!
Books: Both of mine love books, especially my little guy – he can sit and look at books for 20 minutes at a stretch. So I brought lots of books, including their Leapfrog Tag Readers. With a set of headphones on Peanuts they could both “read” at the same time and not be distracted by each other’s book.
Short Videos: As I said in my earlier post, we don’t have a DVD player in the car. Both kids do have a Videonow player, though, which plays short 15-20 minute videos, perfect length for toddlers and preschoolers. Since they each have their own, they don’t have to try to see the same little screen and they got to pick out what they wanted. (If one wanted Dora and one wanted Clifford, no big deal!) They used these a few times during our trip. If you can’t afford a DVD player, or don’t want your kids just watching movie after movie, these are a great alternative.
What activities didn’t work? The bottles I filled with little trinkets and rice for them to look at and shake as a DIY seek and find. These were completely ignored every time I offered them.
Well, there you have it, what worked and didn’t work to entertain our 3 1/2 and 2 year old in the car. If you have a vacation coming up soon, I hope this list of car activities for 2 year-olds and travel activities for preschoolers helps make your trip run smoothly.
For more traveling with kid tips: