Monday, February 8, 2016

Road Trips with Kids -12 Easy Car Activities & Tips

We aren't exactly what you would call fulltime "Worldschoolers" or "Road Schoolers" but we do try to take advantage of the flexibility homeschooling gives us to take a family road trip as often as we can. Over the past couple of years we have taken multiple family road trips where we drive between 6-10 hours in the car.  We have a DVD player in the car when all else fails but it's fun to have other things on hand that keep the kids busy and happy.  My kids are between the ages of 5-8 and my 2 year old old does his own variation on some of these activities.  There are plenty of ideas for car rides on Pinterest, however these road trip tips all require minimal preparation.  One thing I've learned from preparing things like sensory bins, basket, and other car trip can sometimes take way more time and effort to prepare than it's worth. Why run around collecting materials, assembling, printing, cutting, etc when it will only occupy the kids for a minute or two? So here are the easy car activities we resort to when we are planning a road trip.

When going on a road trip with kids, one of our kids' favorite activities that kept them busy on and off for great lengths of time was looming on their hands with craft loops.  Before a family road trip there is enough work to be done to prepare than hunt down craft loops and other little activies.  So, if you want to make life easy for yourself, take advantage of Amazon Prime, mom's best friend! Order just a few days before a family road trip and enjoy that 2 day shipping and save yourself the extra running around and preperation!  For me that gives me time to focus on all the gluten free baking I do to prepare for a road trip!

Family road trips are so fun when you can hold off on the DVD player or iphone and watch your kids get creative in entertaining themselves! After looming bracelets and scarfs, they starting looming with their toes and making "flip flops" and other various creations.  It doesn't look like much but it kept them happily entertained and it is such an easy thing to bring along!  I have all our craft loops in a gallon zip lock bag and I just throw it in the car!


Another great activity that will kill lots of time on a road trip with kids are these ocean animal rainbow scratch things.  I got them on amazon and they came in a pretty big pack so I'm just keeping them in the glove box for future road trips.  This was really an awesome one to be able to pull out.  It takes a long time if they want to scratch off the whole surface, or if they want to get into a meticulous design, either's great for all ages and they can't seem to resist the rainbow goodness that starts to show through and it keeps them occupied!  Which makes it a fun road trip activity.  They come with blue cord to hang them up and the kids loved being able to hang their finished rainbow ocean animals on the hanger hooks next their seats.  If you don't trust your kids with the pointed untensil that comes with these, they could use their fingernail, a penny and such.

You can find these on amazon here

Another great activity for road trips with kids is art journaling. Bring colored pencils, colored tape, stickers etc and let them just draw, doodle or do art with different patterned strips of tape and make a mixed media piece.  Even the baby liked this activity, he figured out how to plant his paper on the bottom of his car seat and hold it down with his feet while coloring with a colored pencil...he was like a little monkey!  Bringing an art/nature journal is not just great for the car, but can easily be pulled out to document or illustrate the various places and things they see on the road trip.  I recommend a smaller art pad for traveling as it's more portable such as this 5.5 x 8 inch pad. And the crayola twistables are the best!  You don't have to worry about marker or crayon on the car upholstery or worrying about the pencil breaking and needing to be sharpened! (or the kids coloring each other's face's in a ridiculous manner that may not easily come off once you have to get out of the car! it's happened)

Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils Kit 65pc Set
Crayola Twistables Kit keeps 'em nice, tidy and portable!

Let them get creative in the car with colorful washi tape!

For those 6 and up, they may enjoy these Drawing on the Go! books to go with their art journaling on the family road trip! They are super inexpensive and my kids love them!

 My kids also enjoy having these little doddle books that are easily stashed in the glove box.

 My daughter made up this game on a family road trip.  She looked at cars licences plates and if they were from the same state as us she would wave and give them a thumbs up.  That entertained the kids for almost and hour.  The baby was cranky and fighting the nap but he started giggling and waving at cars too and then everyone was happy!  It was also during rush hour traffic so my daughter liked the idea that she was spreading good cheer to all these bored people as everyone that noticed her would smile and wave back.

My kids don't like watching the DVD player that much on family road trips, I wish they did sometimes!!! But they don't so I have to find other things to keep them occupied and then have the DVD player ready with a really good movie just in case things start to fall apart!  Some books on tape we have enjoyed are audio disks.  This is a great way to get some educational value and enrichment out of the long boring stretches of a road trip with kids.  Whether you homeschool or not, these disks are great to listen to for the whole family!
Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
Product Details

And better yet, keep the car clutter down! If you have a smart phone you can download the Audible App through amazon and then listen to audiobooks through your phone. If your car allows you to adapt your phone into the sound system such as this or a built in USB port...even better!
I don't have an Audible membership but if you search for books you can usually find some free or very low cost to download. Some larger volumes will cost a bit more but you can determine if it is worth the cost buy the audio download or sign up with audible to get it.  Since we don't download TOO many audiobooks, I prefer to order them a la carte, without the membership!

Seems obvious, but...I was getting cranky on one particular road trip with the kids and couldn't stop wishing they would just be quiet! However, something came up that I could have brushed off, turned the music up and tuned them out...instead, I turned the music OFF and we talked about random things. Several great teaching moments came up and I just listened to and went along with the kids random and odd/creative questions while trying to be more creative and playful in my answers since normally those Q and A sessions can get tiresome and I often get impatient when I'm already tired and the questions can feel exhausting...But, I just need to go with it and enjoy them, even if I secretly want a moment of silence.  If all we hope for is silence when they are young, that may be all we get when they are big, so take the opportunity to just gab and listen about whatever is on their mind, with no parental agenda in our mind.  Let them get bored and see what thoughts start to come out of them.  

When I took the kids on a long road trip by ALL BY MYSELF when they were both younger, I took their various toys and tied strings to them and then tied the other end of the string to different parts of their car seats or around their car seats.  That way if they dropped their toy they could pull it back up.  Or drop a toy to play when tired of it to play with another, just pull the string up.  It worked out really well and I felt pretty clever!  It was one of those things I thought of last minute when packing the car the night before.  This setup really saved me because when go on family road trips, normally daddy is driving and I can turn around and give them things and tying things to their seats and making them accessible helped them be independent so I wasn't reaching around searching while driving or listening to a child cry because he dropped his triceratops!

Need to kill more time on a plane or road trip with kids?  Hand your child a box of band aids to put on their "sick" dinosaur, doll, puppy, themselves  etc.  it will take them a while to open up and apply that whole box of band aids to something!  My kids love this! And I love that it occupies them a long time!

Ask your kids to look out their window and look for pictures in the clouds. This is a good one for when they are getting annoyed of each other and you want them not looking in each other's direction, but out their own windows!  I have to confess this one usually goes like this..."knock it off!  Stop talking to each other, everyone be quiet and look out your own window!!!!"  .....take a deep breath in... big breath out....woosa....then in a nicer voice "maybe you can see shapes in the clouds that look like animals!  I think I see a turtle over there." (Even if I don't actually see anything it will just get them looking for it). 

This is not really an activity, but it is essential.  I keep it close so when I start feeling stressed or tense I can quickly open the bottle and start huffing it...I mean...use aromatically.  I rub some on the air vents to diffuse into the car to help keep everyone feeling calm.  I don't go anywhere without Lavendar as it is also great for helping everyone relax and fall asleep in a hotel room, or help sooth a sunburn mixed with some Aloe.  Plant Therapy is a great brand that I have really come to enjoy as the quality is right up there with the more expensive name brands but it is less expensive because you are buying it straight from the company so there is less mark up.

Car Essential Oil Diffuser

If you go to a nicer rest stop that had lots of brochures for travel and local attractions, 
let your kids collect some to study in the car, use in their art journal or save as a souvenir of the road trip.

Like I said, eventually we get to the DVD player at some point.  I think my kids favorite DVD's that made for an awesome road trip were the Liberty Kids series! They were so into it and learned a American History at the same time!

or a triple feature such as this has been good as well!

And when all else fails, Curious George is so soothing and relaxing to put on for everyone!

There a million ways to entertain your kids in the car, I've seen plenty on Pinterest... But these are some of our favorites and they are just so simple and easy and don't require much prep, just throwing it in the car with minimal packing and clutter.  Yes it would be great to make a map scavenger hunt of the road trip, make a road trip lap book and every other cool pinterest idea. I love the idea of that kind of thing but I also love just grabbing simple supplies that don't require lots of prep work on my part....sometimes in the past I think I spent more time preparing some awesome educational activity for the kids than is worth the amount of time the kids spend engaged with than kill myself with some amazing idea that doesn't pay off ... I'm sticking with what's easy on me!  Lesson learned!  If it takes all night to prepare some Pinterest kit for my kids and they enjoy it for 15 minutes ... Then it is not worth losing sleep over. And at the end of the day, mamma needs her rest because if mamma ain't happy, than nobody is happy!

K.I.S.S - Keep It Simple Silly!

I put together a list on Amazon to make shopping for great car activities for you family road trips super easy!


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