Road trips are fun, especially when the kids are happily occupied. Electronics are a lifesaver but shouldn’t be relied on all of the time. It’s nice when kids choose something else to do, on their own, without constant nagging from the front seat. Here are some great ideas for long car rides with kids.
What do your children enjoy doing? What is something they might enjoy that could also enhance their learning? Think creatively! They can be having fun playing as well as learning. There are so many simple, inexpensive ways to keep kids occupied in the car. Best of all, they don’t take up a lot of space.
Ideas for long car rides with kids
Depending on the age of your child, these ideas are sure to entertain in the car. Remember, kids in the car are a “captive audience.” Everyone can benefit from this quality time. Here’s what to do with younger kids in the car and older kids on long car rides.
Fidget cube and fidget spinner
Have you heard of these? It’s incredible how a simple fidget cube and spinner can occupy kids. My children bring these with them in the car, no matter how short or long the car ride. They are small and inexpensive, and one of their go-to toys for long car rides.
Learn to tell time
Get younger kids learning to tell time by teaching them the time on the hour and half hour. (See the small plastic clock here.) It’s easy to move the hands to the exact minute you want, and it’s only 5″ so it’s easy to keep in the car. This clock can be great practice for older kids as well to reinforce concepts. Have your kids be the teacher and ask you questions as well. There are even telling-time flash cards.
Learn to tie shoes
Use a tennis shoe one of the kids is wearing and teach your kids how to tie their shoes. Another option is lacing up a cardboard or construction paper “shoe” for them to practice tying. My son’s kindergarten teacher gave them one for over the summer to practice tying laces. It’s great for something different to do in the car.
Find It Game
There are several varieties of this awesome game, all which will pass time in the car. Kids will have fun finding all the objects in the tube (the Find It pictured has 23 things to find). The penny is all versions is meant to be near impossible to find, providing hours of entertainment.
There are beach, dinosaur, sports, pirates, pets, Elf on the Shelf, wildlife, and more. There is even a Discover America version… perfect for road trips! The new version of this game includes cards to play the game (don’t bring in the car); the original version didn’t. On the original what you were trying to find was printed on the top of the toy and also was on a tear-off notepad.
Play Mad Libs
Kids won’t even realize they are learning all about nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs as well as encouraging reading and creativity. Use these to teach as well as reinforcing their knowledge. It’s great fun for kids to ask the adults the questions, write the answers, and get the laughs when they read them aloud. They get reading aloud practice, writing practice, they learn more about tenses and grammar, all while having fun. There’s even a Mad Libs on the Road book. We just bought Diary of a Wimpy Kid Mad Libs for our upcoming trip. There are lots of choices of Mad Libs.
Pokemon cards, football cards, and other trading cards
Plastic card collection boxes are great to keep cards safe. Kids can put their box on their lap and sort and play. Or if they have some cards, they can spend their car ride putting them into plastic sleeves and into binders. My kids bought some cards at a visitor’s center at the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps in Nebraska and enjoyed playing with them in the car for hours.
Summer Bridge workbooks
If you aren’t familiar with these summer workbooks, you are missing out (click here for examples). They are excellent books that are intended for summer breaks from school to prevent summer slide. There are two pages each day for your child to complete. It is very “do-able” for even the most resistant child.
<<Summer Bridge workbooks >>
If your child just finished second grade, buy the bridging grades 2 to 3. If you have a fourth grader going into fifth, buy the 4 to 5.
There are three sections, each with 20 days, for 60 days of learning and review. There’s reading comprehension, math, writing, grammar, social studies, science and some fitness all throughout the book. There’s a summer reading list included as well as pages and pages of sturdy flashcards at the back to cut out.
They are great books that keep kids engaged without overwhelming them. It is also helpful to know what your kids may need some review with. These are good books to bring on long road trips because kids can do a little each day without feeling overwhelmed. Offer positive comments when you check their work and spend some time and even giving more examples of concepts they may be struggling with.
It’s a timeless toy for a reason: It’s easy to tote and store, and it keeps kids occupied. Rubik’s Cube helps work different parts of your child’s brain as he or she tries to make a side all the same color. Older kids can try to make two sides or more the same color.
Travel bingo games are fun and easy to keep in the car. Even more fun is for kids to make up their own games, taking even more time in the car and encouraging them to use their imaginations.
Bracelet bands, beads for jewelry, knitting, craft kits
Remember how the Rainbow Loom was so popular? Bring it out for a road trip for some fun. Bendaroos are another fun creative outlet. Think of them like pipe cleaners but smaller and easier to make things with. Or bring pipe cleaners!
Anything that keeps their mind and hands working will pass time in the car. It’s also great to continue building fine motor skills.
Get a spiral bound, hard cover drawing pad, and your child will be set on the road. Another option is to keep a clipboard with some plain paper for writing or drawing. (Keep it in the car during the school year for homework in the car.) Colored pencils in a pouch and a regular pencil could be enough. Crayons or washable markers are a little more to deal with in the car but are also great.
Whether or not you are headed to Legoland, your kids will enjoy the Lego Club magazine. Even better, it’s free! There’s one for younger kids as well as for older Lego enthusiasts. Even if you don’t have a huge Lego fan, the magazines are entertaining.
Real books. Not a Kindle. Not an iReader or a tablet. It’s great when kids can bring longer books and read on their own. What a sense of accomplishment to finish a longer book (or two) on a road trip. Do some thrift store shopping before you leave town and buy some books. You can drop them off at another one, like Goodwill, along the way and pick up some more for the return trip.
Other fun ideas for the car for kids
- Yes & Know Invisible Ink games: Invisible Ink offer variety and fun.
- Math keyboards and math flash cards: The math keyboards are a great way for kids to learn the relationship between numbers with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
- Word searches: What are your kids interested in? Create your own word search online with something they love or something they need to learn like days of the week and months of the year.
Fun road trip games – out the window fun for everyone
Fun ideas for long car rides include games everyone can play, including the driver.
How Many Can You Name
Everyone takes a turn naming a fruit, color, restaurant, etc. Older kids can have fun writing down all the states, states and their capitals, all the baseball or football teams, vegetables, etc. they can think of.
Either taking turns or everyone on their own finds something that starts with A then a B then C, etc.
License plate game
Together as a family, try to see how many different state license plates you can find. Another fun game is to each try to find the alphabet on the plates, first finding A, then a B, etc. For another challenge, you can find the numbers. It gets tricky when you’re out of the single digits!
Fun ideas for long car rides with kids
Have your kids go tech-free in the car for a few hours each day. Your kids will interact more with tangible things to do and will benefit from conversations, reading, creativity, and play. They may well benefit from the downtime and learn to not always need to be stimulated and entertained with electronics.
These ideas for long road trips with kids are sure to make your vacation more interesting.
Tip: Keep a portable tote, preferably a standalone plastic tote with a lid, in the car to put stuff in for your kids. During the school year, a clipboard and small pencil box are staples so the kids can do homework on the go. Keep a pouch with colored pencils or crayons and some blank paper and kids can doodle and draw even for short trips.
There are so many fun ideas for road trips that will engage and some that will get everyone interacting. Isn’t that was road trips are for, to encourage more family time as you make memories exploring new places? It’s easy to make it fun with these ideas for long car rides.