20 Great Ideas to Keep Your Toddlers Busy on Road Trips and Flights
So many questions and you need tips and tricks for traveling with your children! What do I pack, what do they bring, what activities do I create, can I use an iPad the entire time, what engaging ideas are there, should I create busy bags, what will keep my kids truly engaged and not just busy on a long road car trip or airplane flight?
Does the prospect of traveling with your little ones deter you from taking trips, short or long? Yes, we have all been there. We have all had those doubts and sometimes we even gave in and didn’t travel. Personally, this is followed by quilt for me. I absolutely love to travel, so what I have done instead is plan and prepare. Once you do it once or twice, you will start figuring out tricks that work for you and your family. Goodbye travel apprehension!
Here are some great ways to keep your kiddos busy, entertained and happy = = = sanity for you!
- Books. Bring your child’s favorite books so they can look through them and “read.” Go to the library together and allow your kids to choose books they think they will enjoy. This promotes independence and love for reading! You can pick books about traveling, about the destination you’re going to, about the plants or animals you can find where you’re going, etc. There are so many possibilities and you can spark their interest with anything that they love!
- Audio Books. If your child loves a certain book or story, get it on audio book. Your child will love listening to the magical plot while they are zooming by other cars, or airplanes… You can also try new books that you think you child might enjoy. Better yet, bring along the hard copy book so your child can follow along! This is how I found what interests my kids and what doesn’t; trying new genres. There are also podcasts specifically organized and made for kids; many are age dependent so you can find something that is right for your family.
- Trip Treasure Hunt. This one is so so much fun especially for little ones that haven’t started reading yet. Cut and paste a page full of pictures of objects you will most likely find on your trip. For a road trip, these could be: tree, stop light, stop sign, red car, blue truck, barn, police car, rail road crossing, train, construction equipment, speed limit, bridge, exit signs, church, wind mill, warning cones, park, fire truck, etc. For a plane flight these could be: airplane, airport, flight attendant, security guard, police officer, seats, bathrooms, lights, seat belts, food cart, drink cart, small tv, pocket on the seat, clouds, sun, etc. Make sure to bring a crayon or marker for your child to use to cross out an item they find. They will love watching for these common objects and will be super excited to find them! You can offer a reward for finding all of them, such as a small baggie of gummies, a small toy, or something else of their choosing.
- Non-electronic Scribbling tablets. There are so many options available for kids these days. Pick anyone that suits you! These tablets are amazing because they are lightweight so your child can hold on to them easily. They are erasable so your artist can draw, write, scribble, and mess around all they want because with one touch of a button they can erase it all and start all over. Why not ask them to draw the car driving next to you, or the clouds out of the airplane window; possibilities are endless.
- Coloring Books and Painting Books. Coloring never ever goes out of style! I still do it with my kids and they love it. Bring along several coloring books that your kids enjoy along with a lunchbox full of crayons. There are also water “painting” books that your child can paint in by using a paintbrush and only water! No mess to worry about while creativity soars! If you think it will be helpful, and in many cases it is, invest in a lap desk that secures to the car seat so that your child can have a stiff and stable surface to work on. No dropped crayons to search after during the drive.
- Sight Words Practice. Why not practice letter identification, sounds, or sight words on the long trip? Every little bit helps and you just never know when something will stick with your child. There are so many ways to do this on a trip! Books, small magnetic blocks, or maybe a blanket? Check this one out! It is great for keeping warm but at the same time it can be used as a list for sight words. One side has starting sight words and the other has more advanced lists of words. Start identifying letters and words while you’re traveling! What’s even more convenient and fun? A cozy sight word blanket which can be purchased here, made by our small veteran owned company.
- Music. Play some fun or calming music that everyone will enjoy. You can sing or just listen and it will help time go by. What music does your child like listening to? What makes them want to dance and what makes them want to relax? Bring CD’s, play lists, find good kids pod casts, or radio stations. There is a ton out there! Check out some of these true and tried kid podcasts: Story pirates, but why: a podcast for curious kids, sesame street podcast, Disney story central, etc. Again, these offer material for different aged kids so research before you commit. OR better yet, teach your family/kids fun road songs. Some examples of good ones are 99 bottles of milk on the wall, the wheels on the bus, the ants go marching, this old man, down by the bay, etc.
- Movies. We all need a break sometime whether it’s been a busy day, an emotional event, a hard time dealing with something, etc. Our kids need the same so give them that break! Have something available with you, such as a downloaded movie or cartoon, so that it’s there when you need it. Everyone could us a break in doing something that doesn’t require much thinking or involvement; especially during long travel. It is exhausting. You can use an ipad or tablet and mount it to the back of your headrest so that your child doesn’t have to hold anything and possible drop it. Easy peasy!
- Old phones with push buttons or old calculators. Do your kids like to press buttons? Mine do! And they will try to manipulate whatever they have to pretend to be just like you! Give them an old phone or an old calculator, anything with buttons that they can press and push until their little hearts are full. Ask them what they’re doing too! I’m sure you will hear stories upon stories. Maybe they will tell you what they want to be when they grow up!
- Busy Box. Make a busy box out of a shoe box or a lunch box! Add in there all the things that will keep little hands busy: stickers, playdough, pipe cleaners, flash cards with letter, dinosaurs, shapes, etc, mirror, beaded bracelet, zipper, lacing cards, dollar store calculator, anything your child can manipulate. The lap desk might work well with this one again as it will contain the items without loss or tears.
- The Dollar Store. Take your kids to the Dollar Store before the trip and allow them to spend a few bucks on items they will enjoy using during the trip. The independence will be thrilling and the responsibility to pick something out and then wait until they can use it, a great lesson. Pride and ownership! Don’t give them everything at once, instead give them something once an hour or two depending on the length of your trip or vacation time.
- Educational Apps. Plan ahead and find a few apps that your child would like to explore. If you’re not a fan of game-based apps, find something that’s educational and help your child learn letters, words, numbers, counting, reading, shapes, geography, science, anything you can imagine, even a foreign language.
- Plan for a nap or quiet time. Make sure you allow your child to bring their favorite blanket, pillow, and stuffed animal. All these favorite things are tied to their calmness and rest so try to replicate the environment as much as possible, even in the car or on an airplane. Talk about it so that your child expects it and then stick to it no matter how exciting everything around them is. They might not fall asleep but at least you are able to keep to somewhat of a routine; quiet time is better than not.
- I Spy Games. If everyone is in the mood, play a round or two of I spy games. The great thing about these games is that everyone in the car can take part and it will provide for many laughs and giggles. There are endless options and some I Spy games to start with can be played by color or by shape, with certain letters or numbers, specific pictures such as shapes of states, etc. Kids LOVE making their parents and older siblings guess what they are thinking! It provides them with a sense of control and independence! So go ahead, start guessing!
- Basic Foreign Language Words. Is there a language that you would like to learn or relearn? Why not involve your kids and start teaching them as well? Kids are sponges for learning foreign languages. Make it fun and rewarding and see where it takes you. There are audio books, podcasts and apps to help you with this. Chose the one that seems most user-friendly to you and go after it!
- Counting Games. Count everything in sight! Well not exactly everything..:) Have your kids pick a category and start looking and counting. The first person that finds 10 blue cars gets to pick a cookie! Count state license plates, construction equipment, semi-trucks, red sports cars, or whatever else you can come up with!
- Quiet game or Don’t laugh game. Who can go the longest without making a noise? And then, who can go the longest without laughing while you tell a funny joke? Kids absolutely love these! It gets silly and it gets fun. Make sure to take part in it as well and let the kids run the show.
- Want to lighten to the mood in the car? Start telling some jokes! Google them or make them up. Make a contest out of them. You would not believe how much fun everyone will have doing this! Your kids will get plain out silly, because who is more funny than them? Right?
- Encourage your kids to start a travel journal. Tell them about recording their experiences and how much they will enjoy looking back at them or just showing them off. At this point, journaling may be in form of pictures but that is just great! It will inspire your kids to look at their experiences from different perspectives. They will also develop their verbal skills as they show off their pictures and tell everyone stories about their traveling adventures. Decorate the journal with your child with stickers, drawings, letters, or whatever else makes them smile!
- Fun blankets for the trip. Keep your child safe and warm in a car seat or on an airplane! Use one of these amazing car seat ponchos to help you along! They come in different colors in patterns so choose the one your child will enjoy the most. These can also be used on walks, to cover up while reading or watching tv, or to keep around just for trips.
We hope that these tips are helpful to you and your family on your next trip! Remember that planning is the key to a successful trip, with or without kids! One last thing, bring a lot of snacks and drinks! Food is a life saver especially when everyone is starting to gremlin out. Bring snacks that are filling and healthy but also some that are fun. Some great choices for snacks are fruit, cheese, pretzels, hummus, goldfish, meat sticks, or popcorn. Bring a few favorites so that everyone can enjoy what they like. Don’t forget an emergency treat too, perhaps some suckers. Yes, not the healthiest, but if you are on a long flight and have no option, it would work as a last resort! And everyone will be happy with their own water bottle for the trip and for refills when needed!
Here are some additional blogs we found which have fun and helpful ideas with useful tips for traveling with kids:
Great Packing Tips for Long Flight
Unique Kid Packing Ideas for Traveling
Best Child Snacks for Traveling
Top Busy Bag Ideas for Toddlers
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