27 answers

Activities for a LOOOOONG Car Ride.....

hey ladies...

This summer my husband and I are driving to WI to visit family. We have an almost 2 year old and a 7 month old. Does anyone have any ideas for keeping them entertained (besides the dvd thing) along the way. Any ideas would be helpful. Thank you so much!!!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you so much for all the wonderful ideas! You are all such a great resource and I appreciate it so much. You have given me a plethora of ideas to use on the trip. I am sure it will be a success....hopefully the first of many successful roadtrips. Thank you, thank you, and again, thank you!!!!!!

More Answers


As a mother of three who just moved from MN, I can completely understand your situation. It is a long drive and you will most likely get tired no matter what you bring. But its okay, seeing family and taking a trip is worth it.

Since your kids are young, it will be hard to completely keep them entertained. Kids that age don't do a lot by themselves. But you know what your 2 year old is capable of doing. If he likes to draw, then a magnadoodle-type toy would be great, especially if the writing utensil is attached. (My kids always seemed to drop their crayons, chalk, etc.) For lots of ideas for travel games you can visit www.nickjr.com; they have a section on car travel activities and you can sort by age.

A big help for my family on our long trips was making sure to get the kids out at the travel plazas, unless they were sleeping of course. But otherwise, we always got them out of their car seats and had "wiggle" time. We would play games like "run from that tree to the building", Race Daddy to the door or Follow the Leader. It takes extra time, but helps a lot.

We also brought a shoe box full of activities that could be played without a parent watching. Like Little People, Duplo Legos, McD's Toddler Toys, etc. We made sure to only bring out one new thing at a time and space them out throughout the journey. The trip is 18 hours of driving, you add in stops and hotel time it can get to be 30 hrs before you're done.

If you have a large enough vehicle, you could schedule time for a parent to sit by the kids. With a parent right there, my kids didn't need toys because we would see things out the window and talk about the trip. With both you and your husband, you could take turns driving, take turns with the kids, and have parent talk time. (No doubt this trip could be quality time for you and your husband too.)

Since this is a family trip, I would suggest finding pictures of who you will be seeing on the trip and putting an album together. Any way that you can prepare your kids for the faces they will see, may help once you arrive.

Car friendly snacks are good. I set out what was okay while moving and what was "only when we stopped" food. I had a cooler with: apple slices in ziploc bags with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from going brown, baby carrots, juice/flavored water bags with straws, cans of soda pop for parents, sandwich supplies, etc. I also had dry foods like crackers, bananas, pretzels, and peanut butter with disposable spoons. You could also hard boil some eggs if your son likes those. There are plenty of options.

I made sure to bring the diaper bag plus a box in the car to refill the diaper bag as needed. Plus the pack and play for at the hotel, and an overnight bag just for the travel time so you don't have to unload all your vacation stuff just for one night.

You will want to plan ahead too about overnight options. When we made the journey the first time, our kids slept so much in the car we knew if we stopped at a hotel they wouldn't sleep much so we opted to drive as much as we could as far as we could. The second time we made the journey, we planned when to stop and made sure to keep the kids awake the last number of hours prior to our stop for the night.

This is becoming a novel. If you would appreciate more thoughts or if you have questions, please send me a message. I hope you have a great trip.

2 moms found this helpful

Hi H.... there is a great website called momsminivan.com
that has alot of car ride activities.

Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful

Hmm, I love the CD and Books on CD idea. If you feel comfortable that you wouldn't lose them you could even borrow them from the library. My kids love the John Lithgow books that come with CD's Marsupial Sue is one.
I love Elizabeth Mitchell Cd's for music, and Raffi is always good. I always bring some lullaby music too, just be careful it doesn't relax the driver too much.
When my kids were 2 they loved stickers. I could hand them a sheet and they would stick them all over themselves and the carseat. The quiet was worth me having to pick up all the stickers later.
Along those lines we have boughten books that come with magnets that you can add to the pages in the story. The ones with really chunky magnets are nice.
Here's another idea. you could give your son a cookie sheet and let him stick magnets on it. Maybe even put magnetic backing on photos of family members to stick on the cookie sheet. The cookie sheet can double as a lapdesk for coloring and if it has a rimmed edge like a jelly roll pan it will help him to catch his crayons.
I always went to the dollar store and bought little things, one or two for the drive to and a few more for the drive back home. I would wrap them in tissue paper and hand them out at certain times. I remember my little boy being quiet for a half hour when i gave him his first pez dispenser that was shaped like a Semi truck.
Blank note pads and markers some times keep them busy even if it's only one little mark per page.
If you are traveling at night but they aren't sleeping, little penlight flashlights might be fun.
could you arrange to Have Grandma or someone available that the kids could chat with on a cell phone if your plan allows?
I'm out of ideas, I view it as, I would do anything to keep sane on long trips like that, so be as prepared as you can and bend the rules alot. Snacks were always our last resort and i would pack a ton.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

We have a bunch of Cds with kids songs, the typical nursery rhyme type songs and others that you would hear in school. My kids love it, doesn't matter if we're going to the store or on a long trip they always ask to put it in and I find myself singing along. I get some now and start playing them in the car so that by the time you go on vaca you all (or at least your oldest) will be able to sing along. The particular one we have came in a pack of 4 cds and I've seen them at Walmart in the toy aisle, they are different colored fronts and are called Kids Songs. Also another thing my kids love are books on CD, my oldest can follow only with the book, but I don't even bother with the books. I pop in a CD and they listen to the store and love and they each take turns picking one. The ones we have are from the weekly reader packs that I actually got from a relative who ordered it from QVC. I would think you would be able to find them at any book store or maybe they sell them on the QVC website. Definitely pack some snacks maybe something special that they don't always get to keep them upbeat. Also for your oldest, the color wonder books are great, my kids go through them like crazy! If you haven't seen them, they are everywhere, but its a coloring book and you get the markers that are actually white, but they show up as different colors only that particular paper and will not write on anything else! They have packs you can get that come with the markers or you can buy separate, there is plain paper to just draw or character coloring books! Person who invented this was genius! The only other thing I can think of the my kids love all the time but is also great in the car are those magnadoodle things, the board with the magnet pen that writes on the board adn there are usually stampers that come with it. Again they sell those anywhere! My duaghters favorite car game is "I spy", I will say to her I spy a red car or whatever (letters, colors, shapes, trucks things along the road) and she has to look for it! And if we're taking certain exits or routes, I'll have her "help'me look for the sign with that number or name! She begs me to play that game all the time!

Good luck and have a great vacation! J.

P.S. if you get any other new toys other than the CDs I would suggest wrapping them or in a gift bag and don't show the kids until you're in the car so its extra special and new! Keep them oocupied for much longer!

1 mom found this helpful

Hello! My son just turned 4, and we have driven to Florida two times already.
My advice:
-- take lots of toys and books with you, and don't show all that you brought right away. Keep some for surprises.
-- bring interactive toys such as we had a Melissa and Doug puzzle with doors/locks, etc. to keep little hands busy. Also - sticker books!
-- be flexible with stopping and getting out for small bouts of exercise (running at a rest stop!) or for fresh air - you most likely will have to stop more than you want to.
-- consider some smaller tourist stops (we stopped to go on a train and stayed overnight there, etc.)
-- sing and be silly - look for cows and colors of cars...
-- hold off on the DVD as long as possible so you're not watching it for 10 hours!
-- have lots of patience.
We had fun both times - and enjoyed having such enclosed family time together. The last few hours of the drive are the hardest...but if you hold off on the DVD, sometimes that helps!
Good luck and have fun.

1 mom found this helpful


I don't think this would work for the 7 month old but my two year old loves Model Magic. I take it on long car rides or flights. It is not messy and they can shape it for long periods of time. I take it out of the original package and store it in a baggie and then they can take it out and play and then put it back in and save it for later to play again.

I love the suggestions other responders have given!
Your kids are so young, but it's nice to get them used to the extra bonding that goes on on long car rides. When my kids were that little, perhaps the longest ride we took was about 4 hrs, but we did it often. Since then we've taken longer rides, up to 8 hrs., still not as long as what you'll be doing. Two summers ago my son said he was so glad we hadn't flown because on a plane we can't all sing together and we don't get the time to talk the same way. That felt great!

My kids never complain about the rides we take...and all summer we are driving on the weekends to see family, 2 hrs here, 4 hrs there, etc...and then our vacation, which can be 6-8 hrs of driving each way. They look forward to the word games or singing games we do, listening to good music, etc. When my daughter was 3 or so she and my husband made up a lot of silly driving games, and she now is 12 and we still do them!! It's a hoot!

Have a safe trip!

For our vacation car trips, each of our kids (7, 5, 2) has their own Doodle Pro (I think another name for it is Magna Doodle). The magnetic pens are attached so they can't drop them and lose them, and my 2 yr old loves to scribble and finally learned how to use the "eraser". If this doesn't work out, there's always the dreaded nursery rhyme sing-a-long. Have fun!

Everyone has such good suggestions. One more is I Spy. My daughter and I still play that in the car. She loves to make me guess at what she sees! Of course, I don't say it right away I play dumb and she thinks she is so smart!! Now that she is 8 we have trivia cards in the car and she gets them out just going to the store. It's educational and fun.

Have fun

We drove cross country for four days with 3 kids! We had a laptop that played movies and that worked because it was a bigger screen so they could see better.
Also I bouhgt Aluminum foil nad we did modleing out of that. We made antenna and hats etc. It was so much fun and we got pictures to! We did jigsaw puzzles on cookie trays so they woudlnt fall. Window clings or colorforms. Coloring stuff again on a cookie tray to help hold it. We got a cheap 3 pack from walmart as it was also magnetic so they could stick magnetic things on.
I spy but adapted by saying I spy something green or yelow etc. Llots of snakcs and water. We also did a really cool thing to help them judge distance and when we'd get there. We had a prize for every leg of the journey. So when we were 1/4 way into our journey we annouced it and passed prize back to open. We did this at the 1/2 way point and 3/4 of the way there. I even wrapped them up in an old map which they loved looking at after.
Map out were your walmarts are before you go cos they have everything you need if you have to stop. We also looked to see if rest aeras had a play area for them to run around. On the last day we were two hours away from our destination and we let them run wild for about and hour so they wouldnt be wild at grandpa anad grandmas house! Hope theis helps.

For the 2 year old... Coloring book and crayons. Books to read to him. Kiddie music CDs to sing along to (get a couple if you don't have them now so that he can learn the songs and you can figure out which are her favorites). Look for some colorforms or magnetic play games/characters (I'm sure your remember colorforms). My sister-in-law found a fairytale book for my son with felt pieces that you could stick to the book to make believe you were playing with them. I've also seen books like this with magnets instead of felt at the bookstore. If he likes action figures like the Fisher Price Rescue Heroes or their Planet Heroes, take two of these along. That way he can make them interact if he wants to but you don't have a ton to carry. Some matchbox or small Tonka (Chuck and Friends) cars. If you aren't sure if he likes them, you might want to pick up one or two since they are fairly cheap. Then you could look for cars like the ones he has along the way.

The 7 month old is a little more difficult. Books you can read to him as well as board books or cloth books that he can play with. Some soft toys that he can play with in the car. Music that he likes to listen to or is soothing to him. (My nephew has always liked classical music and won't sleep at home without it.)

You might want to look for a soft kids book that you can put pictures in. If you are visiting friends or family put their pictures along with yours in the book. That way when they see them, they will recognize them from the picture and not need as much warming up as they otherwise might. We use this method to make sure our kids can recognize my husband's parents. They always recognize them and run to them when we see them even though they usually only get to see them once or twice a year. We've been doing this since my 8 year old was a baby.

Anyhow, I hope these suggestions help you out. Good luck with the drive. We drove from Pittsburgh, PA to Colorado Spring, CO with a 7 1/2 year old, a 6 1/2 year old and a just turned 2 year old 2 years ago. We did the DVD, the music, coloring book and crayons, books to read and a few toys. Also, we looked at the map and planned to stop over night twice (it was about a straight 25 hour drive). We planned our stops in places where we knew there were things to do with the kids like the Columbus Zoo or the Indianapolis Children's Museum. We would stop the night before at our destination with the kid activity. We would get a pretty good night's sleep and start the day with the kid activity. When we got back into the car, the kids were pretty much ready to rest and would nap in the car. We would also drive til about midnight or 1 am because the kids slept then and we could get further.

These are just a few of the tricks we've used. I hope they help you out in your journey. Good luck with the little guy. We did a 16 hour drive with my son when he was a baby and had to make a lot of extra stops for feeding (he was breastfed), changing and stretching.

Hello H.,
We have a 28 month old, and we take long trips monthly to visit family.. what we have done since our litttle girl was 3 weeks( via her first trip) is we put in a music cd of baby songs, and nursery rhymes.. she sits very quiet, and eventually sings. You and your husband will eventually get use to it, and even sing along as we do..lol.

have a safe trip, hope all goes well

Hi H.! Wow, that is what...a 15 or so hour drive? My best suggestion for you is to travel at night as much as possiable. We drove to CT when our oldest was 2 & 4, here's what we did: The night we planned on leaving at bed time we dressed the girls in t-shirts and comfy shorts and put them to bed as usual. I had to work that night until 11 so my hubby loaded up the van and as soon as I got home I changed my clothes, we put the girls into their car seats and off we went. They woke up for a few minutes but were fast asleep before we made it to the freeway! We only stopped for bathroom breaks and quick coffee's to go as long as they were sleeping. They actually slept most of the way! On the return trip we didn't leave until 9am and it was the worst! Sure, you can play plenty of car games...talk about lots of stuff, read books, sing, even color if you have a lap desk...and now there are the portable DVD players (they weren't an option when my kids were little LOL). You can also now do books on tape or CD...the Harry Potter books are great that way! But if you have kids that will sleep in the car my best advise is drive at night. The traffic is lighter, the kids sleep and the worst thing is that you are tired the next day....which is sooo much easier to deal with than tired, cranky, "I want out" kids! Even now that my girls are older if we have to drive more than 3 hours we start out in the middle of the night...it's sooo worth the effort!

We moved all the way across the country last Nov. when my daughter was 16 mos. She loved (and still does) the Touch and Feel Picture Cards that come in a box. They can be found at Barnes & Noble. She will take them out, look at them, talk about them, drop them, put them back in... Another good one is Little People. They love making them talk to each other... Her toy cell phone was handy every day of our trip... We have always used Snack Traps with various finger foods. Toddlers get cranky when hungry. This keeps their hands busy and their tummies comfy... Of course the best toys are Mom and Dad! Sing songs and do fingerplays. There is so much quiet time for them to focus and learn.

I know you'll only be able to tolerate it for a short while but the kids music sing-a-long cds are good. Also playing a sort of I-Spy. See who can find a red car first. of course letting your child win. See if he can find a cow or a big truck. the only problem I used to have with my daughter and doing that is she'd get looking around too quick and get nauseau. good luck.

A couple of years ago we took our then 2 year old on a 6 hour car ride. His first. We took his (I think it is called) see and speak? Play school makes it. It talks to you, sings, and you touch the screen to play the games. It kept him entertained. It even worked in the hotel room. It comes with one cartridge, but you can buy lots of different ones. He did great in the car, he also slept a lot which helped. I think that is the name of it. We bought it at Wal-mart, around $35. I was worth it and the separate cartridges were around $10 each. Good Luck.

We'd play games like..."First person to see a Cow" or the letter C, maybe go through the alphabet, or numbers... or a red car...or "What would it be like to live there?"

"Tell me a story about the people in that car..."

We'd ask each other fun questions, maybe a bit older, but seem to remember doing this with toddlers..."If you could make a planet, what would it be like?" or "If you had a monster for a friend, what would s/he look like?"

John Lithgow has a GREAT cd for kids..Singing in the Bathtub...and Priscilla Herdman is also great...she has Daysongs and then Nightsongs and Lullabyes..gorgeous

Happy Trip!!

P.S. After reading some responses, which are great, btw, makes me want to go to WI...want to add that I am a musician
(Voice teacher/singer) and I think MOST music for "kids" out there should be taken into the street and shot.

We have done 4 long car trips (8 hours +) with our 21 month old and we find that obviously the DVD player works great, but that having new toys in the car also is a Godsend. We'll find cheap toys at either the Disney Outlet or Dollar Store and give them to him slowly throughout the trip. We also try to take some of his favorite toys away from his play area about a week before the trip. When he sees them again a week later, he is thrilled! I also try and have some sort of special snack and drink for the car, and finally, we try to plan our travel during a time when I know that he will nap for at least 2 hours. It's not easy to travel long distances in the car when they are this young, but with a little bit of ingenuity, it can be done! Good luck!!! :)

I am the mother of 3 grown children, who have been taking long road trips since infancy. A few of our favorite activities from pre-DVD days include the following: before the trip, buy little gifts and games for the ride, that you can pull out about once an hour. Wrap them in gift wrap or special bags and hide them under your seat. After the first one is given, you can negotiate the rest for good behavior, if necessary. It's a party every hour of the trip! Music is important, and have fun making up songs during the ride, too. Whenever you stop, find an area for your toddler to run, jump, and play for about 15 minutes. It lengthens the trip a bit, but will make the ride much more enjoyable. Bon voyage!!


Hi, there. Our family tends to go on long trips all the time. Off the top of my head I remember a few things we've found to be helpful:
1. reading picture books to the kids ( if you animate the story with your voice, it really keeps their attention);
2. borrowing books on cassette or cd that go with picture books and have page turning sounds (you don't have to crane your neck to look at the book the whole time while holding the book up for them to see);
3. crayons and coloring books;
4. legos and a few lego people to go with it
(or another small play set)in a small tub --they stick together;
5. puppets--at least one for you (two if the 2 year-old would not respond)-- that you can use to make-believe a story as entertainment for them.

One thing that helped us with long trips, was to schedule stopping points to get out, look around, and play.
You need to have an idea of:
* how long they can keep still in their seats
* how long you can entertain them after they get
* how many stops you can make that are only 15
to 30 min
* and, when must you absolutely stop for meals and /or play-time.

If you can stretch these out, it seems to help them and your sanity; and you won't use up every option in you "survival kit" at the beginning of your trip.

Hi H.! We did the same trip last summer with my then 3 and 1 year olds. We did some driving at night where we had them in their pjs just like they were going to be sleeping in their bed. We have some kids CDs that they like such as Backyardigans, Wonder Pets etc and they love to sing a long. We also played some games--what letter does tree start with, etc. I am not sure if your 2 year old is old enough for that or not. We also talked about colors. Munchies were important to have for my girls--something that you can pass back when they get hungry, but you are on the highway and there isn't an exit for a while. When we stopped at rest stops, we tried to make sure that the kids had time to run around (literally). It does mean that the stops take longer, but we felt that they needed extra time after being hooked so tight in their car seats. I am not sure how your oldest is, but he might like to talk to the baby and tell him what he sees outside his window. My girls talked a lot and pointed out the different views outside their windows. We only use a DVD for long trips, so that means when we go to NY, VA or DC they just get music, so there is a lot of talking and singing. The other thing that we did (you might not have time for this), we broke up the trip by stopping in IN for a day so they could have a bit of a break. I hope that this helps. Have a great trip!

Hi H.,

Well you can find all the hand action songs and sing them... get stories on cassette (or cd) ... when they get a little older you can play the alphabet game.. that is where you look on things outside the car from store fronts to road signs to bill boards for the letters of the alphabet and you have to find them in order...

you can also keep track of how many liscense plates you find from each state... or count 'punch buggies' (VW BUG cars) or pick up trucks... what ever they like... even though the 7 month old is a little young for those... but singing will be good for both of them and any quiet portable toys they can play with in the car... make the 2 yr old a back pack of things he can do with coloring books and erasable markers etc just for on road trips so it's special...

I am really impressed that you don't want to do the video thing... kids today are subjected to way too much electronic stuff ...

Good Luck and God Bless always,

For your 2 year old....if you have a Marshalls or TJMaxx near you, they tend to have books that use a dry erase marker, fun activities for the little guy. As for the 17 month old....maybe a new toy that has lights to it? If they are anything like my daughter who is now 7 1/2, we moved from Oregon to PA and she slept most of the way! Good Luck!

play i spy.

I don't know if they're old enough for this idea-
you could make up "game boards" with pictures of things you'll see along the way (cows, big trucks, bridges, ect) and play bingo. maybe give them a small prize.

We drive to Boston a few times per year (5-6 hours..not as long as your car ride). I always bring a lot for him to do in the car, but I am always surprised at how content our otherwise incredibly active 2 year old son is to simply watch out the window and take in the sights. He is always better behaved than we expect!

Of course, bring lots to do, but hopefully your trip will be even easier than expected!

Ok.. a couple more ideas: Bring Post-it notes! Your 2 yr old will enjoy drawing on them and posting them on the window next to him!

Foam stickers...Buy the ones in different shapes. If he doesn't know his shapes yet, he'll learn them on your trip...stars, circles, triangles... and they come off things pretty easy..they are not too sticky.

Small travel Magna Doodle and/or small travel Aquadoodle.

For your 7 month old, just put a bunch of his baby toys, rattles, etc away the week before you leave and bring them in a big bag in the car. They will be like new toys to him.

My 2.5 year old enjoys singing. So we sing lots of BINGO, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, etc....

If your son knows his colors ask him to point out cars or objects of various colors.

Only other thing I can suggest is to travel near nap-time. And, plan to make pit stops to let the older one run around and the baby stretch a bit.

Good luck.

We took my 3 year old to Mrytle Beach last year and that is a 12 hour drive. The best thing we did was leave at 10/11pm and she slept all the way there, on the way home we had to leave during the day, take easy to use coloring pages and also stop every so often to get them out of the car seat.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.