Long car rides with kids can be a fun, memorable experience, or it can be pretty miserable. No matter how much your kids love to ride, it’s a good idea to have some boredom-busters ready to go. When they’re busy, you can stay focused on driving and just enjoy your long road trip or a quick errand.
However, keeping your kids busy in the car safely isn’t as simple as it may seem. Many toys and entertainment systems can become projectile risks in a crash. This includes tablets, hard plastic toys, metal die-cast cars, and more. So, to keep your kids safe in their seats, ensure your child’s car entertainment is safe and screen-free! Below, we have dozens of fun and safe car activities for kids of all ages:
40+ Car Activities For Kids
Car Activities for Babies
Board books can be projectile risks, but soft, crinkle, or touch-and-feel books are perfect for car rides! They’re easy for your infant to hold and manipulate, and they don’t flop on the floor easily. So, consider grabbing some touch-and-feel books special for the car.
Winkel balls are one of the most popular baby toys out there. It’s high contrast, makes noise, doubles as a teether, and is easy to grip onto even with really young babies. And to prevent dropping, you can attach it to your baby’s outfit with a pacifier clip!
Speaking of teethers, your infant can find teethers both entertaining and soothing. We love these easy-to-hold teethers because they’re much less likely to end up on the floor. This Haaka palm teether is also a great choice!
These spinners are another popular car seat toy option! Baby can twirl and manipulate the spinner, and when they get older, they can stick them on the windows to keep on spinning.
These rattle socks can go on your baby’s wrists or ankles for endless kicking and punching fun. You’ll love these because they can’t don’t fall off or fall on the floor. Your child can play and play, and the socks will stay within reach since they’re safely attached to your baby.
A nap could be the best thing for a car ride with an infant. If they don’t like sitting in the car seat, try to aim for trips around nap time. But before you do, read this post about babies sleeping in car seats. It’s a must-read for safe travels!
Car Activities for Toddlers
Soft-Sided Busy Boards
Busy boards made from soft-sided material will definitely keep your toddler busy. They can play with velcro, zippers, pockets, buttons, and more, all while staying entertained and learning valuable fine motor skills. This fire truck one works great for younger kiddos, but this multi-page one will keep older toddlers and children focused even longer!
These might be a little annoying for front-seat passengers, but they’re fun for your toddler! These dog pop tubes aren’t projectile risks in any way, and they offer hours of fidgeting fun.
These books are awesome! They’re inexpensive, safe for the car, and indestructible. That’s right, your destructive toddler won’t be able to rip these books apart. So they can flip the pages for hours.
Here’s another fidget toy! Toddlers are entertained by these, but so are older kids and even adults. Keeping a few of them in your car will ensure you always have something to entertain bored car riders, whether they be your children, your spouse, or yourself!
Does your child like to sing along to Disney songs or Ms. Rachel’s nursery rhymes? It might be a good idea to create a playlist of your child’s favorite songs to jam out on the way. They’ll love singing along with you!
Small die-cast cars made of metal are a no-go. They’re a projectile risk, and they can cause serious injury if they hit someone! However, these soft-sided cars are completely safe, easy to hold, and appropriate for multiple age groups.
A felt board is an open-ended toy that’ll encourage your child to be creative. We love this bifold design because it’s easy for children to manipulate, and clean-up is as easy as closing a book.
Spot the Color Game
A toddler is too young for most road trip games. However, they can play a version of “The Alphabet Game!” Instead of looking for the next letter in the alphabet, you can call out a color, and they can search away until they spot it. Then, your toddler shouts out the color and moves to the next color. This is a fun game the whole family can participate in, too.
Car Activities for Preschoolers
Depending on the vehicle, your child may or may not be able to reach the window next to their seat. If they can, window clings are a fun way to pass the time.
Reusable Sticker Pads
Reusable sticker pads can consume hours and hours of a trip. With lots of pages and infinite sticking possibilities, reusable sticker pads may be your road trip best friend. Trusted brands like Highlights and Melissa and Doug both have sticker pads we love!
Even washable markers can feel like too much of a hassle in the car. Instead, try Water Wow books! You simply fill up the pen with water, and the ink magically appears on the paper for your child. It’s 100% mess-free. But if you’re thinking about adding a travel tray for easier coloring, don’t! Trays are not approved by car seat manufacturers to be attached to the seat or child in any way. A pillow on your child’s lap can work just as well for a little extra hand support.
Color Wonder sets are also mess-free coloring alternatives that use special markers to create works of art on the given coloring pages. They even have a “magic” light brush painting kit that is a big hit with road-tripping kids!
Lacing boards require fine motor skills, focus, and a lot of time. It makes them perfect for preschoolers on long car rides.
Downloading some kid-friendly audiobooks can be another effective way to engage your child while driving. You can listen to stories together and discuss what’s happening. It’ll be like a family book club.
These may be a little messy, but your preschool-aged children can likely handle dry-erase markers! These placemats are perfect for the car because they’re sturdier than standard paper. Plus, the included markers have erasers on the cap, which is really helpful!
All kids love Post-Its. Give your preschooler a stack and let them go crazy.
Quiet books often have a series of learning activities for preschool-aged children. The word “quiet” comes from the fact that they’re not made out of hard materials and include no sound effects. They’re made mostly of felt, so they won’t be a dangerous projectile in a crash.
This one is a great idea for long drives. You take a few brown paper sacks and fill each one with a different activity or a few toys your child hasn’t played with in a while. On certain milestones of the trip, you pass a new bag back to your preschooler. It’ll feel like Christmas to them to rip open a new bag of surprises every couple of hours!
Preschoolers are a sponge for new information. They’re learning letters, colors, numbers, shapes, and more. Consider getting them flashcards to flip through. Also, if there’s an adult in the passenger seat, they may be able to participate in the learning process, too, quizzing your child throughout the trip.
Car Activities for Older Kids
Crafts always keep kids busy, but it’s difficult to find ones that work in the car. Scratch-art only requires a couple of tools, and it’s open-ended, which makes it ideal for a moving vehicle.
Gone are the days of iPods and MP3 players. Now everything is on our phones and tablets. As we discussed, though, big tablets aren’t safe for the car, and most of us are looking for screen-free road trip activities, anyway.
The Yoto Mini is the perfect solution! It’s a kid-friendly audio player with no screen and hours of activities. Kids can listen to books, music, trivia, and more. So, these will definitely help your older kids pass the time!
Tic Tac Toe, Dots and Boxes, and Other Pen and Paper Games
Classic pen and paper games are still great road trip activities! The whole family can play, laugh, and compete together in a variety of games like Tic Tac Toe, Dots and Boxes, Hangman/Snowman, MASH, and more. However, if you don’t want to bring along actual paper and pencils, try out these LED drawing tablets!
20 Questions is a simple game where one player thinks of a person, place, or thing, and everyone else in the car asks yes or no questions in an attempt to uncover the secret word. The other players have to guess before 20 questions are asked, or they lose! This is a classic family road trip game that you can do with elementary-aged kids and adults alike.
This road trip activity for kids uses the letters of the alphabet to create a scavenger hunt. You start with the letter A, and everyone works together to find something outside of the car that starts with A. Once an item is located, the players move on to the letter B. This continues until the alphabet is complete!
License Plate Game
For the “License Plate Game,” players are competing to see who can spot all 50 states on license plates first. Every time a new plate is spotted, the player gets a point. No states can be counted twice, and no two players can claim the same license plate. This one is perfect for long car rides!
Road Trip Scavenger Hunt
For a road trip scavenger hunt, you can use these premade Scavenger Hunt Cards or make your own list! If you curate the scavenger hunt list yourself, try making it specific to your trip. Include things that you’ll see while driving when you stop at destinations and when you pull off into a rest stop. This will keep your children occupied for the whole drive if done right!
These classic travel bingo cards are so much fun. They can stay in your car all the time, and your older kids can pull them out whenever they’re bored, whether it’s a quick trip to the store or a long road trip.
Origami is another easy craft to do in the car. It doesn’t require anything but a few sheets of paper, so it’s mess- and hassle-free.
Puzzles aren’t always a car favorite because the pieces can easily get lost. And, with puzzles, one lost piece sort of ruins the entire experience. However, this animal-shaped puzzle has a tin to hold the pieces and actually includes dozens of different puzzle combinations. If that’s a little too juvenile for your older child, these jigsaw puzzles are magnetic, which makes them much easier to assemble in a moving car!
Wikki Stix is an adhesive stick that can bend and stick to make all sorts of projects. This set includes an activity book that can be used and reused over and over again. It’s a smart choice for long rides!
Journalling, Drawing, and Coloring
Simply having your child color, draw, or journal can be a fun road trip activity. You can store the crayons or colored pencils in a zipper pouch or a soft-sided lunch box for easy access. Then, they just need a notebook, sketchpad, or coloring book for endless entertainment. So, if journaling is something your child is interested in, definitely check out these kid-friendly travel journals that allow your child to document every road trip and outing!
If you can take the giggles, Mad Libs are a fun game for the whole family. One player keeps the book, and the rest fill in the unknown blanks. This is also great grammar practice if your children are learning the parts of speech! (Between grades 3-6, usually.)
Give kids pipe cleaners, and they’ll stay focused on projects for hours. They can twist and bend to their heart’s desire, then redo it all the next road trip. It’s a super cheap activity that provides a lot of entertainment!
Crayola Window Markers wipe off easily and can turn your back seats into an art studio and your windows into canvases. You can even make cleaning off the markers afterward an activity for your young riders too.
Make road trips easier with these entertaining car activities!
Going on long drives with your family can be a memorable experience or a dramatic experience. Bringing plenty of road trip activities can help keep everyone relaxed (and keep the driver distraction-free) while you head to your destination. Road trip snacks may be in order as well, but read our post on eating in the car before you make the call. For more road trip tips and vehicle safety information, check out the Safe in the Seat blog.
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