Planning on hitting the road for a family trip this fall? Check out these road trip activities for toddlers. We’ve outlined some of our favorite activities to keep kids of different ages and abilities entertained during a long drive.
Whether you’re traveling with infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, these road trip essentials are sure to keep your little ones busy during the ride! Read all the way to the end for a few additional tips on what to pack during your trip.
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Best Road Trip Activities for 18-Month Olds
1. Favorite Stuffed Animal or Blanket
While it’s great to have different activities on hand to keep the kids busy, long trips are also likely to tire them out. Sometimes, the best road trip activity for toddlers is a good nap. Be sure to pack their favorite stuffed animal or blanket to make it even easier for them to drift off to sleep.
Besides, maintaining some of your home routine during the trip will help prevent tantrums after arrival. Do yourself a favor and encourage some downtime early on.
They say nothing gold can stay, and no nap can last forever. Have the tablet charged up and ready to go when the kids wake up. There’s a wide range of programs available for young kids on the market today. It’s a great way to help develop cognitive skills while rewarding your little ones with some screen time. Some of our favorite education and animated games for 18-month-olds include:
3. Audiobooks and Kids’ Podcasts
Take a break from the radio with a fun audiobook or podcast for kids. These programs may be targeted towards a younger audience, but they’re plenty able to entertain the entire family. They’re also a low-maintenance way to keep everyone content during a long drive. Some of our favorite productions for this age group include:
4. Books, Books, and More Books
Gather together some of the family’s favorite books from around the home to have on hand for the road trip. We recommend flap books or books with hidden pictures to provide a more tactile experience for kids who aren’t reading just yet.
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do before the trip, think about making a personalized library box for the road! All it takes is a small cardboard box and some decorations. Be sure to keep it accessible in the car so that the kids can reach for their favorite books from their car seat.
Best Road Trip Activities for 2-Year-Olds
1. Portable DVD Player
Portable DVD players have become essential road trip accessories, especially when traveling with toddlers. Though two-year-olds don’t quite assert the same level of autonomy and direction that preschoolers do, they can appreciate individual activities, especially when on the road.
These handy little pieces of equipment are a great way to keep them busy without interrupting the rest of the car. Of course, you can always put something on for the family to enjoy together. But be sure to pack a few pairs of headphones just to be safe. Oh, and the charger!
2. I Spy
This is a simple road trip activity and game that everyone on the trip can play, even whoever is behind the wheel! Of course, the novelty does wear off, so it may not last long, but I Spy is always fun when on the road.
It also helps teach toddlers the importance of waiting their turn, an essential skill to learn early on. After correctly guessing what you’ve spotted, they’ll feel happy, content, and connected to what you were thinking.
3. Travel Toys
Going to the store together before a road trip is a fun way to get everyone excited for the upcoming adventure. Look for some affordable travel toys to keep them entertained during the drive. Allowing the kids to pick out a few items for themselves is also a great way to encourage some independence.
4. Restaurant Race
Inject a little competition into your road trip adventure! Though, you should probably entertain this next suggestion after you’ve eaten. Otherwise, you might wind up with a cranky car.
Go around and ask everyone to name a restaurant. Call out when you see the restaurant, a sign for it, or even hear it advertised on the radio. Think up a fun little reward for whoever spots their restaurant first. Or, simply pull over and treat everyone to something yummy.
Tracing books are a great fine motor skill activity for this age group. They help keep the kids focused while having fun. Different varieties cater to kids with different abilities, from word searches, connecting the dots, mazes, and more. See if you can fit a tray table in with the rest of your luggage so that the kids have something sturdy to write on.
Even if your little ones don’t quite have the skills needed to complete these activities just yet, they’ll have fun scribbling around the page. Besides, it’s a great way to make them feel included when distributing the materials to their older brothers and sisters!
6. Sticker Books
Children love stickers! Parents…. not so much. At least not when they wind up on expensive furniture and other places they don’t belong. Look for reusable stickers and sticker activity books to prevent them from winding up where they don’t belong.
It’s a great way for toddlers to develop their fine motor skills and improve concentration. They can help complete a picture, create their own design, and more!
Best Car Activities for 3-Year-Olds
1. Alphabet Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are a great way to introduce some fun and encourage observation and development in young kids. We’ve modified the game slightly so that you can play it from the road.
Ask the kids to keep their eyes peeled for different objects that start with different letters of the alphabet. Start at the beginning and work your way down (or until you hit a roadblock). Remember, road trips introduce a lot of new scenery, so it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to find something for each letter.
You can also help your toddler practice their writing by asking them to jot down each letter of the alphabet and crossing them out as they call out corresponding objects. This introduces a more tactile element to the game and a sense of accomplishment as well.
2. Seek and Find Books
Seek and Find books are similar to I spy, but they include paper and pen as well. It’s a perfect alternative for when you want a little bit of quiet time in the car during traffic or when traveling down unknown roads.
These books can provide the quiet you need to focus and an opportunity for the young ones to quietly sit and relax. The books are fun and interactive, offering many different things to find in colorful and creative scenes.
3. The First One to Find
Also bearing some similarities to I Spy, this game helps increase observation skills while creating a healthy competition. The whole family can get involved as they competitively lookout to see who can find a red car first, for example. You can also keep an eye out for more obscure items to elongate the suspense over who can find it first.
Your toddler’s minds will be kept busy while looking out, hoping to be the first to spot the object in question. If they win, they’ll enjoy hearing they have the best searching skills in the group.
4. Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time is a great road trip activity to help spark your young one’s imagination. Set the stage by introducing your main character, where the story takes place, and when it begins. Then, go around the car and let each family member contribute a new detail to the story. Encourage the kids to dream up original and creative plotlines and see how the story evolves.
Take turns throughout the vehicle, giving everyone a chance to contribute. It’s a great souvenir to bring home from a family vacation. You can even record it on your phone and play it back to the group once you’re finished or later on in the trip!
5. Toy Catalogs
This one may seem simple, but boy, is it effective! Hand over a toy catalog and let the kids go wild. Give them a highlighter to circle their favorite items and dog-ear the pages for any upcoming holidays or events.
The best part about toy catalogs is that they are largely image-based, so the kids don’t need to be able to read to enjoy them. However, those who can read will probably enjoy reading the descriptions of some of their favorite toys.
Older kids can create a wishlist to organize the items they want most. Doing so will help them practice their reading, writing, and fine motor skills.
Oh, and did we mention that this one is entirely free?
Travel Activities for Preschoolers
1. Coloring Books and Art to Go
Kids love to color. Throw in a few themed coloring books, and you’ll really see them get enthusiastic about the activity. But coloring provides a lot more than a fun time. It’s also a great way to introduce creative thinking and help develop fine motor skills. Even better, it’s something that you can introduce on the go. Or even in the car.
Art-to-go packages and easels are easy to transport. You can bring them from the house to the car and even into restaurants or rest stops. Packaged sets are also a great way to keep everything organized.
2. Cereal Necklaces and Bracelets
Spending some time together doing arts and crafts is a great way to help your kids relax before a long trip. We suggest putting together some yarn, string, or cereal necklaces before hitting the road. This activity is easy to organize and doesn’t require many materials. It’s also a great way to practice fine motor skills with the kids.
The great thing about doing this with preschoolers is that they don’t require the same kind of supervision as toddlers or infants. You can leave them to focus on the activity while you start preparing for the trip.
3. Clipboard Activities
Set some time aside before the trip to create your own activity book with the kids. Use a clipboard or binder to assemble personalized activities based on their interests.
Create a section for their preferred activities like connect-the-dots or fill-in-the-blank. You can also include a few blank pages so that you can pepper in a few additional learning activities from the road.
4. Popsicle Sticks
Not only is a popsicle stick proof of a delicious snack, but It can also come in handy during a road trip adventure! These inexpensive items can be used during road trips with toddlers to help keep them entertained during the ride.
Grab a bag of popsicle sticks and attach velcro to one end. Hand them over to the kids and watch them create different shapes and designs. They can even use these road trip toys as a canvas for their next doodle or replicas of friends and family.
5. Water Paint Books
Stress less with this easy-to-clean road trip activity! Water paint books help kids create awesome designs in just minutes. All you need to do is dab a bit of water on the page and wait for the image to appear.
Helpful Tips for a Road Trip with Toddlers
1. Expect to Make Several Stops
Use these stops as an excuse to pepper in even more constructive activities for toddlers. Besides, moving around and stretching your legs will help prevent the kids from getting restless during the rest of the trip.
You can even use the break as a way to reward the winner of one of the games played during the ride. Maybe you want to treat the kids to something sweet or let them sing along to one of their favorite songs while everyone else is inside.
It’s also a great time to tidy up the back seat. Clean up any toys or materials that aren’t being used now so that you have less to do after arriving at your destination. Once you’re done, provide everyone with some fresh water and get back on the road!
2. Plastic Bags for Trash
A messy car can create unnecessary stress after you finally reach your destination. But having a few designated plastic bags for trash can quickly eliminate the potential for extra clean-up.
Have them readily available and within reach so there are no excuses for not keeping the area tidy, free of plastic wrappers and hardened food stains that may be difficult to deal with later.
Wipes of any sort are a necessity for road trips with young kids. Use them to clean up any kind of mess and prevent sticky hands from staining the interior.
Even if everyone is on their best behavior, there’s bound to be some sort of spill during long car rides. Something will likely wind up where it doesn’t belong between bumps in the road, unexpected turns, and clumsy little hands. With that, you’ll want to have something available for when you need a quick clean-up.
4. Zip Bags for Snacks
Snacks are a must for road trips. Zip bags are a great way to package food. They also come in various sizes, allowing you to portion out snacks for each passenger. Don’t forget – they’re easy enough for most ages to open and close on their own, cutting down the amount of work you have to do from the front seat. Once you’re done, you can reuse them to store craft materials and game pieces.
5. First Aid Kit and Emergency Items
Always plan for the unexpected. Having a first aid kit on hand and emergency sites available can be a lifesaver – literally. Whether you’re dealing with a small cut or something more serious, you’ll want to have supplies available to deal with it on the spot. That way, everyone can stay calm, safe, and secure without having to disrupt the drive.
6. Ensure Your Vehicle is Fully Serviced
When traveling with your loved ones, you want to ensure that you will all safely arrive at your destination. Taking the time to have your vehicle fully serviced can eliminate any fears about how your vehicle functions.
Ensure your windshield wipers are in good shape, that your fluids are topped up, and that your oil has been changed. Head out with a full tank of gas for some extra peace of mind.
7. Car Window Blind
The sun can be intense for little kids, even if the AC is running. Install some blinds for the car windows before you begin your trip to protect the kids from intense rays. It’s also a great way to help prevent tantrums and ensure naptime goes down without a hitch.
More From Great Wolf Lodge
Car trips are a great way to get in a bit of family time, even if it may seem a little daunting with toddlers in tow. These experiences provide an opportunity to reconnect with some old-fashioned fun. Our road trip activities for toddlers are also a great way to encourage new skills, creative thinking, and even some organizational abilities.
If you are looking to get away this year with the family but haven’t yet chosen your destination, think about taking a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. We offer different rides, slides, and attractions for every age, from toddlers to teens, and everything in between! With locations across the country, we are widely available for families in need or some time away.
If you don’t have plans to travel this year, you can still enjoy some family fun from Great Wolf Lodge. Check out our blog for more crafts, games, and activities that you can do at home with the whole family.