Let’s get ready for spring break! Whether you’re taking a big family vacation, a road trip to the nearest city, or just sending the kids to Grandma’s house, it is time to get organized. Spring break is supposed to be fun and relaxing, so don’t stress out and leave the planning to me. I’ve got a week of spring break vacation tips and ideas to share here on One Mama’s Daily Drama. Today’s topic is kids car activities for road trips. Sitting still and being [relatively] quiet can be a challenge for all ages. I’ve rounded up some of our favorite things to do and several free printables.
10 Kids car activities
1. Listen to audio books
My family absolutely loves listening to audio books together, especially when we are traveling. There are lots of great stories that appeal to kids and adults. Some of our favorites include Harry Potter, Bunnicula, The Ranger’s Apprentice, and A Tale Dark and Grimm (<- for older kids). We usually visit our local public library before a trip and pick up a few. You could also take turns reading a book aloud. And if you can’t all agree on a book, I recommend the Playaway. You can borrow them from the library and all you need are batteries and headphones.
2. Play the alphabet game
You know this game, though everyone plays by different rules. Find a sign that includes each letter of the alphabet in order. Find an object that starts with each letter of the alphabet in order. Take turns finding each letter. However you play, No Time for Flash Cards has a brilliant way to keep track of what letter you are on. She has a quick tutorial for making a letter wheel with a paper plate. Just fold down each letter as you spy it.
3. Play the license plate game
This game is also probably familiar and is more fun the farther you travel. Sort of an I-spy game, kids look for license plates from all 50 states. To help keep track, print off this license plate photo list from I Heart Organizing and give your child a set of stickers or something to mark each state as he sees it. Alternatively, give your child a blank map and have him color each state as he sees the plate.
4. Read a map
Lil’ Wheezy(7) finds our paper atlas fascinating. Maybe it has something to do with technology and the GPS in my phone, but it is something adults take for granted. Kids Activities Blog suggests giving your child a big paper map or atlas before the trip. Let the kids help plan the route, including stops for lunch or quirky roadside attractions. Trace the route with a marker. While you drive, let them follow along and read. Maps are full of interesting road and city names, symbols to learn, and natural features like rivers.
5. Road trip rewards
If your trip includes miles of near-identical empty fields, it can seem to stretch on endlessly for a kid (or sometimes adults too). Start by estimating how long the trip will take and telling your child when you should arrive (if she can tell time). Divide the trip into sections and plan a small surprise or reward at those intervals. You could make a chart with the times and let your child mark when it is time for each one. For my kids, simple treats like a piece of gum or a new printed coloring page are perfect. You can also pick up small goodies at the dollar store or that section at the front of Target.
6. Coloring pages and puzzles
My kids love to color, do word searches, and other games like Mad Libs. They also get easily bored doing the same thing for too long. Rather than purchasing a stack of new coloring books in a single theme, I have made my own travel book with online printables. One page might be a My Little Pony coloring sheet, while the next is a Harry Potter maze. I rounded up some of our favorite sources for free printable activity sheets. Just punch holes and add them to a slim 3-ring binder. Add a zip pocket for crayons and you’ve got an activity that doesn’t take up too much space.
7. Sewing cards
Sewing cards are a great activity for busy fingers. They require a little concentration, so your child will likely be quiet and mostly-still while working on one. I like these cheerful ones in the shape of a sun, lion, and flower from Minieco. She also includes instructions. These shape sewing cards from Mr. Printable are a little more abstract, so kids can sew them in different patterns.
8. Travel board games
9. Stop and stretch
Even I don’t like being in the car for long road trips. I suspect that after the first hundred miles or so, it is less about the kids misbehaving and more about me getting restless and easily irritated. Everyone needs a break! Find a nice place to stop – roadside park, gas station, restaurant, etc – and let everyone out for a few minutes. Explore the area, read a Historical Marker sign, and take a bathroom break. We like to tell the kids to “get their wiggles out” before we get back in the car. Usually one or both of them will start wiggling around their arms and legs and hopping around. It really makes a difference when we get back in the car.
Video games and movies aren’t necessarily bad. If you trip is particularly long, the kids need some time to just zone out. Mine are way past napping, but they still get cranky. I recommend planning a set amount of time that each child can play or watch. Let them know that there is a time limit (or game level/cartoon number limit) before they start. Some devices, like my Kindle Fire, let you set a timer that automatically turns off the game when time is up.
What kids car activities would you add to my list?