12 Activities To Keep Little Ones Busy While On The Road

It’s summer time and that means a lot of family vacations. I love vacation but struggle with long road trips. I need to prepare for myself just as I do JP! I have more than enough always planned and ready just in case. I would much rather fly! It doesn’t usually make the day much shorter by the time you get to the airport, board, fly, get luggage and then get to your final destination but to me it’s less idle time just sitting there.


Our latest trip was the longest road trip we’d done. At one point we drove past an airport and JP said he wanted to go to the airport. I asked why and he said he wanted to fly to vacation and didn’t like driving to vacation.

Here is a list of ideas we have done or currently do as well as some ideas that I like.

My first tip is to get a cookie sheet to use as a ‘lap desk’. A few of the ideas have magnets and it also helps contain crayons or other writing utensils.

Another thing we do is that no activities come out for at least an hour.  We frequently do trips of this duration and have never prepared anything extra.  A random small toy is usually in the cubby or cup holder of his car seat but sometimes they need to learn to be patient, bored, relax or have a conversation and not always be entertained.  If he’s still taking in the scenery after a couple of hours so be it, let him soak it up.

Disclaimer:  some links in the post may contain affiliate links which means at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase I earn a small commission.

1. Puzzles
Depending on how old your little one is there are a lot of options for this. You can pick up cheap foam shape puzzles or use any wooden ones you already have. The cheap foam ones I picked up fit in a gallon size baggie so each puzzle had it’s own bag to contain the pieces.

The Dollar store also has smaller sized 24 piece puzzles and doing these on the cookie sheet works well.

12 ideas

2. Foam shapes/magnets
The Dollar store also has different foam shaped items, cars, balls, animals etc. I put magnets on the back so they stuck on the cookie sheet.

You could also grab the magnetic letters and numbers from your refrigerator to use on the cookie sheet too.

foam and sticks

3. Velcro and magnet sticks
Popsicle sticks make for great imaginative play.  Adhere magnets to some and velcro to some and the kids can build and stick to the cookie tray with endless options.

4.  Stringing activity
There are specific toys for working on the fine motor skills such has these lacing beads.

You can also DIY rather inexpensively with the same foam shapes from the dollar store and some twine, yarn, pipe cleaner or straws you already have.  Use a hole punch to make the hole in the shape and then whatever ‘string’ you have make sure there is a knot or stopper on one end.  If it’s yarn or something similar make sure to wrap the top tip with tape so it doesn’t fray (much like a shoestring).

5. Coloring
Coloring books for any age are a great way to keep busy as well as blank paper.  Older kids have fun drawing pictures for people or they can practice writing.

full list (1)

6. Water books
The Melissa & Doug water books are great for the younger kids.  Although JP still likes them.  At his age he isn’t really learning anything from them but I guess just having a picture appear with the use of water is pretty exciting.

7. Magnetic Drawing Toys
There are different brands and different sizes and options for these and it’s another toy for endless options of drawing or scribbling.  You can pick a smaller one that’s easier for travel or a larger one which may have more accessories.

8. Age appropriate activity books or printables
Stickers, color by number, dot to dot, rhyming, writing letters and numbers are all great things for the car.  Make use of the time for learning!  Education.com and myteachingstation.com are great sites for printables.  Take time and find ones that do not require much assistance from you in the front seat 😉  For color by number I circle the number in the appropriate color at home before everything is packed and that way those that can read numbers but not words can still tell what to do.

Check out my Pinterest board for more printable ideas.

all you need to keep kids busy on a

9. Wipe clean books
Usborne Books & More has some really great wipe clean books.   Beginning pen control, mazes, dot to dot, letters and more!  Check out the link and my friend Katie will take great care of you!

Other stores also have options too.

Preparing for roadtrip

10. Look & Find books
Of course you can buy look and find books such as these:

However, check your local library and get them for your trip for free!

full list

11. Scavenger hunt
This is for those a little older but there are printables with just pictures so reading isn’t necessarily required.  This is a great way to get them looking at the sights as you drive.

Free printable road trip scavenger hunts for kids includes a road sign scavenger hunt, license plate scavenger hunt, and transportation scavenger hunt. #ad #FallForPennzoil



The Resourceful Mama has a few good ones.




12. Electronics
For us electronics are the last resort.  We go through most of the above before we get to a movie.  This approach is not as peaceful for me because crayons fall, there are questions on activity pages and constant help needed to get the next activity but I want as much time as we can squeeze in to be some kind of learning.






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