15 Screen Free Travel Activities for Kids
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We have become quite the road warriors since living in Texas, far away from our family and loved ones. We flew as a family a lot more when our family was young. But now that we have seven kids, ranging in age from 16 down to 1, it is a lot more cost effective (and convenient at times) to travel by car. I like having my car as my home base, and packing is a lot easier when you're not worried about flying. But regardless- there is a great need to keep the kiddos busy whether you are driving, flying, going by train or boat, so you can all have a much more enjoyable time.
Here are 15 of our favorite ideas:
1. Travel Binders
For our road trip to Utah, I made these travel binders for my kids. There are three examples in the video. I'm just learning videography- so be patient with my child like skills... (maybe someday we can look back on this and laugh at how far I've come.)
2. Sticker Face Books
My kids love these. I've seen them as all different characters. My girls love the princess ones and my boys enjoy the pirates and monsters versions.
3. Paper Dolls
You'll see we have some paper dolls my grandmother gave us in the video. But if you want some really neat, high quality and even custom paper dolls- check out Lily and Thistle. They have the cutest products. You can have shipped or print from home. Click the image to head over to their Etsy shop.
4. License Plate Game
Now this isn't as crucial if you are flying, but for our family it wouldn't be a road trip without the License Plate Game. When I was a kid, we just wrote the names of the states down. But now, they have such fun printables (like this one from Dating Divas- click image for the link), or phone apps (my husband prefers the app), that make it really fun. My husband and I are definitely the most obsessed with this game, and my 16 year old is often a great sport marking off the plates for me when I'm driving.
5. Squishy Toys
Are these all the rage for your kids, too? I had a bag of prizes for well behaved kids on the last trip we went on, and even my 11 year old boy picked one of these out. I was so surprised! And then my little girl picked out magnetic Hang Man. Go figure!
Rules for the prizes:
No asking to go to the bathroom for a LONG time- we're talking HOURS. Then also be happy, cheerful, kind to siblings, etc. THEN you qualify for a prize. It worked AMAZINGLY this time! I used to give out lots of little prizes. But this past trip, I only gave out 1 significant prize per kid, per long driving day (when you are driving 22 hours each way, they have plenty of opportunities to behave themselves). By significant prize, I mean $7 or less.
Now, just a warning- these can get messy. But not as bad as slime or silly putty. I have learned the hard way on both of those. I have ruined car mats, car seats and clothing to prove it. They did provide a lot of fun, but the clean up wasn't worth it. Just take my word on this one. Bubbles are clean fun, but I completely understand if you want to skip these as well.
7. Lacing Cards
These are so great for your kiddos fine motor skills. My kids really enjoy these.
8. Finger Puppets
My baby LOVES these. He thinks it is so funny to put finger puppets all over his fingers and toes. We have a set of rubbery ones that also act as great teethers for him. These were a life saver.
9. Cross Stitch or Friendship Bracelets
There is so much you can do with embroidery floss. Cross stitch or bracelet making is a lot more fun for the older kids. Do you remember the rainbow loom stage? My kids created about a million bracelets on a road trip we took one summer. Any crafty projects to keep their hands busy is great.
10. Pipe Cleaners
These are a staple on our drives. They don't take up much room and bend into whatever shape you want. Sometimes we make animals or people. One of my favorite things to make with them is fish and a fishing pole and the kids can practice fishing. Sometimes we bring fruit loops or beads and they like to make bracelets out of them.
11. Books- especially board books
Sometimes books can get a little scuffed up in the car, especially when the baby is involved. So I really like board books in the car for my small children and babies. They love anything that is bright with animals especially.
Once the sun starts going down, it's fun to bust out the flashlights. My kids love flashlights anytime.
13. Glow Sticks
These were another one of my prizes- glow sticks. Perfect when it's starting to get dark. They usually lose interest in them just about the time you need them to start dozing off.
14. New Toys for Baby
When I am taking a baby on a really long trip, it's always nice to have new tricks up my sleeve. My baby absolutely loves this silly teething banana. Something so simple, but it provided tons of entertainment.
I was training my kids on how to keep the baby busy in the back seat. The first thing I told them, was don't worry about him being engaged all the time. Give him one item at a time and let him get bored with it before you give him something else. When the baby starts to get a bit whimpery, swap it out with something else. There was a point when my "helper" was just piling on the activities and toys and the baby was completely over stimulated and didn't want any of it. One thing at a time works much better for my tiny ones.
15. Perplexus Balls
These maze balls are a ton of fun for my kids. Just be careful if they get car sick easily, this might not be a great idea. Also, have them put it back in a backpack when you stop. I got tired really quick of these guys rolling out of the car when we'd stop for gas.