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Tips and Ideas for Entertaining Kids on Long Car Rides

Updated on August 10, 2012

Road trips can be very fun, but young children can get bored easily. You don't have to spend a fortune on pricy games from the store or an expensive portable DVD player to keep the kids happy. Try these free or inexpensive ideas on your next long car ride.

Tips and Ideas

- Before leaving, allow your child to fill a small briefcase sized bag with whatever they would like to bring to play with in the car. Allow them to choose crayons, small toys, and anything else that may help keep them entertained in the car.

-Choose a few items from around the house and wrap them in aluminum foil. The object of the game will be for the children to guess what the item is based solely on the shape/sound. You could wrap up items that you need to bring for the trip anyways such as a hair brush, a wash cloth, a sealed bottle of sunscreen (make sure it's closed tight to prevent a mess), etc. Or you could wrap up things that will provide more entertainment for your child after the game is over such as a notebook, a pencil, a book, etc.

- Make your own 3-D I spy game. Choose a clear 20 oz bottle and wash it out. Tear scrap paper (construction paper, newspaper, etc) into small pieces. Choose small items that will fit into the bottle. Thumb tacks, paper clips, a penny, a leggo, and anything else you can think of. Put the items in the bottle and fill it up with the items and the pieces of paper. Make a list of items for your child to try to find in the bottle. Depending on their age, you can add items that aren't on the list to make the game more challenging. The object of the game will be for your child to find the object by shaking the bottle around and searching for them without opening the bottle. An alternative method for making the game is to put food coloring and glitter into the bottle instead of paper. Make sure the bottle is sealed very well to prevent a mess.

- Make age appropriate "vacation books" for your child that correspond with your destination. Make activity pages specifically related to where you are traveling. For example, if you are heading to Disney World, you could find free coloring book pages of their favorite Characters, make a word search with words like "Florida" and "Hotel", make a fact page with interesting Disney Facts, and include a page your child could fill out on the way back that asks questions like "What was your favorite part of the Vacation?" and "Was there any part of the vacation you didn't like?" This book also will make a good keepsake. Leave a few pages blank for your child to draw or write. Need some Creative Writing Prompt ideas for your child? Check out the hub: Creative Writing Prompt Ideas for Children

- Play games that don't require anything but your brain to play. Kids usually love I-Spy. 20 Questions can also be an entertaining game. Or try a memory game. Begin by saying "To (insert destination here) what should we bring?" Then take turns naming items. On each person's turn they must repeat all of the items already said and add one of their own. See who can last the longest before forgetting.

- Make the car ride a scavenger hunt. Make a list of around 10 items that your child must try to spot along the car ride. For example, a license plate from 3 different states, a yellow car, a cattle farm, etc. If you have more than one child, give them each the same list and let them have a friendly competition to see who spots their whole list first.

- Visit your local library, and check out some books on CD. Your child will love hearing his favorite stories while traveling.

-Bring a pillow and blanket. Kids are prone to napping while in a car. Try not to stop for any reason while your child is napping. A cranky child is not very pleasant to ride with.

- Pack your own snacks. It is usually cheaper this way and also helps keep the kids happy. Choose foods that don't need to be kept cold. Pretzels, apples, bananas, potato chips, crackers, etc all make good travel snacks. If you are creative enough you can also use the snacks as a way to keep the kids entertained. Try this fun idea. Pack a bag of cheerios and some string. Let the kids make edible necklaces while traveling. This is much better for them than candy necklaces and just as much fun.

- If you are willing to spend a little extra money, visit your local dollar store. Pick up some candy and/or toys. Every hour during the trip that your child goes without fussing/complaining/ fighting reward them with a treat or toy. Getting something new is more exciting than playing with a toy they already owned, so it will keep their attention longer.

Traveling with children doesn't have to be miserable. Just use creativity and think about what really holds your child's attention. Have something that really works to keep your kid happy on long car rides? Share it below in the comments!

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    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Our van came with a DVD player, so that works pretty well. The other thing I do is map out various towns along the route that I then give to the kids, so it keeps them looking for what are the towns we are passing through.

      Your tip about the 3D I Spy game is intriguing, I'll try that one next time we're out.