Let me cut to the chase.
I do everything in my power to road trip while my kiddos are sleeping.
Check out Surviving a Road Trip With a Toddler: Timing Is Everything to figure out how to realistically make this happen.
Unfortunately, life, logistics, and the length of the trip can each get in the way of that idyllic plan, and some drives just must be done during waking hours.
We all know that kids have limited attention spans and a natural tendency to want what they can't have (if you haven't been granted the opportunity to hear a child cry and beg and yell that they want to do anything but ride in the car over and over again... you are truly missing one of life's great gifts).
In order to come out on top at the end of your road trip, instead of beaten into the road you just drove on to get to your destination, you must be prepared.
Here are my top five favorite ways to keep toddlers entertained during a road trip.
Surprise with a new toy
Surprise your child with a new toy for the trip! You can give it to your kiddo right before you get in the car, or during the drive, depending on when you need her to be most entertained.
The new toy should be hand-held and easy to play with in the car.
Not only will this be super exciting during the drive, but will entertain your kiddo while she is away from her normal selection of toys during your entire trip.
You'd be surprised at how simple of a toy this needs to be to keep your kids attention.
Here are some favorites from our trips this past summer.
These mini skateboards kept both my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter entertained for quite a bit on a recent trip. They were great not only for the car ride, but also throughout the rest of the trip (in restaurants, in the hotel, etc.).
Note, if you get the same pack we did where you can personalize the skateboards (special colored wheels, stickers, etc), you may want to consider doing the personalizing at home since the pieces are small.
How can a snap bracelet provide endless entertainment for your kiddos in the car? I don't know but it worked for mine!
The texture, snapping it on different arms and legs, on the car seat, opening it and closing it, hearing the noise... its fun and a bit soothing (you may find yourself playing with one like I did!).
Note: I like the silicone ones since they feel soft and have a little texture, which makes them fun to play with.
A backpack of toys from home
Ask your kiddo to pack a backpack full of toys to bring along for the trip.
Allowing him to do this will:
provide the opportunity to participate in packing and build excitement for the trip
give him control over which toys come and which toys stay
limit the amount of toys he brings to just one backpack full
require him to be strategic about which toys are important enough to take up space in his backpack
provide entertainment in the car and during your time away from home
SUGGESTION: Include any books your kids will bring in this bag. Of course, they are great entertainment for the car. But this also requires that they must fit in "the bag" so you don't find half of your suitcase loaded with books (or have to dig through 3 suitcases at a rest stop as you search for the books your kiddos suddenly want to read).
The toys my kiddos pick are often small (can fit more in the bag!) and sometimes random, but they always turn out to be a lot of fun when they start using their imagination.
Here's what my kiddos put in their backpack for our trip to the beach this summer:
egg music shakers
very small stuffed animal toys/figurines
a few pieces of play food
Be prepared to enthusiastically lead the car in an epic number of children's songs during your on-the-road concert.
Make a playlist ahead of time and accept that while your kids are awake, you will not be catching up on your podcasts.
In addition to singing your kiddos favorite songs, try playing some fun games to keep everyone engaged and to provide the opportunity to move around a bit.
Your arms and legs can bust a move even while seated and bucked in!
TIP: Bring along some small music makers or get creative and use the toys you have to make music during these games.
Here are some suggestions:
Songs with hand motions/movements
Shake your sillies out
Wheels on the bus (with hand motions)
This Little Light of Mine (learn hand motions)
Old McDonald (kids pick the animals and make noises)
Music games to play
Shake music makers in different directions: left, right, high, middle, low, in a circle (song suggestion: Day-O)
Do something (dance move, make a noise, throw hands in the air) every time you hear a word in a song (song suggestion: Biscuits in the Oven)
Make a beat with music makers during the chorus of the song
Different dance moves made up by all people in the car
Learn a song in sign language
Learn a song in another language
Songs to sing
My kids like a lot of "non-kid" songs so we play these as much as possible to keep everyone in the car (namely daddy) sane and happy.
But when we run out of songs and must resort to "kiddie songs", we mostly listen to Raffi and Kidz Bop.
To explore other children's artists on Spotify, select your favorite children's artist and click on the "Related Artist" tab at the top. This is a great way to find others who are similar to the ones you already like.
We are still working our way through the Related Artists list. Not sure why, but it has been challenging to find other children's artists that are both engaging for the kiddos, yet tolerated by the adults.
Who do your kids like to listen to? Let me know in the comments section below.
Podcasts for Kids
My newest and most favorite discovery for entertainment in the car is podcasts for kids!
Until recently, I never knew they existed.
In fact, I never even wondered if they existed.
And then one day I did. I wondered.
I came upon Ear Snacks, a sweet and funny podcast for preschoolers and little kids that features lots of fun music and topics. My kids fell in love and so did I!
I will definitely be exploring this new world of podcasts for kids.
Let me know if you and your kiddos have any favorite podcasts!
Bring your iPad and don't be afraid to use it.
Even if you don't normally allow your child to use the iPad, there are times for exceptions to the rules, and this is one of them.
Download loads of games, movies, and TV shows ahead of time.
Rig the iPad so it is mounted on the back of the seat in front of your kiddo so she doesn't have to hold it if she is watching a movie.
TIPS ON DOWNLOADING MOVIES/TV SHOWS
Digital Copy: Many DVDs now come with a digital copy. Check the inside of the case for the "digital copy code."
Subscriptions: If you subscribe to Netflix, you may download movies and TV shows to your iPad ahead of time.
Purchase: Purchase and download a movie from iTunes or Amazon
Katie Ramirez, RN, BSN, CLC
Born Happy, Owner and Coach
Katie Ramirez is a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and Coach for parents of babies and toddlers. She has spent more than a decade serving patients at major university hospitals such as Vanderbilt University and Penn State University Medical Centers. Katie now spends her time supporting and empowering parents of babies and toddlers as owner and Coach for Born Happy.
Katie is the proud mother of two beautiful children, Roberto (age 4), and Veronica (age 2). She has a passion for health, wellness, and happy children, and believes that, with the necessary knowledge and support, all parents can live happy.
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