Summer is here and along with it accompanies the good ‘ole American tradition of a summertime road trip! While our second biggest obstacle may be getting out of our own great state of Texas (looking at you 9+ hours of driving to only still be in Texas) our first biggest hurdle is definitely toting along three small children. It can be a daunting task for even the most involved parent to load up for hours on end.. We’ve been on a few family trips already this year and I’ve come away with a few tips and tricks for all age ranges that I think will help any parent feel more confident in getting out there and hitting the open road with their littles!
Road Trip Tip: Independent Play
1. Melissa and Doug Magnetic Tanagram Set
We loved this set so much! The pieces are all magnetic so you don’t have to worry about hitting a bump and their creations flying all over the car. It also had different patterns that slide into the board so the kids have a solid surface to create on.
2. Wikki Sticks
These sets are perfect for mess free play. They’re just sticky enough to create and build without leaving a residue all over the kids, seats, or car. They’re non-toxic and a super easy clean up. A road trip favorite in our household. Be careful because if they fall they can get dirty causing them to lose their sticky.
3. Coloring Books/ Mess Free Crayola
An old fashioned dollar store coloring books and crayons are always a hit. You also can’t go wrong with the mess free Crayola coloring sheets. These are a favorite because the markers ONLY color on the Crayola pages. You also don’t have to worry about rogue crayons melting in the heat and getting stuck to your interior or floors which is no fun.
It’s so fun getting the kids involved in everything we’re doing. I like to print a zoomed in map of the route we’ll be going. Then I’ll place themed stickers or just draw in all the major places we’ll be making stops at. The kids get car stickers and follow along on our route. It really helps when they have a visual of where we are vs how far we still have left to go and they love being involved.
5. Pipe Cleaners/ Colander
This is such a simple way to entertain the littlest of your children. My two year old LOVES pulling pipe cleaners through the holes in the colander and can do it for hours uninterrupted! We love these collapsible colanders for easy storage !
Road Trip: Learning
6. Books/ Magazines
No matter what age your child is books are always a hit. Whether a picture book or a chapter book they’ll be entertained for a good while. We also have a few kid magazines we like to bring along. We love the lego magazines and the highlights seek and find magazines, find them here and you can always check your local library for free resources.
We like to learn things about the places we go before we get there. Road trip time is a perfect opportunity to study these places. We bought a national park workbook before we headed there and the kids loved it. We also have a big mine craft and princess fan over here so we keep those on hand too.
8. Activity Book
I like to print out worksheets that work on fine motor skills, addition and subtraction problems, letter practice, etc and put them in sheet protectors in a folder with brads and a dry erase marker. They’re a big hit and help us keep a bit of our routine even when on the road.
9. Educational Apps
We try to avoid an over abundance of screen time but sometimes its needed for everyone’s sanity. We have lots of educational apps on the kids tablets from addition to letter practice shapes and colors for them to at least learn while they’re on a screen. My toddlers favorite is the pinkfong shapes and colors app.
10. Audio books/ Podcasts
Head to your local library to pick up free audio books for the kids before you hit the road. We also use audible to search and find books that interest them. A good podcast can keep them entertained too.
Road Trip Tips: Quiet Time
11. Nap Time
Even in the middle of a road trip keeping a routine with little children is super important to keep happy attitudes. During regular naptime/quiet time hours we like to quiet the car down give the kids their blankets or stuffed animals and either read stories or just let them look out the window until they fall asleep.
12. Melissa and Doug Water Books
This is such a fun mess free way to keep the kids quiet. Every one of my kids even at all their different ages loves these water books. If you’re not familiar with these they sound a lot more messy than they are. You fill the pen with water and it magically writes on the matching notebook exposing letters, pictures, words, etc. A quick easy entertaining way to play.
These are your best friend. When the kids start to get fussy we break out some snacks and there’s an immediate attitude shift. Some of our favorite on the road snacks are cheese sticks, crackers, trail mix, dried fruit, fruit, applesauce, and chocolate chip cookies.
14. Sticker Books
My two and three year old can spend hours playing with sticker books. They are sticker obsessed and it helps letting them have somewhere to stick them to. We love these reusable puffy sticker books from Melissa and Doug and a few of our other favorites are here, and for your little princess, these.
15. Magna Doodle
What kid doesn’t get entertained by these? We love this travel sized one that can easily be stored away and not take up a lot of space. We love taking as many mess free minimal toys as possible to keep the kids entertained.
- When traveling long distance with toddlers, consider bringing along a potty chair. It makes life so much easier!
- Have a plan but be flexible! Don’t worry if you’re not covering as much ground as you’d like. Take breaks to let the kids stretch some if needed.
- Don’t forget charging cables!
- Drive at night if possible! We try to plan our routes so that we break up our drive in a major city mid way through to let the kids get some energy out. Then once we’ve been out of the car for a few hours, explored, ate lunch, etc we hop back in the car for the second leg of our journey.
Someone once told me we only get 18 summers with our children before they’re gone. And those words are ones we try to live by. We try to soak in as much adventure with out kids as possible weather exploring somewhere far away or right in our own backyard. Happy exploring friends! I hope these tips encourage you to get out and explore the open road with your children. Nothing is better than those warm summer memories! Happy adventuring and happy summer friends!