For most of her young life, my daughter has not cared for being in the car. When she was an infant (until she hit about 1-year old), she would cry/scream/fuss during nearly every single car ride, no matter how long or short. I learned to hate the car. Knowing that I was going to have to listen to her wailing any time I got in the car to go anywhere set my anxiety on fire before even leaving the house. She was a curious baby though, and she was always great once we reached our destination. So, every day, I gritted my teeth while I strapped her in her car seat because I knew that it would be good for both of us to get out of the house and do some exploring. (Even if half the time, that exploring meant wandering the aisles of Target for the fourth time that week…)
Here’s where the real problem arises. We have no family in town. None. My husband’s family is anywhere from 2.5 hours to 4.5 hours away by car. All of my family is 7.5 hours away. So, for a long time, visits to family were pure torture. They involved me sitting in the back seat, trying literally everything under the sun to calm my daughter, while she was strapped securely in her seat. Many times I was nearly in tears myself by the time she screamed herself to sleep. Then, I would just pray for us to get as far down the road as possible before she woke. Travel is stressful for me to begin with, and I hated the fact that visiting family had become sheer torment.
As she has gotten older, she has grown more use to the car and does not put up quite the fight that she used to. She does still get bored and fussy though. (What toddler doesn’t?) Since we are on the road fairly regularly, we have had plenty of time to come up with a list of easily portable (and mostly cheap) things that will help entertain her during the long hours on the road.
She is only 22-months old, so most of these ideas are for a very young toddler, though I imagine many of them would work for older toddlers, as well.
- Singing – put on a CD of familiar kid songs, or favorites, and belt away
- Books – my daughter loves books
- Flash cards
- Magic ink color books
- Regular color books and crayons
- Paint with water books
- Small stuffed animals
- Little People (or other) figures
- A purse (I like to fill a small purse with various little items. Then, my daughter can unload it during the ride and play with the contents. It’s fun for her to discover what’s inside.)
- Playing I Spy
- Facetime a family member or friend
- Stickers and a notepad or activity book
- Paper dolls (or something similar)
- Lacing games
- A quiet book – we have one that was homemade
- Magnetic board and magnets
- And if all else fails, don’t be too proud to turn on a DVD or let them play with an App on your phone.
Bonus: Many of these things can be picked up in the dollar section at Target!
Double bonus: A lap tray is super helpful for many of these activities.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will help keep your toddlers entertained during the long hours on the road.
If you have other great ideas, please let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for good ways to make travel easier!