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A girl is reading picture books in the car. Kids, fun activities, educational books.

15 Fun Road Trip Activities and Entertainment for Kids (Without Screens)

It's that time again … Your bags are packed, you’ve checked off every item on the carefully crafted list that you have made and there is a palpable level of excitement in the air. It’s time to get on the road for a family road trip!

As a parent, there are a number of important matters that demand your attention if you are leaving on an extended trip away from home, especially when you have kids. There is all the necessary clothing, road essentials such as snacks and drinks and the critical trifecta of wallet, phone, and keys. Sunglasses for driving, your playlists for the road, pets (if they are coming with you…) the list seems to be endless and can seem stressful just as you are heading out on the road.

In all this chaos and commotion, it can be easy to forget to ensure that your kids have enough to keep them occupied while on the road. As any parent knows, most children have a tendency to become bored in the car and if you don’t have a plan for this (activities for the kids etc.), a road trip can become a test of your parenting patience and serenity. How can you avoid this parenting crucible? Have a plan!

Road Trip Essentials

A girl is holding a book in the car. Kids, fun activities, educational books.
Bag of Toys

    Kids need something to help occupy their time while driving on the way to your road trip destination. As an adult, the prospect of getting to where you are going is enough to sustain you for the trip. This isn’t true for kids. Bring a bag of toys so that they have familiar friends and fun to accompany them on their journey. Make sure to get them to choose their own toys. This will cut off any potential complaints about toys that were left. Also, make sure to give them a limit on the number of toys they can bring. Otherwise, you may have to prepare to pack up their whole toy collection.

    Personal Hygiene Products

      Bathroom stops will happen. Be prepared. Don’t expect to be able to make it to a rest stop for every restroom break (although if that does happen, you could brag about it to every other parent you know for years). Bring with you toilet paper, diapers, hand sanitizer, wipes, and any other essential toiletry.

      Miscellaneous Car Necessities

        This is specific to your family as you know how these trips go. This could be a small garbage or plastic bag, towels, pillows, a throw blanket, ear plugs, night visor or anything else. Long car trips are different from short ones so make sure to discuss or write down potential items you would want and work it down to the essentials/ desired luxuries.

        To Screen or Not to Screen?

        Two kids are reading picture books in the car. Kids, fun activities, educational books.

        The instant and almost hypnotic cooperation you receive from your kids when there is a screen involved is a very tantalizing prospect, especially for longer drives. While there is nothing inherently bad about using a screen while on a road trip, you may want to consider a few factors before handing over a device.

        ● Screen time is damaging to your eyes with extended and consistent exposure being particularly bad. If you can, non-screen activities provide a better alternative for your kid’s eyes than watching content or playing games.

        ● Non-screen road trip activities help kids on road trips develop their mental muscles. They become accustomed to finding things to engage with as opposed to defaulting to screen entertainment.

        Keeping kids busy with fun activities can have the added benefit of helping them develop attention-demanding skills, such as their ability to come up with ideas on their own and invent their own activities or games. It also gives you a unique opportunity to spend quality time with your kids.

        Road Trip Activities and Entertainment

        A girl is reading a musical book to her toddler sister in the car. Kids, fun activities, educational books.

        Having a set of ready-to-do activities for toddlers is especially important if you want to have a peaceful road trip. Where permanent markers and scissors aren’t the ideal choice for a road trip activity for your 2–5-year-old kids, these suggestions are a great place to start!

        Window Stickers

        The rules of the game are that as the window stickers are added to the window, your kids must make up a story about what is happening on the window. Next, once that story is complete, ask them to wait two minutes then rediscover the stickers and change the story based on the scenery now outside the window.

        Coloring Books

        Arguably the most awesome parenting hack of all time was the invention of coloring books! Use coloring utensils (wax crayons, non-staining markers, pencil crayons) that are suitable for your kid’s age and their personalities.

        Magnetic Board

        This is another way of using your kids’ imaginations. Provide them with a magnetic board and a handful of magnets and challenge them to come up with as many different pictures or scenes as possible.

        Interactive Books

        Interactive books, such as sound books and books with buttons that are beautifully illustrated give your kids an option to have their senses engaged while they are strapped into their seats. Cali’s Books makes an amazing selection of interactive books that can keep your kids entertained for hours at a time.

        Guessing Games

        Everyone loves a little “I spy with my little eye…” on a road trip. This game can extend indefinitely and is easily adapted to your kids’ temperaments and tastes. You provide clues and they must guess the answers or vice versa.

        Memory Games 

        Memory games are a great way to flex your children’s mental muscles. Asking them to recall things about their home or rooms will get them to use their memory. You can also flashcards from the front such as pictures on a phone in a particular order and ask them to repeat that order.

        Word Games

        These games are games like, “What rhymes with …”, “Words that start with a specific letter in the alphabet …” or “How many 3 letter words can you think of …” among other fun word games.

        Car Games

        How many blue cars do you see? Can you count until you see 20 trucks? How many different types of license plates do you see? This is also a game with endless variations that you can tailor to your children.

        Imitation Games

        This game is fun and exciting to play. Try and get people to guess the type of animal you are, the person you are pretending to be or even things like shapes and buildings.

        Flashcards

        Are your kids’ learning letters, words or math? Flashcards are a great way to spend the time and learn skills while you are driving on a road trip.

        The Question Jar

        This one takes some planning from the parents if you fill a jar with questions prior to your trip, you can have fun while driving by asking your kids to answer the questions that are in your family question jar.

        Surprise Boxes

        All kids love surprises and gifts. A surprise box gives your kids something to be excited about! These boxes can even be filled with the types of snacks and activities you would have on your trip anyway but the fact that they come wrapped in a surprise box will give them an added level of fun for your kids.

        Sing Along

        Kids love to sing so let them sing to their heart’s content and sing-along is a great game for toddlers. You can do a combination of song requests from your kids and your own personal favorites. Not only is it fun but it is a great way to bond over the common language of music.

        Storytime

        Use your storytelling skills to spin a fantastic and entertaining journey for your kids to explore. Giving them an opportunity to tell their own stories will extend the novelty of this game further. As an added tip, if you set the tone of the stories (such as uplifting or funny), your kids will often follow your lead.

        The Quiet Game

        A wonderful reprieve from the chatter and noise, should you need it, can be found in the quiet game. In this game, the winner is the one that makes noise last. To make this goal even more tantalizing, you can offer a prize for the winner’s silent compliance! 

        Road Trips Can Be A Blast for the Whole Family!

        With some preparation and intentionality, road trips can be functional and fun! Make sure to use this guide as a framework to help you make your road trips an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

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        Cali's Books, founder, about us, why I love books, children's books

        Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books

        “I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”

        I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!

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