I started to write this post almost a year ago but as the good weather is approaching, I feel like it’s time to finish it and give some tips to other parents who are planning a road trip with their toddlers.
This post is not much about getting the car itself ready but preparing ourselves for traveling with a 21 month old toddler for at least 12 hours. And our son is quiet active, likes to run around and climb on things. No, he is not a girl who can sit and play quietly alone for twenty minutes… And we are totally against the electric baby toys, or giving our child an iPad, or letting him watch a movie or something on a screen. It feels wrong and unhealthy. Plus our last long trip with him was a disaster and we don’t want that happen again. We learned the lesson and this is why I prepare as many activities for him as possible. And I am pretty sure that there are many other families who happen to travel with toddlers and hopefully they will find this post very useful. My first advise would be to prepare everything in advanced (I started 2-3 weeks before traveling), do not think that these are last minutes projects! So here is my list:
1. I found many great posts and tips online about the “travel tray”. Yes, it’s a real thing. You can buy one or make one, as you prefer.
2. The first thing on my list is BOOKS. Bring as many books as you possibly can. Beside running around reading books is the most beloved activity of my sons’. Before the road trip I bought a couple of new books, but also hid some of his favorite books a few weeks earlier. This way he will enjoy them more on the trip when he gets those back.
3. A few new and small toys. For example this wooden block puzzle seems very interesting because our son loves building and animals, as well.
Or these building blocks with buttons and small doors etc. On this picture you can also see the tray that we use: a plastic tray from IKEA called ANTILOP and costs about 4€. We cut the sides a bit shorter, made holes on both sides and added a belt, this way we are able to attach the tray to the seat.
4. Different kinds of drawing material.
5. I read that many people use a baking sheet or some kind of a metal tray so the kids can play with magnetic toys. I wasn’t really convinced with the idea because in an accident a metallic try can be very dangerous for the little one. Instead we bring along our cake sheet and he can still play with magnets. And this one has a sheep on it and I think he will also like that.
Note: after our road trip I must say, this was our son’s favorite activity on the road. I would highly recommend it!
6. Crafting is also a good way to keep kids busy but at this age it might be a bit difficult. Still, there are options, like cutting out different shapes out of paper, color them and punch some holes in them. With colorful pipe cleaners and strings they can try to “sew” the papers. Our son loved the shoe shape and the shoe lace but he didn’t care much for the other ones. I think he did not understand why he should pull the wires through a flower or a sun. 7. Once again, I cut out a few animals out of paper and bought a bag of google eyes. We will stick the eyes onto the animals, or just create new “monsters”, as we go along. He liked this one also very much but I had to sit with him on the back seat and do this activity together. Still better then a board or crying kid. 8. Stickers. I think there is no explanation for this one. Only that it also requires some help. 9. Puzzles. We are going to visit relatives in Hungary, relatives that we haven’t seen for months. I thought my son would enjoy some puzzle games of his little cousins. And also fire tracks and ambulance car, since he is crazy about those. So I printed out a couple of pictures, glued them onto cart board and cut them in few pieces. Voila! But you can also buy or bring along puzzles, or if you have a metallic sheet, maybe use magnetic puzzles so the little pieces don’t get lost in the car! 10. Pompoms and a tube to stuck the pompoms into it. He loved it and still does although he is two and a half years old now. 11. CDs with children’s music and/or audio books. I read somewhere that you could also record your own voice reading a story, or ask grandma etc.
12. As I mentioned before our son is crazy about cars and the siren. He always wants to sit in front and pretend to drive. That’s why I decided to buy a toy steering wheel for him. It did not have batteries in when we bought it and as it turns out it plays not just car-noises, but also stupid children music. And it’s loud. So I am not sure about that but the little one loves it (of course). And it might be better to hear that for hours instead of crying. We will see…
Note: it wasn’t that bad because our son played with it for not longer than 20 minutes. I think his and our limit is set to the same… But if you can buy a steering wheel with a volume button.
13. Don’t forget to get ready for sleeping time. Bring everything what your child is used to sleep with. And maybe an extra blanket and a special pillow that is made for car-seats, like our one in the picture. 14. We do not like to play with puppets because our son loves it and he would demand on a show for hours which is exhausting. But we have puppets and lots of finger-puppets for traveling time. The finger-puppets don’t take up much place in your bag but if you have a bit of imagination they can provide hours of fun for your child. We also take them with us when we are flying. But to keep it real fun, we don’t play with them at home and it makes the whole game more fun on the road.
15. Print out a sheet for toy cars and bring along a couple of smaller matchboxes.
Pack up all the different activities in zip-lock bags and store them in a bag beside your child’s seat so he or she can reach in and seek for new adventures for him/herself.
If you liked this post then you might find my other articles about “20 toddler activities for rainy days” or “travel binder for the kids” interesting, too!