Surviving Holiday Road Trips: Activity Ideas for Your Toddler


As a child, I remember countless family road trips!  The memories flood my mind with so many happy things.

Until I was a Mom, I had no idea how daunting it was to actually GET to that amazing destination to make those memories.  The preliminary preparations, packing for the entire family, and not the least of these; planning for the car ride. Not only do we have to plan the trip around nap and meal times, allow actual physical room for all the gifts and gear, but save room for activities to keep our kiddos busy? God bless all of you with more than one child!

With all of us traveling for the holidays, I thought I’d offer a few of our favorite road trip activities.

Our Favorite Road Trip Activities:

1. Lacing cards or beads

We love these Melissa & Doug Lacing Beads.  Don’t have time to pick any up from the store or order online?  Large Rigatoni noodles, lacing-beads from melissa and dougcereal and some yarn or thread from Grandma’s sewing kit work to make your own lacing beads.  Don’t want to spend the cash for the fancy Melissa & Doug lacing cards either?  Grab some cardboard and a paper punch and go to town.  Cut out shapes, punch around the edges and you’re done.

2. Music with Headphones

how to keep your toddler busy during a road tripChildren love (and need) music! My favorite times are when we crank up the volume and sing out loud but there are times when you just need a break from toddler tunes.

My husband thought I was nuts for hanging onto my Sony Discman from 10 years ago.  Old-School Mama or not – it works like a charm. For those of you more technologically modern Mamas, an Ipod, Ipad, Nook, Kindle and all those other new age devices would work even better than my shabby high school device. I highly recommend ‘quiet-time’ music for nap time.  One of our favorites is the soundtrack from the book ‘Guess How Much I Love You.’

3. Magnetic Storybooks

great for toddlersI found a few of these fancy little tins at Tj Maxx and my daughter loves them.  Even opening the package and punching out the individual magnets provides some quality, time-absorbing action. Our Dora one has counting, colors, shapes and several different scenarios in one tin.

You can find things similar to this locally at Tj Maxx, Marshalls, the Learning Post, or online at the Rainbow Resource Center.

4. Leap Frog’s “My Own Story Time Pad

This little gadget offers alphabet sounds, counting, stories and more. I love the fact that you can program the stories to include your child’s name, favorite hobbies, foods, and songs.  Her eyes light up each time Scout says “Hello, Clare.” That alone is worth the price.

You can change the stories up, add activities, and more.  And better yet, she’s learning while she gets to be “Just like Daddy” with his Ipad.

5. Finger-Plays & Silly Songs

Action songs from the car-seat aren’t quite as easy as standing on two feet back at home, but with a few modifications, they make for many laughs.  You can find these online almost anywhere (just Google “Toddler Fingerplays”), as well as in any Sunday School curriculum.  I like Danielle’s place, and Preschool Rainbow.

What are some of your favorite car-ride activities for toddlers? Leave a comment below and we’ll share the “ride” together.


  1. Great ideas, Sarah! Any time we visit family it involves a road trip; so I’ve become a seasoned packer, and my kids have become seasoned travelers. One nice thing about traveling with four kids instead of one is that they keep each other company. (Conversing with them from the front seat of the van is difficult, because we can’t hear each other without shouting. So that’s why it’s nice that they can talk to each other.) Each of them is allowed to bring a backpack with their choice of mommy-approved toys/activities. We also have a DVD player in our van, so we do movies or Cedarmont Kids videos on longer trips. Also, I like to encourage them to look around and enjoy the countryside! There is much to be gained from being disengaged from “entertainment” and instead being quietly observant of God’s beautiful creation!


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