Road Trip Travel Bags and Activities for Young Children {+ Free Printables}

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READING TIME: 6 min.

My family was packing up to head to Florida this week and the thought of a 12 hour car ride with a 4 & 2 year old made this Type-A (pregnant) momma a wreck! I knew showing movie after movie would grow old and you can forget about a “naptime” in the car — in just wasn’t going to happen.  To make me feel better, and hopefully make the time fly for them, I came up with some activities for the car that would last the duration of our trip AND also help with downtime at our beach condo. 

At this point, I know what you’re thinking…this post is going to be a crazy Pinterest-worthy post where each activity would cost a minimum of $10 in exotic craft supplies and hours of painting and perfection to create. Well I can promise you. . .that is NOT me. . .and who has time for that! (You did see I was a pregnant mom of 2 young boys right?) 

Each of the activities below I did with craft supplies I already had on hand OR quickly ordered from Amazon Prime and 1 trip to the dollar store nearest to my home. No crazy supplies you’ll only use once, and each activity can easily be created in 15 minutes or less! To save you time, I even went ahead and made some FREE PRINTABLES so you don’t have to search for some of the same graphics I did. 

And because I’m a cautious mom, I do feel I have to give 1 warning. Obviously if these activities are made in a hurry, magnets and other small object could fall off into little hands. As always, make sure magnets and other objects are played with supervision. 

Character Craft Stick Puzzles

Character Craft Stick Puzzles DallasMomsBlog

For younger children who haven’t quite grasped the ability to do “real” puzzles, these Character Craft Stick Puzzles can be the solution! For my 2 year old, I created 6 of these craft stick puzzles using some of his favorite Disney and Pixar characters (including the newest Inside Out he’s been excited to see)! The create these, I used these incredibly simple steps:

  1. Using a color printer, find and print high-resolution images of your favorite characters or scenes. Look for images with a minimum of 400 pixels for clearly printed images (I used Disney’s “Parent Press Kits” found on the movie websites which has screenshots from the film, but Google Images is a great source too.) TIP: I printed 4 images per sheet and it gave me the perfect sized images. Each puzzle ended up being exactly 5 craft sticks which made it easier to create and keep them organized.
  2. Cut out each image. 
  3. Apply strong glue to the backside of each image (all over!). TIP: I prefer to use 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive when gluing large amounts of paper while crafting, but as I’m pregnant and it has a heavy chemical odor, I stuck with my go-to glue stick. 
  4. Once glue is dry (to prevent slipping and sliding while cutting) using an X-acto Knife, razor blade, or the blade on a very sharp pair of scissors, carefully create a slit between each craft stick cutting the paper. I found cutting from the backside made smoother edges. 
  5. Apply Adhesive Magnet Discs to the back of each craft stick to use on a dollar store cookie sheet in the car! 

Fishing Off the Floor

Fishing off the floor DallasMomsBlog 

Since magnets were on my brain, the first activity I thought of that we do at home is “fishing”. I wasn’t quite sure how to make this work since the boys would be in their car seats and their space was limited. At some point it hit me, let them fish off the floor! Here’s how I made that happen: 

  1. Using FREE stock images from Pixabay, I found a variety of fish and other aquatic animals to print. (I selected to print 4 images per page so that each was about the same size.) **While printing dolphins I realized this might be politically incorrect to share — just know that in fishing for dolphins, I in no way endorse the harpooning of these animals! :)**
  2. Apply Adhesive Magnet Discs to the back of each fish mouth or animal. 
  3. Heavily glue each animal’s back to a piece of construction paper (to hide the magnet and make it feel a little more real!)  
  4. Cut around each fish and animal leaving a boarder to ensure glued sides stay together. 
  5. Using your choice of dow rod and string, tie a STRONG magnet to the end of the strong. TIP: The adhesive magnets I used weren’t very strong. Make sure to use a stronger magnet to “catch” and always test before passing off to kids! 

When my boys were ready to go fishing, I handed them their dow rod and tossed the fish around the car floorboard and let them go fishing. It was fun to watch their surprised faces as they caught a new animal!

DOWNLOAD HERE:: FISHIN’ OFF THE FLOOR PRINTABLE 1

DOWNLOAD HERE:: FISHIN’ OFF THE FLOOR PRINTABLE 2

DOWNLOAD HERE:: FISHIN’ OFF THE FLOOR PRINTABLE 3

DOWNLOAD HERE:: FISHIN’ OFF THE FLOOR PRINTABLE 4

DOWNLOAD HERE:: FISHIN’ OFF THE FLOOR PRINTABLE 5

Felt Chains

Felt chains DallasMomsBlog

Even the most basic tasks can keep kiddos entertained in the car like these Felt Chains! Using extra felt sheets I had from a previous craft project, I created these Felt Chains and Weaves by:

  1. Using felt sheets, cut 1/2″ and 1″ strips. 
  2. Apply Velcro Sticky-Back Squares to each end of felt strips. (Remember to apply 1 end to the opposite underside as the other!) 
  3. Weaves: With additional felt sheets, cut slits through the center of the felt (not cutting to the end). 

Using felt strips, create loops to practice color patterns OR weave felt pieces through felt slits to work on fine motor skills!

DIY Dinosaur Match

DIY Dinosaur Match DallasMomsBlog

My boys LOVE dinosaurs, so taking inspiration from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, I created magnetic dinosaur matches. Again, this was another very simple project using just some basic craft supplies and a printer. 

  1. Using FREE stock images, I found a variety of dinosaurs to print. (I selected to print 2 images per page so that each dinosaur was about the same size.)
  2. Glue each dinosaur to a different color of construction paper to help with matching and then cut out each dinosaur’s body. 
  3. Cut out dinosaur body parts to be able to mix and match. 
  4. Apply Adhesive Magnet Discs to each dinosaur body part and use on a dollar store cookie sheet in the car! 

DOWNLOAD HERE:: DINOSAUR MATCH PRINTABLE 1

DOWNLOAD HERE:: DINOSAUR MATCH PRINTABLE 2

DOWNLOAD HERE:: DINOSAUR MATCH PRINTABLE 3

Magnetic Puzzles & Toys

Magnetic Puzzles DallasMomsBlog

While browsing my local dollar store, I found some fun items that I knew my boys would have fun with, but many of them were just too messy or small for the car. I loved “finds” like puzzles that I could easily make car-friendly! Items I could easily apply Adhesive Magnet Discs to were 16 piece puzzles, 3-pack of toy cars, plastic animals, and even pencil pockets for chalk and colors. 

When All Else Fails . . .

There is NO shame in purchasing (or borrowing from the library) a few “new-to-them” movies! Or even purchasing a new activity book or toy from Wal-Mart or Target because less face it. Kids will be kids and nothing satisfy them more like a new toy.

Okay, so this is where I did get a little “Pinteresty” . . . I found some adorable ocean-themed wrapping paper and decided in order to make each item a little more exciting, I wrapped each activity like a present. Every hour or so, sometimes less frequently, my boys opened a new activity. It made it a little more fun for them and a little more fun for me to see their faces! 

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Now, this post will publish before our drive home, so I need to know. . .

What are your FAVORITE activities to keep the kids entertained on long, long car trips? 

4 COMMENTS

  1. I love these ideas – wrapping up a new activity for each hour is brilliant! We live 12 hours away from our families, so we drive a LOT! We love borrowing audiobooks from the library, playing car games (license plate bingo, ABC sign game, I Spy, etc.) and playing with a homemade flannel graph on long road trips. And I’m not ashamed to say I use snacks to get us through especially fussy times 🙂

  2. Great ideas! I too have use grab bags of Dollar Store toys (new one each hour or more often, if needed), food, movies, etc. along with the items above. I also found a nice strap on desk that attaches around the car seat so there is a flat area of eating, coloring, etc. and it has side pockets too. It’s not too handy when frustration hits and it’s hurled across the car, but very helpful for keeping thing contained until that point! And funny kid CD’s with quirky music helps with the boredom too! Keeping a great attitude is half the battle!

  3. I like to hit the Dollar Spot at Target or the Dollar Tree but my sister also suggested checking out the party favor section of your fav store or Party City. Lots of cheap little toys to entertain and bribe.

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