I’m a big believer that less is more when it comes to toddler road trip activities. We’ve logged tens of thousands of road trip miles across 49 US states and around the world with 5 kids. And through that, I’ve found that I often prefer not needing to carry, store, keep track of, organize, and help pick up a ton of toddler road trip activities.
Still, with that much time in the car, we definitely need some solid go-tos when it comes to road trip entertainment for toddlers. how to keep toddlers busy on long road tripsThey’ve been a lifesaver as we’ve spent an extended time in our RV! Here are all of my favorites ways for how to keep toddlers busy on long road trips that are tried and true, and worth the space in our car!
Our Favorite Car Activities for Toddlers
This post about our favorite toddler road trip activities contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own. That means I earn a small commission if you purchase through my link, but doesn’t change your price.
This one is so obvious, but you really can’t go wrong with books! Most toddlers love to peek at them and have no problem reading the same ones over and over.
I always like to pack board books, even for an older toddler, just so they’re less likely to get totally destroyed in the car. Some favorites are this one, this one, and this one. I also love this car organizer basket. We’ve had it for years and I NEVER take books on a road trip without it. It keeps everything neat and leaves room for a couple games and toys, as well. I especially love that this one has a couple of pockets on the outside!
If you have a child who you trust to not tear out pages, I really love this book, this book, and this book for road trips. This Little I Spy book is also a winner!
Related: Here’s a fantastic list of diverse picture books from around the world!
2) Colored Bears
I recently got these rainbow counting bears for our 4th kiddo who just turned 3, and he is obsessed! He loves these little bears and spends time putting them in their cups or practicing his counting. They make a perfect toddler car activity!
3) Paint by Sticker (or regular stickers)
There are many versions of Paint by Sticker, all of which we love as toddler road trip activity books. Some are more complex, which are great for my older kids, but I love this simple Paint by Sticker book for my toddler. It’s great for him to do some number practice. And it’s inexpensive enough that I’m not concerned if he messes up. There’s even a Halloween Paint by Sticker book!
Speaking of stickers, I love to get a few sheets of cheap stickers or sticker books. They’re perfect for making designs or just working on fine motor as they pull them off and stick them on something else.
Puffy stickers and dot stickers are also an amazing toddler car activity – the latter especially are cheap, and great for practicing tracing (or just sticking all over everything ;)).
I already mentioned books, but audiobooks are another total lifesaver when it comes to road trip activities for preschoolers! We love listening to audiobooks through the bluetooth (or by plugging in an aux cable) into our vehicle. Here’s a list of some fantastic audiobooks for toddlers and preschoolers!
Some of our favorites include Mercy Watson, Juana and Lucas, Ling and Ting (this one is less than $2!), and Frog and Toad.
5) Wikki Stix
I first heard of these Wikki Stix at a restaurant in Northern Maine when we were driving up to Prince Edward Island. They passed them out to the kids along with crayons and coloring sheets. I thought they’d just leave them on the table. I was shocked when my kids played with them the whole time and were so delighted to take them in the car with us.
These bendy little sticks are a perfect road trip activity for kids of all ages. They’re great to do while listening to a book, too!
6) Crayons and paper
Good, old-fashioned winners for toddler activities for car rides. I just throw a handful of crayons in a plain old Ziplock bag so they don’t get strewn all over the place. I like the zipper bags so he can easily open and close the bag on his own. (These are a great reusable option that is still clear so you can see the colors easily.) Our 3 year old calls them his “special crayons” sine the older kids use our beloved colored pencils so he gets the crayons all to himself.
I like to pair this with some sort of hard surface to write on. You could do a clipboard, or I sometimes just do a 3-ring binder. That way, he can write on the outside, and we can store anything he really wants to keep on the inside.
7) Cheap cars
These are one of our favorite toy car activities for toddlers. These Hot Wheels Cars are also great for restaurants, grocery stores…basically anywhere I need a few minutes of distraction. I always try to keep a few toy cars on hand for my toddlers.
Here’s a fantastic (and huge) list of podcasts that are perfect for little ones. We haven’t done tons of these on family road trips in the past, but I’m committed to including them more as I love the idea of hearing from a variety of voices and learning about many different interests!
9) Water Wow Books
These Water Wow books are terrific for toddlers in the car because they don’t make a mess! The books just use water and allow kids to “paint” colors on and see them appear. They’re the perfect non-messy toddler car activity.
10) Letter writing practice book
Toddlers usually love feeling “big.” So while my toddler is just barely learning how to write a couple letters, this book is perfect to help him think about what letters look like and just barely start trying to form them. And it’s cheap, so no no big deal if he doesn’t do it correctly. This is a great toddler road trip activity book and practicing writing is a fun thing to do in the RV with kids.
11) Pipe Cleaners
One of the most basic household items of the ’50s is also the quintessential kid road trip activity: pipe cleaners!. You could be fancy and create something for your kids to insert them in (an old, large oregano bottle works well), or you can be lazy like me and just let them twist and turn to their hearts desire.
They’re also perfect if you have some Cheerios or Froot Loops on hand for a toddler to string on – great for practicing fine motor skills while on the road.
Truly, what’s a road trip without music? And it doesn’t just have to be kid music – feel free to introduce your little one to whatever you love. Chances are, they’ll come to love it, too.
13) Lacing Cards
These lacing cards are another classic activity for a road trip that are easy to use in the car. Toddlers will love sticking the laces through all the holes.
We don’t do it often, but we do occasionally use screens. But they don’t have to be all bad! Sure, they sometimes just watch Wild Kratts (although as far as children’s programming goes, that one is actually pretty great). But other times, I’ll play YouTube clips of musicians playing the songs they’re working to learn on the violin and cello, or we’ll do a family movie, or we’ll do a book read aloud, or we’ll watch a science show. Or I’ll download tons of digital library books without having to carry so many with us. Screens can be really useful, when used sparingly.
We have two tablets (this kids Kindle and this Apple iPad), and also a basic TV with a speaker in our RV.
Yes, snacks are an activity, especially if you’re a toddler. Really, this is my only non-negotiable toddler road trip activity. I always make sure my toddler has a filled water bottle, and have plenty of snacks I can hand out as needed. Here are some of our favorite healthy road trip snacks for kids!
Tiny snacks can definitely take up lots of time to pick out and eat, and are great for fine motor skills. Things like goldfish, corn kernels, beans, raisins, and more are perfect. That said, they do tend to make a bit of a mess, so just beware. I ALWAYS make sure to have one of these snack containers to try to minimize the mess. Younger kids may also appreciate an apple slice in something like this mesh food feeder.
I also adore this little metal Lunchbots snack box. I love that it’s not plastic, it has the perfect portion sizes for toddlers, it’s easy to clean, and it has separate compartments!
There you have it – all of our favorite toddler road trip activities, that are simple, easy, and won’t overwhelm with packing them or take over the car. I hope these tips help you as they’ve helped us!
[…] From San Francisco to San Diego, it takes approximately 9 hours to drive the 500 miles. We highly suggest taking your time and making some stops along the beautiful California coast along the way! Here are the best stops along the California coast and Pacific Coast Highway with kids. Of course, there are many other great spots to stop besides the ones mentioned but for the purpose of this post, these are the easiest and best for first time coast travelers. Here is the best itinerary for your coastal California family road trip with kids. If you’re traveling with toddlers, be sure to keep them occupied with these essential toddler road trip activities. […]
[…] Essential Toddler Road Trip Activities […]
[…] Essential Toddler Road Trip Activities […]