How to Keep Kids Entertained
on a Long Road Trip:
Best Car Ride Toys & Products
Taking your kids on a road trip is a great way to spend some time together as a family. Indeed, family road trips often create some of our fondest childhood memories. But to be perfectly honest traveling with children can be difficult, and once the boredom of the open road starts to set in you might start to regret the entire trip. Kids have a lot of energy and very active minds, which is exactly why keeping them cooped up in a car for hours on end can quickly lead to disaster. The simple trick to making your next road trip enjoyable for the entire family is to keep the kids entertained. But how? In this list, we’ll share some of the best toys, games, books, and more to keep your kids entertained on any cross-country road trip. After all, your kids deserve to be entertained, and you deserve to not have to hear “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” 27 times in a row.
Looking for a tech toy that fits in the palm of your hand? Meet, Ditto, the talking robot for kids! Kids can record their voice, move it in load of different poses – and if you’re traveling at night – turn on its LED lights!
Marketing Manager - USA Toyz
Boltz Building Set
Got a builder in your backseat? Check out our Boltz building set (163 piece set or 101 piece set) that comes in a durable carrying case. These creative construction toys let kids use their endless imagination for hours of quiet playtime.
Marketing Manager - USA Toyz
Skip Hop Activity Tray
Activity trays are must-haves as kids get older and are into coloring, drawing and playing in the car. One of my favorites is Skip Hop. It has a pocket on the side for crayons, and rounded edges for safety. Plus, the entire thing can be wiped down!
La Jolla Mom
Merge Goggles, Cube, and Miniverse
The award-winning MERGE Goggles, MERGE Cube, and MERGE Miniverse are truly amazing and can be used anywhere - including the back seat! All three are fun and easy to use for kids ages 10 and up. With a smartphone, the colorful Goggles transport you to virtual worlds and the Cube becomes a hologram in your hand! Meanwhile, the Miniverse is a library and launchpad all in one.
Playfoam, an Educational Insights product, is a nontoxic, mess-free sculpting solution made from a top-secret recipe that brings you all of the joy of gooey, sticky crafting without the cleanup. Playfoam Pals is a new line inspired by the kids who play with the product -- after seeing endless videos of kids putting their toys INSIDE the Playfoam, Educational Insights decided to bring collectible toys to the kids in the same way. Each Playfoam Pals kit comes with a canister of Playfoam that contains one of twelve collectible toys in the middle. These would make excellent stocking stuffers because they come in multi-packs, each Playfoam capsule can fit easily in a stocking with no mess or fuss.
Marketing To Moms, Dads and Families
Water Wow Travel Activity Pads
The best toys to keep children engaged for long time on road trips are reusable sticker pads, Water Wow travel activity pads and their favorite soft toy to snuggle with for naps. The reusable stickers can be used multiple times by the kids till they want to move on to some other activity. Water wow activity pads from Mellisa and Doug are super useful to keep the little ones entertained and still get to keep your car mess-free because the activity pads use just water pens to color its pages and the color erases once the page dries. Pack your child's favorite soft time to make them all the more cozy and encourage them to take a nap while you are on the move.
One of the frustrations of car travel with children is not just the entertainment during but the stress of getting a toddler in and out of a car. It usually involves, opening and closing of a stroller, diaper bags, car seats and screams — setting the time for the rest of the trip.
TushBaby has developed an easy on and off baby carrier called a hipseat. Parents have told us this is a game changer when it comes to travel, especially when visiting amusement parks, museums, aquariums, etc.
We’ve heard many are now just leaving the stroller at home, putting on the TushBaby to carry their kid to the car for easy transfer and the same when getting out to their destination. It eases the transition, saves the parents sanity and back, and keeps the child connected and happy.
KIC-Start are get-to-know-you card games, where KIC stands for Kids in Conversation. This game is perfect for keeping children entertained on a long road trip AND encouraging the art of conversational curiosity. KIC-Start contains 150 get-to-know-you questions that everyone answers. No matter how well you know someone, you always learn more and learn something new.
Games on the Go
An activity to engage with the entire family is playing Games on the Go. This set of cards is full of games, trivia, memory exercises and more! You could even attach it to some activity trays.
La Jolla Mom
During that long family road trip or camping adventure, don’t forget to grab a deck of Vertellis. Vertellis is the ultimate card game that you can look forward to playing every year. Vertellis means ‘tell me more’ in Dutch and the game can be played with anyone. Vertellis helps families have less small talk and more genuine conversations. Through questions that trigger memories and stories, you will get to know those closest to you in a new (deeper) way. Winning isn’t the goal with Vertellis, as it is more important that you will have meaningful offline conversations with your loved ones and experience even more togetherness. With questions like “Who Has Inspired You The Most?,” and "What Would You Like To Do Together More Often?”
Books, Audio Books, & Podcasts
So we've done a couple of road trips over the past couple of summers with our kids, now ages 7 and 3.......so we've learned a few things. Great things to do: books from the library. LOTS and LOTS of books. Enough to change them out at stops. Plus, those color magic markers will save your seats.
Kid-friendly podcasts like Story Pirates and But Why are excellent entertainment. Podcasts are great because they get kids off of screens and many are kid AND parent-friendly too!
Founder and Chief Travel Officer
The Family Backpack
Here are several books that my company, Momosa Publishing LLC, publishes that would be great gifts:
The Adventures of the Rabbits in the Most Magical Place on Earth by 10-year-old Austin Reich, illustrated by 12-year-old Tyler Reich
The Adventures of the Squirrels in the Most Magical Place on Earth by 10-year-old Austin Reich, illustrated by 12-year-old Tyler Reich
The Adventures of the Lions in the Most Magical Place on Earth by 10-year-old Austin Reich, illustrated by 12-year-old Tyler Reich
Come Travel with Me: Philadelphia by Michele Fisher, illustrated by 15-year-old Joy Kulp
Come Travel with Me: Chicago by Michele Fisher, illustrated by 15-year-old Joy Kulp
Jennifer Bright Reich
Publisher of the Mommy MD Guides
Cofounder and CEO
Momosa Publishing LLC
I would strongly recommend the Bob Books and VersaTiles series, a gameification product for teaching kids reading and language arts skills through the fun of games, pattern matching, and more. These are a great product because they lead to wonderful interactions between the kiddo and parent - and just as a personal plug, the very first iteration of the Bob Books series is actually how I learned to read when I was five years old, and now I'm a college graduate with a degree in Creative Writing & English.
Marketing To Moms, Dads and Families
A great book on tape will keep the kids quiet and entertained. You can go for a classic like Matilda or Harry Potter (which are just as entertaining for adults), or choose a newer story like How to Train Your Dragon. Download it on an iPad and give your kids some headphones if you'd rather tune in to something different.
One of the podcasts we love is Wow in the World -- it's a science podcast meant for kids and they beg to listen to it. Even if it's a short trip. :)
Lisa Van Loo
Raising Outdoor Kids
I grew up listening to audio books on long car trips. This can be great entertainment for everyone, including the driver. Watching movies in the car only keeps passengers entertained. Audio books are also calming. There are audio books available for all ages, too. It's a great way to keep kids calmly entertained on the road.
Content Management Specialist
Even if your kids have already seen the movies and read the books, there is no better way to keep them occupied on a long trip than to listen to the full Harry Potter series as a family. When we hear or read a story, we leave ourselves to enter another character’s world. As if we were the character, we experience his/her struggles, failures, successes, and emotions. We would all be hard pressed to find better heroes to learn from than Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
SunLit Story Time
As a father of a six and three year old, we survived a 20+ road trip this summer with iPads loaded up with their favorite movies, Melissa & Doug Water Reveal Pads, and free children's audiobooks we got from our library.
Certified Financial Planner, Founder
The Ways to Wealth
Products for Special Needs Children
Both of these products encourage active play and work as educational tools, while eliminating screen time. They are perfect for long road trips because they will keep children calm and entertained. The products are brought to you by Abram’s Nation (https://www.abramsnation.com/), a company that listens to the needs of its families and develops the innovative products they deserve.
Featuring a variety of Fidget Bundles based on sensory needs, the Fidget Folder, is the world’s first completely customizable, fully compact, completely transportable sensory tool.
The Weight Mate is a discreet and portable weighted lap pad that provides calming weighted pressure on the nervous system for ADHD, ASD, SPD, mood disorder, depression, anxiety, dementia and PTSD. The Weight Mate can be used alone or as a companion to the Fidget Folder.
Miscellaneous Games and Other Ideas
Really, part of keeping kids entertained for us though is stopping enough. Almost everywhere you'd drive, there's something to see every couple of hours. A free museum? Check. Walking around a college campus? That's always fun. Part of the stops help because there is always something to take home, be it a flyer or 3 fold brochure.
Before you leave home, grab several small objects that travel well and put them in a bag. They can be any kind of objects but as you hear the rest of the explanation, ideas will come to mind. As you’re riding along give each child (one at a time) an object from the bag with the request that this child come up with a story about her or his sibling and this object. Repeat by giving each child and each adult an object and requesting a story. Don’t show the objects in advance of giving one out. The story cannot be a true story. You’re not looking for something that actually happened. You’re looking for something silly that may have the sibling using the object in an unexpected way. Videoing part of the story and re-playing it later has proven great fun!
Sandra Dee Hoffman
Children’s Concierge, LLC
We have five kids, we love road trips and we don't bring any electronics for the ride. We keep a bag of games and activities at the ready in the car so we're always prepared. We keep Mad Libs (always a hit), individual whiteboards and markers, Old Maid/Crazy Eights, and handheld puzzles (they have them tips these little boards to get tiny balls into little holes). We also have a scavenger hunt game and car bingo. We also give them each their own snack bag that they have to manage on the trip so they aren't constantly asking for snacks!
Lisa Van Loo
Raising Outdoor Kids
Be sure to bring a variety of inexpensive items - both technical and non-technical - for kids to do on road trips. Consider taking out 1 thing per hour to keep kids busy. That can include things like:
craft supplies - pick up items like pipe cleaners at a dollar store or Klutz makes lots of great kits
washable window markers - play games like tic tac toe or write messages to other cards
The Kids Book of Questions - should inspire discussions for the whole family
Want to encourage good behavior at the same time? Consider putting a clothespin representing each child on the car visor. If a child misbehaves, their clip comes down and they miss out on the next treat or gift.
WDW Prep School, a site that specializes in Disney World travel planning for families
LeapFrog LeapPad Ultimate, Finding Dory Disney Headphones and Skip Hop Toddler Backpack
Traveling with kids requires a diverse set of activities at the ready for when their mood shifts. My 6 & 4-year-olds can be entertained for long periods of time with their leappads. In our real life we try to stay away from screen time, but on vacation, it's survival mode. Fill their backpacks with snacks and their own personal technology.
A magnetic metal baking sheet taken along on a car trip will allow children to play with magnetic toys during the ride. Word search puzzles are good for keeping older passengers occupied on long trips. Kids can be given a check-off sheet for spotting car tags from all 50 states (or different counties within a state).
Simply Necessary Inc
Playing games like alphabet and state license plates can keep older children entertained. To play alphabet, you have to find all the letters of the alphabet in order to win. You can split the car into two teams or play as a group.
The object of state license plates is to see license plates from all 50 states. Michigan, Alaska, and Hawaii are some of the hardest to spot, so you could adjust the game depending on where you are driving. You could set specific points for each state and set a time limit to see which team can get the most points.
For older children who can spell, Ghost is a great game. Each player says a letter that could spell a word, but doesn't complete a word. If you say a letter that completes the word, you lose.
Especially with younger children, it can be a great idea to have a few special surprises as a last resort. These can be favorite treats or snacks that you don't purchase often. They can also be crosswords, logic puzzles, coloring books, or other quiet games. These can be a great motivator or doled out at specific increments of the drive.
Content Management Specialist
Children can become antsy on a road trip. To plan ahead, pack a snack bag or lunchbox with items such as string cheese, grapes, baby carrots, apple slices, and animal crackers. These are easy snacks that kids can eat themselves in the backseat. Plus, they are not too messy. Also have toys available in the seat pocket such as baby dolls, play dough, or even a water coloring book. Make sure that you have a DVD player with a funny DVD ready to go, so your children will remain entertained while you drive. Make sure it’s charged and plugged in before driving. Also, factor in periodic bathroom breaks, so everyone can get a little space. Another tip, sing along to child appropriate songs. Teaching your children a song in the car is a very fun way to bond and build positive skills.
Katie Ziskind, LMFT, RTY500
Wisdom Within Counseling
1. Homemade activity packs: "Make your own! Purchase a large dollar store pencil case and fill it with fun activities to keep your little ones busy and quiet. It can include stickers, post-it notes, stamps, crayons, scrap pieces of paper, etc."
2. Car Games: "Play some car games or encourage multiple children to play together so that you can focus on the road. I spy, the licence plate game, etc."
3. Children's music: "Be sure to bring your child's favourite CD to listen to. If they are singing, they aren't fighting! And if it's distracting, get them an old MP3 player or CD player so they can plug headphones in."
4. Backseat organizers: "These things will save you! Fill them with small games, books, snacks, tissues, wipes, etc. Easy access for children to get the things they really want."
5. Books on tape: "Bring a selection of different CDs or audio files you downloaded of your child's favourite books. Even better, record yourself reading their favourite bedtime stories."
RECE and Curriculum Developer
1. Before road trips I like to stop at the store and pick up something new. Think about it. Children are excited to open something new- I usually don't even bring it up until we are on the road. Reading directions is added bonus that keeps them occupied for a wee bit longer.
2. I also enjoy a game we call numbers... similar to I spy. We all have to look for numbers 1-20 in order on the highway, you can use any number you see as long as it is not in the car (except for little ones just learning numbers).
3. I also enjoy singing. I can't, but I enjoy it. Choose a word like"love" or a theme like "weather" and see how many songs/verses of songs,you can sing that fit the category..For example What's love got do with it by Tina Turner Love me Tender by Elvis You only have to sing the verse with that includes the topic.
4. I love to travel and am always looking for ways to cut expenses so I can travel more. I found that when I pack lunch in a cooler- and have my daughter and her brother (5 years younger) have the responsibility for MAKING everybody's sandwich, getting the drinks, and snacks they work together and in harmony…
5. There is always the quiet game for a few minutes of peace
6. Nintendo switch is nice because you can also hook it up to the TV when you arrive at your destination and allows for multiple players at once both in the car and at home.
7. I went on a picnic...Have the children bring an item to the "picnic"using sequential letters of the alphabet
8. Popcorn storytelling. Start a story with 1 or 2 lines and then have someone pick up to add to the story.
9. This was a hand jive game I played as a kid but adapted to the car with my 13 year old and her friends you sing "Hands up to 85 (clap clap)gonna get (clap clap)names of (clap clap)girls (or boys, or cars etc...)(clap clap)no hesitation (clap clap)no concentration (clap clap)two a piece (clap clap)and no repeats (clap clap)Starting with (clap clap)the name of the person who will begin (you can plan this, or it can be a surprise)Everyone keeps going naming the names of the topic with a clap in between Person 1 Alicia (clap clap), Colleen (clap clap)Person 2 Danielle (clap clap) Megan (clap clap)
10. Although not a game, movie or toy, parents should prepare themselves. Children are naturally inquisitive, talkative, noisy, and have short attention spans. DO NOT PLAN for a quiet drive. Expecting a little chaos will help you adjust and be mentally prepared for what's to come.
Founder and Owner
Here are our top ways to keep kids entertained on a long road trip:
If you're travelling with multiple children, it might be worth buying some earphone splitters, which let several people listen to a single device at one time.
iPad: Even if you're trying to cut down on screen time, there's no denying the winning appeal of watching movies and cartoons on iPad. Just make sure you set a time limit, provide headphones for the kids and place the iPad somewhere they can all see it, so as to avoid fights.
Alphabet game: Challenge the kids to a race to find each letter of the alphabet, in order. The letters have to be outside the car (i.e. on billboards, license plates, road signs, etc.). Whoever reaches Z first wins.
For an added challenge, see if you can do the alphabet backwards!
Celebrity game: One person starts by saying the name of a celebrity, e.g. Tom Cruise. The next person has to think of another famous person whose first name begins with the first letter of the previous person's last name. So taking Tom Cruise as an example, the next person would have to say a celebrity whose first name begins with C.
The beauty of this game is that there are no winners or losers, and it continues on until everyone gets bored.
Make up a story: Tell a collaborative, nonsensical story by taking turns saying one word. Throw off the other players by choosing an unexpected word to come next, e.g. if the story so far is "Once upon a," you can say something surprising like "pizza". Guaranteed giggles all around!
21 questions: One player in the car thinks of a person. The other players take turns asking 21 yes or no questions to try and find out who the person is. If someone gets the answer right within 21 questions, they get a point. If no one answers, the other player gets a point. Play to 10 points!
Toys: Depending on the age of your kids, old-fashioned toys still work a charm. Bring along some activities like sticker books, colouring books and word searches. You can also bring Play-Doh and challenge the children to create certain animals or shapes. The possibilities are endless!
Let’s break this down into 2 camps of kids - toddlers and kids of reading age.
Sorry to throw some shade on toddlers but by nature they have the attention span of, well, a toddler. Thank god for that contraption which I call the “strap and trap ‘em”. Yup, the best invention of 1962 was the car seat. There’s no escape route for them but you should be ready for some crying and wiggling after you hit the 2-hour mark. Pull over and stretch both your legs!
Here are my 4 steps to keep your toddler entertained on a road trip as well as maintain your sanity!
Step 1 - Place towels under the car seat and the adjacent area. You will have a mess to clean up with crumbs and juice box spills.
Step 2 - Make sure you have disposable wipes to clean sticky fingers, chins and car parts.
Step 3 - Have healthy and low sugar treats packaged in colorful containers - cheerios, sliced turkey deli meat, cubed cinnamon bread, thawed frozen peas, sippy cup with water, etc.
Step 4 - Pack plenty of toys - toys that hook onto the car seat. Some favorites are magnetic puzzles, reusable sticker sets, and a learning tablet that mimics your adult tablet.
Step 5 - This is an option and might not go over well with a fellow traveler. Have them sit in the back seat with your toddler to be the ultimate entertainment for a long road trip!
Kids of reading age are the easiest to keep entertained on a long road trip. Limit the amount of time they spend on a video.
Engage them in word games. Shout out countries using the letters of the license plate. For example, CSN could be Canada, Sweden, Norway. A variation could be listing states, state capitals and cities. Another fun game is to connect the first and last names of famous people. The first person starts by naming, for example, Bill Gates. The second person follows with George Washington and the third names Walt Disney, and so on.
Founder Lottery Critic
So next time you and your family head out on the highway, remember you can have all the fun of a road trip with none of the annoying “Are we there yet?” whines or sibling wrestling matches. All you need to do is keep the kiddos entertained and as we hoped this list has shown you, entertainment on the road is far from an impossible feat. Books, games, activities, and more can bring so much fun to the backseat your kids may never want to get out!