silver RV

Children’s Activities for Car Rides.

I know that — if traveling at all — many of us have been traveling exclusively by car, and that some of us may have increased opportunities to drive to see vaccinated relatives in the coming weeks and months as the vaccine continues to roll out. Among the many things that flit through my mind in the wee small hours of the morning as my mind works its way through the many details of moving cities: logistics around buying a car (which one? when?), purchasing carseats (which ones? when?), and outfitting my children with everything they need for impending travel to D.C. and, hopefully, a couple of early-summer excursions to the Hamptons. We have scarcely traveled in the last year save for one trip to the Hamptons last summer, but a few things that have worked well for us in years prior, with a higher density of car trips.

The Fashion Magpie Toddler Travel Activities and Gear

+These LL Bean totes in the XL size (01.). One for each child, with a big monogram on the side and different colored straps so it’s easy to see whose is whose. They tend to fit perfectly (snugly) in front of a carseat and because of the open top make access for all that child’s essentials a breeze.

+Pouches on pouches on pouches. I bought each child a set of these (06. — micro’s in blue; mini’s in pink) to organize everything within their LL Bean totes. The different shapes helps me remember what is where (and I especially like the small, slim flat pouch it comes with for their toiletries, stray q-tips, comb, etc), though I have also used the more-expensive and better-quality EZ Packing Cubes (I have two sets, one for Mr. Magpie and one for myself, in different colors) in the past and slightly prefer the fact that they are clear and that the contents are therefore easy to assess. At any rate, I will sort all of their belongings/toys/accessories in different sized pouches so I can easily grab the one that will have, say, socks if a child’s feet are cold, or diapers if we need a change.

+I stock their individual backpacks (stowed inside the LL Bean bags mentioned above) with all of their activities and toys for the trip and do not let them peek until they get into the car.

+I always keep small trashbags on hand. It is shocking how much trash/soiled wipes we have accrued on past road trips.

+On that note, it has rarely failed me to overestimate on wipes. I keep one bag in each of their bags, plus a small dispenser in my own diaper bag.

+I always try to save at least one “Hail Mary” item in the bottom of my own diaper bag when things get really dicey — sometimes that’s a lollipop, a new toy, or a new book.

+So many snacks. When I am organized, I will try to pack them healthier snacks (fresh produce, vegetables, cheese, salami) in a Yumbox (02.) or in these separate tiny canisters from Beaba (04. — convenient as they clip into one another so you can have an entire, easy-to-grab tower of them in your bag). Alternately, I like these collapsible silicone snack cups (05.) and these collapsible tupperware because they take up less size and can be pulled out as needed to decant things like goldfish, pirate’s booty, raisins, etc. I also recently pulled the trigger on Yeti waterbottles (08.) for the children. I was sold after seeing most of the children at mini’s school with them — apparently they never leak. They are heavy, though. I also one time got very crafty and ordered one of these bead organizers (11. <<the price is right on this set, plus I love the fun colors), used fun letter stickers to spell mini’s name on the top, and filled each of the compartments with little parcels of different snacks — things like raisins, yogis, orange wedges, veggie chips, blueberries, granola balls, etc. She loved it, and it kept her busy for a long time back there. A fun little trick if you are traveling a lot by car for some reason!

+A note on snacks: mini loves apples and they take her a long time to eat. Great toddler car snack — keeps hands and mouth busy for a good thirty minutes. Sometimes I will remove the core out of the apple and put a slick of peanut butter in there, too. Just makes sure to keep a baggy/stasher bag on hand.

+I always keep a change of clothes, spare socks, and underwear for each child in separate, monogrammed wet-dry bags on travel days. I learned my lesson the hard way between two bad incidents, one involving a blow-out and the other carsickness. That way, you’re not rifling through bags for items while wiping your child down on the side of the road, and you can place the soiled clothes directly in the wet-dry bag to be laundered when you arrive at your destination. (I actually usually put it first in one of the mini trash bags.)

+I find it easiest to keep them in a simple, breathable outfit with layers on travel days. I like little pima pieces that almost feel like pajamas, and then a cardigan that can be added/removed.

For activities, a couple of great car ride activities for little ones:

TEGU MAGNETIC BLOCKS* — THEY ALSO HAVE LITTLE TRAVEL SETS (07.) BUT I FOUND THAT THIS WAS LESS EXCITING TO MINI BECAUSE THERE WERE FEWER PIECES TO BUILD THINGS WITH

USBORNE STICKER BOOKS (12.) AND M&D PUFFY STICKER BOOKS (BOTH OF MY CHILDREN STARTED LIKING THESE AROUNG 18 MONTHS — MUST BE SUPERVISED, OF COURSE, BUT STILL DOABLE)

BOOGIE BOARD (OLDER TODDLERS) OR FISHER PRICE DOODLE PRO TRAVEL (WORKS FOR LITTLES AS YOUNG AS A YEAR)

MAGNATAB (10.)

WATER WOW (LITTLE ONES) OR ALPHABET PAGES** AND CRAYOLA MESS-FREE COLORING PAGES

WINDOW CLINGS

WIKKI STIX

I SPY BOOKS

WRITE + WIPE ACTIVITY BOOKS (WE ALSOV HAVE THIS ONE)

POST-IT NOTES (THESE ARE SO INTERESTING TO BABIES AROUND A YEAR — A TIP I PICKED UP FROM A MAGPIE READER!)

JANOD MAGNETIBOOKS OR PETIT COLLAGE DRESS UP MAGNETIC SETS

ANIMAL TOOBS (03.) — MY CHILDREN LOVE THESE TINY FIGURINES, AND YOU CAN BUY TUBES OF ALL DIFFERENT KINDS (SAFARI, DESERT, ARCTIC, ETC.) — SOMETHING ABOUT THE SIZE?! — BUT MINI WILL OFTEN PLAY WITH THESE FOR LONG, LONG STRETCHES

FELT PLAY BOOKS (09.)

FOR 5+ YEARS: THIS STAMP ACTIVITY PAD, DRAWING PASSPORT, ETCH-A-SKETCH, AND PAINT BY STICKER BOOKLETS

DIGITAL CAMERA!

KIDS TABLE TOPICS

POLLY POCKETS

*If you buy these or really any play set with free-standing parts, consider throwing a pack of these in your suitcase or de-canting before departure. So much easier and less bulky to keep pieces together than in their original packaging.

**Be sure to pre-fill the water pens before leaving.

A few other random thoughts:

+There are about a zillion brands that carry these car tables for children — I don’t know about the quality or utility but for a longer ride, would probably be intrigued by this setup for mini, so that she can have everything she might want/need at her fingertips.

+For little babies — I always tried to time the departure just before a nap, as the motion usually lulls them to sleep anyway, and it’s easy to pass along a bottle and have them drift off for a quiet first leg of the trip. Beyond that, things like fabric books (also this), pop up toys, and interactive toys like this come in handy. (Beware on the latter category, as the sounds/noises can drive you crazy after awhile!)

+If you use an iPad (we do), I can’t recommend one of these sturdy cases enough (13). Easier for them to hold / prop up and less likely that the iPad will break.

P.S. A life-changing learning from this past year.

P.P.S. If you’re stuck at home, all my favorite sensory play ideas and tips.

P.P.P.S. Quiet thoughts on parenting.

8 Comments

  1. Great post! Bookmarking this for July, when we’ll spend 4+ hours in the car, followed by 2 hours on a ferry with an almost-4yo and a 17 month old. Definitely in need of diversions for them!!

    1. Yay!! Keep me posted on how that goes…we have children at similar ages!

      xx

  2. So smart, all! As a former nanny who used to travel a lot with my families, I would just add pipe cleaners, and a good old fashioned mini Etch a Sketch! And good for you on the iPad… I once traveled to Mexico with one of my families with a 2 and 3 1/2 year old and could not convince Mom to let them watch movies… OY!!
    Oh! And it doesn’t seem to apply here, but have you seen these inflatable foot rest cubes, or they can act as a mini bed (combined with the seat) for a little? Genius, especially for planes!! The brand I’ve seen is KUKI, but I’m sure there’s others!

    1. So clever, Jessica! Was not familiar with Kuki and similar products! Grazie!

      xx

    1. Hi friend! Thank you so much for chiming in here — so love the ideas on your post and encouraging that there was some overlap with some of my ideas, as you are truly the expert! I might try audiobooks this go around, too — thanks for that idea!

      xx

  3. I need to try a separate bag for each child. In the past year, we’ve driven to Arizona and back (13 hours each way) twice to see family. Our 4 and 5 year old have done great, but the smaller bags I pack for them with a larger bag full of activities and food has not worked well. One larger bag for each of them may be the way to go!

    Also, we let them watch an iPad and they have to switch every 20 minutes (with some longer breaks for non-iPad activities). That way they each have a break and it helps to pass the time.

    Without COVID, I don’t know we would have ever tried that long of a drive. I surprisingly find it mostly enjoyable!

    1. Wow! That is so ambitious but also very reassuring — I have already been knocking knees at the thought of a few DC trips (only 4 hours each way). Thanks for the encouragement. Let me know what you think of the two separate bags. I find it much easier both on the packing side and on the easy-to-access-while-traveling side. I like the idea of switching iPad turns – smart. Might borrow that!

      xx

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