Taking a road trip with your three-year-old is no easy task. You’re trying to concentrate on the road while also entertaining your children so they don’t get bored and cranky.
As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed or even a little anxious thinking about taking a long car ride with your toddlers. How are you going to keep them busy while you’re driving in the front seat?
Fortunately, there are some awesome car activities that will keep your three-year-old busy without damaging your car.
From coloring books to movies, learning how to write letters to matchbox car races, there are endless activities your toddler can enjoy on a long car ride. The only limitation is your creativity!
To keep your toddler busy on your next long road trip, try some of these car activities. They will surely change the way you view car rides with your children.
The oldest trick in the book is to give children a coloring book and some crayons. I suggest leaving the markers at home so they don’t stain your seats or other parts of the car.
Choose a coloring book with your child’s favorite characters, animals, or movie series. They’ll love giving a colorful life to the bland pages. Not to mention, this can keep them busy for quite a while as they concentrate on coloring inside the lines.
2.Magnets on a Cookie Sheet
If your child loves playing with magnets on your refrigerator at home, why not bring the fun into the car? With just a cookie sheet and some magnets, your three-year-old will keep busy rearranging the magnets on the sheet.
Alphabet and number magnets are a great learning opportunity for your child too. They will become familiar with the letters and even try to spell their name or simple words like “cat” and “dog.”
If letters aren’t your style, get figurine magnets. This allows your child to play and create stories and scenarios with them on the cookie sheet.
3.DJ Toddler Time
I get it, toddler music isn’t the most enjoyable to listen to, but it will keep your children entertained and having a great time while on a long car ride. Let your children choose the music they want to listen to for a little bit.
As they sing along and dance in their car seats, it will surely tire them out after twenty minutes or so.
Sing along with them and hype them up as they belt out their favorite tunes. In a little while, they’ll grow very quiet and may even take a nap so you can listen to your own music.
Before leaving for your road trip, put Cheerios or Fruit Loops on a string or yarn to make a cereal necklace. When your three-year-old asks for a snack, hand them the necklace.
They’ll love biting the cereal rings off of the string. While it isn’t a long-term activity, it will definitely keep them busy for a few minutes at least.
We can’t deny that times are much different than when we were kids. Now our children are surrounded by portable technology. This is a great opportunity to educate your children early in a fun way.
Educational electronics like the LeapPad Tablet from Leapfrog or Vtech’s Tote and Go Laptop are awesome activities during a long road trip. Not only will it keep your three-year-old busy in the back seat, but they’ll also be learning fundamental skills.
6.Melissa & Doug Water Wow Books
If you don’t trust your children with markers or crayons, the Melissa & Doug Water Wow books are the way to go. These unique coloring books use a special pen filled with water to reveal the pages’ colors.
It’s absolutely no mess and the pages are reusable, which means endless fun on multiple road trips! These books will keep your kids entertained and quiet for what feels like hours.
What three-year-old isn’t obsessed with stickers? Before taking off on a long road trip, grab some packs of stickers and an empty notebook.
Your children will love decorating the blank pages with their new stickers and creating different scenes.
You can also purchase special sticker books with themes too. Add some crayons to the mix and you’ll have a whole art studio in the back seat of your car.
8.Sticky Window Clings
We’ve already determined that toddlers absolutely love sticky things.
If you don’t want to give them stickers that can be difficult to remove from your car’s seats, windows, or ceiling, try window clings.
These are super easy to clean up afterward and leave no damage to your car. Your kids will enjoy the sticky, gooey feeling of the clings as they place them on the windows.
Before taking off on a long road trip, buy some new books for your three-year-old to flip through. Even if they can’t read, the pictures will surely grab their attention.
Even better, getting sensory books will keep them even more entertained. As they explore the sounds, textures, and various materials, it’s like discovering a treasure on every page. You’ll be surprised at how concentrated your toddler will be as they flip through the pages.
Maybe you didn’t have enough time to get to the store and buy stickers or window clings. Don’t fear! Grab a roll of painter’s or masking tape to bring with you.
Your toddler will hardly notice the difference between the tape and shiny stickers. As long as it sticks to something, they’ll be happy. Let them tear, rip, and stick the tape on the windows, seats, and even on themselves.
The beauty of this type of tape is the lack of damage it leaves when you tear it from a surface. It’s as if it were made for toddlers to play with while in the car!
Do you remember how much fun playing with bubble wrap was as a child? We would squeeze the little plastic bubbles as hard as we could until they popped and made the most satisfying sound to young ears.
If you don’t mind the sound of bubble wrap popping as an adult, it’s a great car activity for your three-year-old. They’ll be fascinated with how it works and trying to pop the bubbles as quickly as they can.
Give them a variety of bubble wrap pieces. Try one piece with large bubbles and another with smaller bubbles. It’ll definitely keep them busy while you concentrate on the highway.
Glowsticks never fail to amaze children and keep them entertained. If you know you’ll be driving at night, bring some glowsticks to make a party-like atmosphere in the car.
Turn on some fun, happy music and watch your kids have the time of their lives waving colorful glowsticks around. Always keep an eye on children around glowsticks, as they can be dangerous if put in their mouths.
13.Play a Movie
The ultimate lifesaver for parents on long road trips with toddlers is playing a movie. Even if your car doesn’t have a built-in screen, there are many ways to set up a movie for your kids.
If they have kid-friendly tablets, like the Amazon Fire for Kids tablet, you can load movies right on the device. A movie will keep your child busy for at least an hour and a half so you can drive in silence.
The best part about streaming entertainment now is your children can watch virtually any movie or television show they want. This is perfect for those extra-long car rides.
14.Matchbox Car Races
Kids love playing with the little matchbox cars no matter where they are. These are the perfect activity to keep your children entertained during a long road trip.
Not only are they compact and easy to pack, but they’re pretty quiet too. From rolling them over every surface available in the car to racing each other and making up games, your toddlers will love their matchbox cars.
Step it up a notch and create a foldable racetrack or roadmap to bring with you. Your children can unfold the board on their laps and run their matchbox cars along the streets and track you’ve created. They’ll love it so much they won’t have time to complain about being bored.
When is the one time a toddler is truly quiet? When they’re eating. Believe me, you don’t want to be stuck in the car with a hungry three-year-old without snacks.
So, before you take off, make sure to pack a bag or cooler with some car-friendly, no-mess snacks.
Some of the best snacks to pack for a road trip include sliced apples, dry cereal, grapes, sliced banana, mini muffins, and crackers. These snacks won’t cause too much of a mess and can be easily packed in bags or small containers.
Don’t waste hours in the car with meaningless activities when your child can be learning how to write their letters! This is a great opportunity to enhance their motor skills and have them trace the alphabet.
There are plenty of workbooks available for kids to trace capitalized and lower case letters. If you don’t want to purchase an entire book, you can print out worksheets and clip them to a clipboard for your child.
17.Play the Quiet Game
You remember the quiet game as a kid, right? Everyone stops talking and tries to be as quiet as possible. The first one to speak loses the game.
If you can get your three-year-old to play this game, you have a truly special talent for persuasion. To encourage your kids to take the game seriously, have some prizes available for the winner.
These prizes can be small stuffed animals, a coloring book, or simply a matchbox car. Have something available for everyone, though to avoid fights and arguments.
18.Alphabet Scavenger Hunt
Learning letters and the alphabet doesn’t have to be boring or solely learned in a classroom. Instead, make it into a fun scavenger hunt while on the road.
Ask your children to look for items around them that start with the letter A, and then B, then C, and so on. This will help them learn the first letters of common words and items and also keep them busy while in the car waiting to arrive at your destination.
19.The Ultimate Road Trip Hack
When taking a road trip with toddlers, there’s bound to be some distractions, frustrations, and feelings of being overwhelmed. The only time you may not notice these things is when your children are sleeping.
So, the ultimate road trip hack when traveling with children is to leave at a time when they can sleep in the car. Many parents like to leave very early in the morning so their kids sleep for a couple of hours at the beginning of the trip.
Not only does leaving in the morning give you some peace and quiet, but it gives you a great headstart to the day.
You know your children best, though. Maybe you would rather leave in the evening and drive in the dark so they fall asleep towards the end of the trip. It’s up to you!
Keeping Three-Year-Olds Entertained in the Car
There are plenty of activities your three-year-old can do during a long road trip. It does require some extra planning on your part, but if you’re reading this article you’re already one step ahead!
Get creative with how you keep your toddlers entertained from coloring books to games to tablets to learning the alphabet. The options are truly endless.
If all else fails, leave at a time when you know they’ll fall asleep. Then you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the highway with sleeping toddlers in the back seat.