9 Car Activities for Kids to Keep Them Happy on Long Trips

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Looking for car activities for kids? With summer in full swing, the road trip season is firmly upon us. However, planning a road trip as a family with kids always comes with a particular hurdle:

Keeping the kids happy and engaged during the journey.

Tablets and other electronic devices are always at hand, but there are still several road trip activities to keep kids happy and occupied without a screen.

More importantly, an entertained child leads to a peaceful car full of positive energy. Not only does that create a safer trip, but it also leads to rich, memorable experiences born of joy.

Like many aspects of a successful road trip, plan and prepare your activities with plenty of time to spare. By making this a family event, the memories start even before you leave.

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Pre-Trip and Planning Car Activities for Kids

Before you hit the road, these activities require some planning. Therefore, don’t wait until the night before to get started.

Have everyone involved in choosing the activities. Let your kids gather the (safe) equipment, such as art supplies and containers. Parents should gather any scissors, glues, toys, or other supplies needed for road trip activities.

An important note: never forget snacks! Healthy road snacks and lunches are always essential. For food on the go, focus on:

  • Easy-to-eat food: This is especially important for young eaters. Stay away from messy recipes. Sandwiches and other finger foods are great ideas.
  • Kid-favorites: Road trips are fun! Spoil the kids a bit and bring their favorite healthy snacks and foods.
  • Batch preparation: If your trip is a multi-day journey, prepare entire batches of car trip food. Store them in easy containers for simple handling while on the road.

Enlist the entire family and start the memories before you hit the road. To help you plan your next road trip, here are 9 great road trip activities to keep your kids happy on your next journey.

Car Activities for Babies and Toddlers

car activities for babies and toddlers

Keeping a young one entertained is a daunting task. Not only do these car activities keep their minds occupied, but they foster and enhance many skills as well. 

Activity Trays

Upcycle a muffin tray to create a handy activity tray. The muffin pockets provide organization for parents, and motor skill boosts for the kids. 

Each muffin compartment holds snacks, craft supplies, or other toys. With some creative decoration, the tray also doubles as a landscape for playtime on the go. 

Use suction toys to create an interactive tray for younger toddlers. Even filling the cups with safe items of different materials makes a great tactile experience. Plus, it keeps the little ones content and occupied.

Printable Car Games

If your kids are older toddlers, laminated printables are excellent road trip essentials. These printables encourage kids to study the world around them. From car-matching games to counting activities, trip-themed printables are a fun addition to any trip.

Our favorite printables include:

  • Counting cars and tracing numbers
  • Truck tracing
  • Vacation mazes

You can find these and more handy printables here!

Cookie Sheet Magnetics

Cookie sheet activities are yet another kitchen tool-turned road trip activity.

Paired with magnetic shapes, animals, numbers, or more, kids have endless fun with magnetic play boards. Ask them to spell words or create pictures with shapes. Or, simply allow their minds to run wild.

Car Activities for School-Aged Children

car activities to entertain school-aged kids

Older kids need more engagement to stay satisfied on the road. Keep their minds and hands occupied with these interactive and hands-on activities, perfected for the car.

Create a Story on the Road

Traveling with multiple children is often a chore. One way to keep the peace is to have them create a road trip story. 

Ask your kids to work together to write a tale. Include any rules you would like, such as

  • The story must include something they see out the window.
  • The story must be about a vacation.
  • The story must focus on traveling.

These are just a few prompts out of many. Tailor it to the family and whatever makes everyone smile. At the end of the trip, the story becomes a treasured keepsake full of special memories. 

Road Trip Bingo

If your kids are of reading age, road trip bingo is an excellent way to associate recognition between words and the real world. 

Laminate the included bingo page before the trip. Once you hit the road, hand out the sheets and safe markers. As your kids (and other occupants) see the items, mark them off! Keep score for fun, and drive easy knowing that your kids are having fun while learning. 

Car Crafts

If the kids are more hands-on, ask them to create some car-safe craft projects. Pre-pack craft kits before heading out. Include kid-safe scissors, glue, and other materials that your children might need.

Great craft ideas include:

  • Fun and fancy road-trip masks
  • Paper plate window drawings
  • Construction paper collages

As always, the list of craft activities is endless. Find ways to make your kids’ favorite crafty activities safe for the car. Glue sticks aren’t nearly as messy as bottles.

Also, if scissors are out of the question, find paper that is easy to rip. With a bit of planning, you’ll make any idea work.

Car Activities for Pre-Teens and Older

non-screen car activities for preteens and teens

Older kids might be less inclined to cry during the trip, but they are no less a challenge to keep entertained.

Audiobooks, music, and smart devices might seem the go-to pursuits. Still, even the most stubborn pre-teen may find the following car activities for kids interesting.

Road Trip Journal

Keeping a journal is an excellent method of self-soothing and creativity. Encourage your older kids to start a journal during the trip

A road trip journal fosters writing skills and lots of internal thought. However, they also encourage kids to study the world around them. For many, they offer creative, quiet outlets to pass the time on the road.

Map Reading and Creation

Kids excited to hit the road might love studying maps of the route. Though paper maps aren’t popular these days, they remain valuable tools.

Pick up or print off maps of the journey. Encourage your kids to trace the route as you travel. They can mark off or draw notable landmarks that you pass. Ask them to decorate the borders with images or symbols that are relevant to the trip.

A paper map still has many uses. With your kids’ help, it can become a great memory from the trip.

I Spy Scavenger Hunts

“I spy” games are essential on a road trip. Add some extra flair to the game by turning it into a scavenger hunt. Print out lists of sites, signs, or other images common to a road trip. Have your kids mark off each item as they see them.

Variations of this game are endless. Our family loves:

  • Road sign matching.
  • License plate scavenger hunt (with bonus points for variant plates).
  • Car make and model match. Shout out a specific car model and color. The first to find it wins a point.

Road trip scavenger hunts involve the entire family. Plus, they can continue outside of the car. Tailor your scavenger activities to the locations you visit. At the end of the trip, they become long-lasting mementos of a great vacation.

Wrapping Up Car Activities for Kids to Keep Then Happy on a Road Trip

Keeping the kids entertained on the road helps keep the entire family safe and happy. A happy car is a calm car, and reaching a destination beaming with joy is one of life’s greatest feelings.

Keep the atmosphere light and relaxing. Stop and see the sites often, and, as always, remember to enjoy the moment with the family.

This has been an outstanding guest post by Rachel. She is an Outreach Associate with North Star Inbound. An honor graduate of New York University, she contributes home improvement, landscaping, and renovation pieces. When not writing, she enjoys gardening with her mom and spending time in the Florida sunshine.

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