This last week we packed up and headed to my small hometown in Wisconsin to visit friends and family. We like to drive because let’s face it, flying can be pricey especially with having to rent a car and the large amount of cheese curds and other goodies I tend to bring home with us. Traveling is something that I loved to do before I became a mom and was something that I wanted to continue and introduce J to too. I found that traveling with an infant was relatively easy as long as you had all of the essentials and they had a full belly and were dry. Once J became a toddler, it became a little more difficult to keep him entertained; especially on those cross-country car rides. Since I was unpacking J’s backpack today, I thought I would share some of my favorite activities and car friendly tips and items for our road trips.
First, a small backpack is a must. Two years ago, before our first long trip, we let J pick out a small backpack that would be just his. He helps me pack it with snacks, his water bottle, and all of his activities before leaving and it is within easy reach for him in our vehicle.
One of J’s favorite items in his backpack is a Melissa and Doug Water Wow. I recently got him a new one for this trip that has a little spyglass to find hidden objects and he loves it. I love that it only takes water, so it is relatively mess free, and the brush is easy to fill up on the go. Also, they have such a large variety of books that it’s easy to find one that meets your child’s interests.
Another favorite around here is the small cookie sheet with a mixture of Magnatiles and Tegu Blocks. The cookie sheet also doubles as a lap-top desk for other activities. If you haven’t heard of Tegu blocks, they are magnetic wooden blocks that come in kits of all sizes. They are on more of the pricey side but Amazon tends to have them on sale quite often. We have a small 8 block set with a pocket pouch that is the perfect size for traveling. I also tend to throw in a few small matchbox cars or tractors. Using the cookie sheet and the Magnatiles, you can create tunnels and ramps for them to drive down and through.
Magnetic Fun is another brand that offers great magnetic car activities that come in a perfect case for traveling. We have the funny faces one and J just loves making all of the silly faces.
J loves to color so I always try to throw in a small coloring book and a few crayons/washable markers and stickers. Sometimes, I’ll also throw in something fun to color such as one of those velvet coloring sheets, or a small wooden shape like these Thanksgiving ones I found at a local shop, just to switch it up a bit and keep him interested. Stencils are great for kids as well!
Another thing we bring along is play-doh. Now, I know you are thinking, “play-doh, is she crazy?” but it is possible to keep the mess to a minimum. I’ve found that if I give J a ball of dough, roughly the size of a golf ball and a small cookie cutter, he is easily able to keep it all on the cookie sheet and relatively mess-free. If it does get onto the carpet, just wait for it to dry and brush it away.
We also tend to read a lot of books while traveling. J picks out a few of his favorites, and every now and then, we’ll pick up a new one about the places we visit to read while we are on the road. Its like storytime on the go!
When packing his backpack, I let him choose a few snacks that he can have whenever he is hungry. This includes things like granola bars, fruit pouches, raisins, an apple, and peanut butter crackers. I also let him throw in a few treats like fruit leather and mini m&m’s as well as his water bottle.
If you are traveling through the night or past dark, glow sticks are a fun and inexpensive activity. I also throw in a battery powered book light that I can clamp onto his seat so that he can see what he is doing. This is especially great for traveling in the fall when the days are much shorter.
I tend to purchase a few new little trinkets that I keep in my bag and pull out when J is starting to get antsy. This trip I had a silly sticky hand that he could stick to the window, a new truck stencil, a velvet Mickey picture, and some fun scented markers. Our last resort is the iPad. We don’t have a DVD player in our vehicle so we download a few movies and educational games for when he’s just over the entire ride in general. It helps buy us a little more time before we stop for gas or are done driving for the day.
Another great tip. When packing your vehicle, try to place a suitcase or a bag in the space below their car seat. It will give them something to rest their feet on and help reduce the chance of their legs falling asleep from dangling off the seat.
The thought of a cross-country road trip with a toddler can be scary but it can also be fun! Stop at some landmarks along the way to let them stretch their legs and learn about local history. Play I-spy with them. Let them be involved in the conversation. With a little planning, you can have a great trip!