Backseat boredom busters: The update

This is one of the first posts we had up when we went live with last August. We updated the content and added some more tips.

It’s somewhat stating the obvious to say that Jarrett and I love to travel. And in our B.C. (before children) days, embarking on a long trip never phased us.

But then we had a baby. Eager to prove to the world–and ourselves–that having a baby wouldn’t change us, we packed up our six-week-old Sweet Pea and took her camping for the first time. Although the campground was not even two hours away, it took us almost three hours because she refused to sleep and nothing assuaged her fussing. Then our Sweet Pea became a toddler who did not find being strapped in a car seat to be all that great of an idea. So we bought a DVD system for the car, and it bought us a peaceful nine-hour drive to South Carolina that year.

Fast-forward a few years and add in two more tiny tots: Mixing movies with nap times during long trips was working well. But then the DVD system broke. My gut reaction was to run out and buy a new system. But we were in a tight financial patch at the time and it didn’t seem like the best use of funds. And I’m kind of glad now, because while watching movies was a great way to keep the kids entertained easily, I discovered they could survive without them. I know, know. We lived without them, and car trips turned out just fine back then, too. (Update: In an effort for full transparency :), we did purchase a dvd system before we took our Wild West trip since we were going to be spending so many hours in the car, and it proved to be a huge help in passing the time!)

Ideas to do with kids in the car

Now our favorite car entertainment gadgets are the Leapfrog Explorer or LeapFrog LeapPad
systems. We bought one of the rechargeable battery packs so we weren’t chewing through as many batteries–that turned out to be a great investment.

As much as we love the Leapsters, though, we don’t like the kids to spend too much time glued to the screens, so I come prepared with a variety of other activities to keep them busy.

We love to read stories as a family, but in the car it just doesn’t work well due to the road noise and my propensity to motion sickness. So books on CD are a lifesaver. Your local library will likely have a selection of children’s books on CD. Here are some of our favorites:

When it comes to activities to keep little fingers busy in the car, mess-free fun is key. So Crayola’s Color Wonder products have accompanied us on every camping trip. (They are also great for rainy days stuck in the camper!) We have two of the Crayola Color Wonder Travel Totes
and then we just buy new refill coloring sheets as needed. The Imagine Ink Mess Free books coloring books are similar in concept and can often be found at Walmart and Target, too.

Other activity book ideas include: good old-fashioned coloring books, dot-to-dot books, mazes, word searches, and sticker books. I have found all of these items at our local Dollar Tree, so you certainly don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a peaceful drive.

A few more ideas to round out the list include:

    • Magnetic playsets like this Magnetic Farm. We have this as well as a tea party and train station set. But they have lots of other options available, too, like a doll house scene or a construction site.
    • Travel bingo like this game pack. My kids love being able to slide the little windows closed as they spy the item. We are actually still using the sets that I used as a kid–I know, vintage–so I was excited to see they are still making this great car game.
    • Kids music CDs: Whatever your family loves to jam to! Our visor is filled with a variety of kid-themed soundtracks.
    • Sweet Pea loves crafting, so she often brings her Rainbow Loom or friendship bracelet materials on car trips.

Earlier this year I created kids’ travel activity binders for our long car trips. The kiddos LOVED these, and they really helped to keep the kids entertained for long stretches of time. As an added benefit, because we had the binders, we cut back on how many other car activities the kids could bring, which helped to reduce the mess and chaos in the car.

And when all else fails, here is my no-fail trick for stress-free travel with kiddos. This is a time-tested strategy–my mom used this when I was a kid! 🙂

Be sure to check out The Touring Camper’s Backseat Boredom Busters Pinterest page where I’m pinning new ideas to try on our trips.

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