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.)
So now our favorite car gadget is the LeapFrog Leapster Explorer Learning Game System. They also have a newer version out, but we haven’t had any personal experience with it yet. My kids love their Leapster Explorers, though. 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 for 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.
And 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.
Be sure to check out The Touring Camper’s Pinterest page where I’ll be pinning new ideas we try on our trips.
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