Creative Play on the Go

Article at a glance:

  • A good attitude and a little planning can go a long way.
  • Save screens for strategic moments rather than making them the default entertainment.
  • Creativity and variety in both snacks and types of activities will keep boredom at bay.

Road trips with kids are an endeavor. Screens can be a lifesaver—it’s easy just to hand back the phone for some brief satisfaction, but it won’t last forever, and it might be wiser to save screens as a backup plan if chaos ensues. You may spend most of your time planning what will happen at your destination, but it’s not a bad idea to have a solid game plan for the trip there too. Road trips are wonderful opportunities to have fun, learn, and bond as a family, and with some good ideas for the drive ahead the car might be a destination in and of itself.


Games are the secret to success for any road trip. Card games are a good choice because they don’t take up a lot of room, but a lot of the popular board games also come in travel editions. Many classics you might remember playing in the car are a go-to, and still endure the test of time. While best played with the whole family, these games are also available as apps for when the baby is sleeping or you’re trying to navigate your way through busy traffic.

  • 20 Questions
  • I Spy
  • License Plate Game
  • Travel Bingo
  • Bonus: Play consecutive games as part of a mini-tournament! Everyone can build up points and get treats or privileges throughout the trip.

If you’re looking for something for more creative, using a cookie sheet as an activity tray can go a long way. You can pick up magnetic versions of games like tic-tac-toe and checkers at your local dollar store to use with them. It’s also the perfect place for a coloring book, word magnets, or making bracelets. And when it’s time for a snack, you already have a place to eat without making a mess.


Food may seem like more of a necessity, but it can be fun too. Instead of packing big bags and moderating portions, you can fill up individual bags to be used as milestones or rewards on your trip. Even better, use a tackle box with individual compartments for healthy munchies—it’s a lot of fun and it can be a good way for toddlers to practice fine motor skills.

Foods that fit great:

  • cereal
  • dried fruit
  • nuts
  • trail mix
  • fruit snacks

Recording Memories

Kids love collecting treasures and jotting down memories. Buy your kids a journal they can use to write down memories, draw pictures of what they see, and collect things like tickets stubs and mementos. Have them use their own camera or borrow yours to take pictures of things they find interesting. Many phones make it easy to create an album of your trip that will be fun to look at during the drive, and for years to come.

Listen Up

Something good to listen to can make a trip fly by.

  • Audiobooks or read out loud
  • Before the trip, record yourself reading your kids’ favorite books on your smartphone. They’ll be able to follow along with a book in hand.
  • Music! Kid-friendly is good, but don’t hesitate to play something you like. They might enjoy it more than you think.
  • Podcasts for kids-they’re short and can be educational
    1. Brains On! – a podcast about science for ages 6 – 12
    2. Children’s Fun Storytime – kids’ favorite stories are read aloud for ages 4 – 10

Fun, memorable road trips are made up of a little preparation and a lot of optimism. Let your kids know they have a responsibility to stay occupied, whether on their own or with siblings. Stopping for a stretch break or designating a window seat for someone who needs to blow off steam are great ways to keep up morale. With a few activities and a good attitude, your next road trip will fly by!

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