16 Car Activities for Toddlers…That Really Do Help!

Road Trip With Toddlers

We’ve been on some epic road trips with our children and over the last few years have perfected our car activities for toddlers. There’s only a 22-month gap between my two so I feel like I’m well-practiced!

From driving from Vancouver to Whistler and Tofino, to road tripping from Edmonton to Jasper and back again, we’ve had our fair share of looooong car journeys with Nova and Kit. We did a lot of car journeys when Nova was a toddler and have continued the car trips with Kit, who has only just turned 2.

Most of the road trip with toddlers posts that I read were actually aimed more at pre-schoolers (3+), so they weren’t all that helpful. Scavenger hunts and I Spy can be a little tricky for a non-talker. And stickers are great, but if you can’t peel them off yourself it can be frustrating.

And so here it is, a post with toddler road trip toys, tips on how to entertain a 2 year old (and 1 year old) and basically everything that helped us survive and (mostly!) enjoy them.

Road Trip Activities for Toddlers

Car Activities for Toddlers
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This post contains some affiliate links, which means I may receive a small percentage of any purchases (at no extra cost to you).

1. Edible Bracelets

What toddler doesn’t love snacks, so why not incorporate a snack into a road trip activity?! If you’re wondering how to keep toddlers busy, give them one of these and enjoy the quietness!

Simply thread your snack of choice – Melty Sweetcorn Rings, Strawberry Baby Biscuits, dried apple, low-salt pretzels, low-sugar Cheerios etc and thread on to something edible liked cooked spaghetti or if you’d rather, string.

I prefer bracelets over necklaces as it feels a bit safer to me and I would suggest only using this activity when there’s another adult in the car, i.e. someone who isn’t driving.

Cheap Toddler Road Trip Toys

2. Etch A Sketch

Looking for car toys for a 1 year old? Keep one of those Megasketchers

things in the car. They’re small and light enough for little hands to hold onto and the pen is attached to the board meaning you don’t have to worry about them dropping it or needing a new piece of a paper. Plus, it’s mess-free. Winner!

Kit LOVES a doodle on hers. Usually repeatedly drawing a spider or flower…if it keeps her happy who am I to say anything?!

Recommended Reading: 80+ Cheap Gifts for Kids Who Love Travel

3. Buckle/Lace Book

These hands-on Buckle and Lace Books

are more of a toy than a book and are one of my favourite car activities for 1 year old. Little ones basically thread laces through various holes or shut/open zips and buckles. It’s both stimulating and entertaining. Oh and it helps with developing those precious fine motor skills and the skills needed to get dressed when they’re older.

Recommended Reading: Books for Toddlers: 16 of the Best for Mini-Explorers

4. Karaoke

By far one of the best toddler car ride activities in my opinion. Either come prepared with CDs or a Spotify playlist. You can often rent CDs from local libraries for next to nothing, but if you’re renting a car make sure you know it’s going to have a CD player.

I prefer to use our Spotify account. We pay £9.99 a month for unlimited, advert-free access to thousands of songs that we can play via our phones. I’ve got a road trip playlist full of their favourites that I download ahead of the trip, so that I don’t get caught out if the wifi is patchy. We simply connect the phone to the car entertainment system.

Kit absolutely adores singing her heart out and bopping along to the Frozen soundtrack. I do too…up until the 50th rendition, but when it keeps her entertained I’m happy to ride it out. Plus, it’s a super low-cost car activity.

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5. Magnetic Games

The best travel toys for toddlers in the car are ones that they can do independently. Magnetic Games

are perfect for this. From magnetic blocks to creative magnetic dressing games and magnetic stories, there are so many to suit whatever your toddler is into.

Magnetic Robot Game
Magnetic Robot Game

6. Rotate Toys From Home

Haven’t got money to spend on new toys? Don’t worry. Sometimes the best car trip toys for toddlers are just ones that they’ve forgotten about. The ones that have slipped under the sofa or to the back of the cupboard.

I have a stash of toys my two only ever see on holidays. I keep them out of sight so they forget about them and when I bring them out again it’s like they’re new.

They don’t need to be fancy – a doll or a digger will do just fine. It’s the novelty of it being new – or at least seeming that way.

Tip: Don’t give them all at the start of the journey. Introduce one at a time and rotate them to gain some longevity in your entertainment. Want to take it a step further? Individually wrap them in newspaper to provide a further activity – just make sure it’s not too tightly for little hands.

Thomas Land Drayton Manor

Recommended Reading: Travel Always Trumps Toys

7. Audio Books

Can’t handle kid’s songs? Audio books make for great car activities for toddlers. You can get a 30-day free trial over at Amazon and it’s £7.99 per month thereafter.

From The Gruffalo to Disney, to David Walliams’ selection of Spectacular Stories for the Very Young and classics like The Tiger Who Came to Tea, there are so many captivating audio books for toddlers.

Again, just download ahead of your trip to ensure you’re not caught out by rubbish reception.

8. Small Snacks

Snacks, snacks and more snacks. If your toddler is anything like my Kitty Kat you’ll need allll the snacks!

I find snacks that require attention provide a bit more relief on a long journey. So whether that’s tiny snacks that encourage them to use that pincer grip – raisins, blueberries, small bits of cheese etc – or snacks that are in small containers so they have to focus to get them out, they help pass the time.

I try to avoid anything sugary that will no doubt cancel out any chance of a peaceful car trip.

Recommended Reading: Ultimate Packing List for Young Families

9. Flash Cards

In my experience flash cards work best when you have another adult or older child in the car. Giving a toddler a pack and expecting them to be entertaining is hopeful to say the least.

I use colourful, big ones to try to make them engaging as possible. I hold one up and ask Kit to tell me what it is, what colour it is, or what noise it makes – you get the idea. Anything to encourage speech, smiles and laughs.

10. Magic Pens

If you’re trying to figure out how to entertain a 2 year old, try the magical and very much appreciated Crayola Colour Wonder pens and books. Kit lives for colouring, but can be a little energetic with where she commits pen to paper, so these pens are a lifesaver.

Basically, they only work in the special colouring books. If you use the pens anywhere else the ink is clear.

Obviously holding a pen whilst resting a colouring book on their own lap is tricky, so this works best if you have a tray table or someone in the back to help.

Thomas Land Drayton Manor Review

11. Kid’s Podcasts

After hours on the road sometimes you get a hoarse voice from all that signing and playing. This is where kid’s podcasts are a welcomed helping hand in entertaining toddlers on a car trip.

The sky is the limit when it comes to podcasts for toddlers, but as a starter you could try the Sesame Street Podcast, Little Stories for Tiny People, and the CBeebies podcast.

Recommended Reading: Car Seat Solutions for Travelling Overseas

12. Seek and Find Books

If your toddler doesn’t suffer with car sickness you might want to bring a seek and find book. It’s basically a book where they have to find a particular character or item.

You can get personalised ones (they make great presents) or more generic ones.

Opt for small, sturdy books that are easy for little hands to hold and to bear the brunt of their small, but mighty force!

Kit likes Help! My Dragons Have Escaped!, Search and Find Vehicles and Find the Silly Animals.

Tip: If you’re driving on your own have a flick through in advance. That way you can ask your toddler to find a particular thing, cos’ it’s not like they’re going to be able to read it themselves!

13. Washable Window Pens

This one only really works if you have someone else in the car who can do the drawing and doodling. It’s one of the more fun toddler road trip ideas, though it does depend on their speech.

Get them to shout an animal or something they can say. The other person then has to draw it on the window. Toddlers usually love seeing their imagination coming to life. Obviously avoid the front windows!

14. DisneyLife

This is a new one for us, but is proving to be a winner. Essentially DisneyLife is access to hundreds of Disney movies, shorts and songs. You can download them all, so you don’t have to rinse your data while you’re on the road. One subscriptions gives you access to the service on up to 10 devices and costs £4.99 per month. You can get a free 7-day free trial.

I don’t trust Kit with my phone – she likes to button bash – so I tend to give her the iPad, which I haven’t connected to any of my other accounts. The number of times she’s watched the Frozen movie and extra Frozen episodes means we’ve got our money out of it tenfold.

Tip: Place the iPad in a seat holder for a budget seat screen or at the very least, use a hardy case like this one.

Recommended Reading: Reviewed: Nuna REBL iSize Car Seat

15. CBeebies iPlayer

If you want a free alternative or perhaps more car activities for toddlers, download the CBeebies iPlayer app and then download a tonne of their favourite programmes. Most last for around 30-days.

Kit recommends The Baby Club, Baby Jake, Bing and any of the CBeebies performances!

Just remember that most of these shows are quite short, so you’ll want  someone on hand to press next or to train your toddler how to work it before your road trip.

16. Nap

One of the ultimate road trip activities for toddlers has surely got to be napping?! But how do you make them magically fall asleep?

Well, you cross your fingers, but in my experience you also try to time the road trip with their normal nap time and you wear them out before the journey. Kit has swimming lessons at the weekend which also coincides with most of our road trip holidays. She’s usually tired before she’s even buckled into her seat.

For other trips I’ve taken her for a toddle about or a game of chase before the journey.

Tip: Use one of those sun shades

that offers good coverage to help make a darker setting.

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Car Activities for Toddlers
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Bonus Tips for Road Trips With Toddlers

1. Research Service Stations

I know, it sounds lame, but there are some awesome service stations out there that make life that little bit easier for both parents and toddlers.

On our four hour road trip to Croyde we made sure we stopped at Gloucester services purely based on the fact it has a lovely indoor play area, a nice rooftop walk, farm shop and artisan food options.

2. Invest in a Seat Tidy

Whether it’s a seat tidy to simply hold the iPad or one to store wipes, drinks and toys, they make road trips that little bit easier.

3. Consider a Seatbelt Pillow

Kit’s car seat is pretty comfy and cushioned, but if you’re borrowing one or just don’t have that luxury consider buying a seatbelt pillow. They’re cheap and help to make snoozing in the car more comfortable.

The pillow attaches to the seatbelt with Velcro and gives a bit of support and softens the harsh edge of the belt.

4. Consider headphones

This will depend on your toddler, but if they’re quite happy to wear a set of headphones it can be a bit of a rest from the kiddy songs. Opt for noise-controlling headphones to protect their ears.

5. Dress for the Occasion

Take their shoes off and put them in comfy clothes like PJs or a onesie. Car seats are quite restrictive, so make them as comfy as possible.

6. Pack Extra Water

Whether you get lost or there’s a traffic jam don’t get caught out by having extra water and snacks with you.

7. Pack Extra

The same goes for spare clothes and wipes. I think every parent has at least one nappy explosion tale to tell…

Road Trip With Toddlers
Tips for Road Trips With Toddlers
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