When we were planning our big trip to Disney World last month, I knew I was going to have to pull out all the stops to keep them occupied and minimize arguing on the long drive to Florida (and back). I stalked Pinterest, Google, my Feedly blog feed, everywhere to gather together ideas for how to keep them busy.
All told I spent maybe $70 on everything, including extra special snacks. Once I was done shopping, I gathered everything together and wrapped each project in plain paper (I used bulk Uhaul wrapping paper leftover from our move). I numbered each package and kept notes so I knew what was in each package before they opened it. Some packages required daylight and some were better for evening so I wanted to guide those choices. In addition, there were some duplicates and I didn't want them to open the same things back to back. I stored everything in the "hole" in the floor of our minivan.
They also had their 3DSs, a DVD player with lots of movies and half the library worth of books but those have already proven to not be enough to avoid the fighting on road trips. At every stop, I would let them each pick out one package. Most of the projects would keep them busy for an hour plus. And the best part, the only fighting was when they were playing their 3DSs together and one was upset that the other was "cheating" (i.e., winning). Since it was really easy to take the 3DSs away, the fighting was kept to a minimum.
To help keep everything more organized, I gave each kid a small cookie sheet (also from the dollar store) to use as a (magnetic!) lap desk. We also picked up and put away things at every stop.
Here is the list:
Items from this list may vary for you. These were pre-packaged mostly complete. I found these at the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and the Dollar Spot at Target.
- Magic Kits - There were two different sets and I wrapped them together so each kid had one to play with. These were simple rope tricks, disappearing ball tricks, etc. with instructions.
- Sticker books
- Word find books
- Sudoku books
- Create-a-Town Sticker Scene Activity Sets
- Matching game
- Miniature 4x6 puzzles
- Classic Activity/Coloring Pages pads (I think they are the same ones I had as a kid)
- Learn to Draw workbooks from the school supply section
- Science Trivia card game
- Lanyard jewelry making kit
Toys & Fun Snacks
- Candy jewelry - this didn't last long as an activity but it's not the sort of thing the kids get often so it was still very popular.
- Squishy critters - those rubbery, squishy toys that stretch a LOT. These had lights inside them. My kids LOVE playing with these things.
- Glow sticks - These made for GREAT after dark fun during those last few boring hours. I let them listen to the dance station on Pandora and they had their own mini "dance" party in the backseat.
- Light-up Rings - Same concept as the glow sticks
Craft / Creative Projects
- Post-it notes - to make art. Canvases for post-it note art can include the cookie sheet lap desk, blank paper or even the car windows.
- Pipe cleaners - I don't know about your house, but at mine, I have to hide any pipe cleaners I don't want acted upon by children. They LOVED having a large supply to play with to their hearts' content.
- Colorful paper clips - to hook end to end for all sorts of creative, imaginative play.
- Aluminum foil - probably the most popular item of the trip. A whole roll to sculpt as they wished.
- Balls of yarn - my kids love finger knitting and used up many balls of yarn knitting away.
- Squiggle cards & a box of markers - I saw this idea at the Make and Takes blog.
- Travel Scavenger Hunt - Found at free.puzzles.net. I printed on card stock but these could also be laminated to use over and over.
- Sticker Story books - I made a half dozen mini books (out of a single sheet of paper, instructions found here). I wrapped them with sheets of Halloween stickers for the kids to make story books with the stickers.
- Would You Rather? Cards - printables found at The Measured Mom
- Fruit Loops & Yarn - I found Fruit Loops cereal already packaged in round bowls at Big Lots. I paired those with balls of bright orange yarn for cereal jewelry making.
- Origami books from the library & a stack of origami paper
- How to Draw books from the library & new drawing pads from the craft store
- Play dough & a few play dough tools
- Legos - we made travel containers out of old wood wine boxes a few years ago. We cut large Lego plates to size and glued them to the slide out top of the wine box.
Seat Back Supplies
Both of the kids have seat back organizers. I stashed the following supplies into each of their organizers before we hit the road.
- Colored pencils & crayons
- Pens & pencils
- Pencil sharpener
- Water bottles
I thought of these but didn't have the chance to organize them for this trip.
- Marshmallows & pretzel sticks - snack and engineering project in one
- Lacing cards
- Embroidery books from the library plus fabric, floss & other supplies
- Finger puppets
- Funky scissors, construction paper & tape
My kids enjoyed everything. I had them rate each item out of 5 stars and most things got 4 or 5. The preteen boy gave the sticker scenes from Dollar Tree only 3 stars but that was the only thing that didn't get good reviews. We didn't get to everything I had packed so I have put everything left away for our next road trip. I hope these ideas help you keep the peace on your next road trip!