10 Things to do in a Car with small children

by Deb on September 27, 2009

When this post goes live I’ll be driving to Darwin – over 1000km away!  We leave at about 4am so the kidlets sleep for the first bit and have lots of stops to get them out, but that’s still a long time to entertain little children in the car.

  1. Books – obviously! We have some great Spot What/I Spy type books so I tell them what to find and they look for it.  Little foam books are great as well, they fit in limited space and baby girl can play with them too.  This is one time when I don’t care if she eats the books, hence foam ones!
  2. Music – Singing to or with them, CDs, finger or foot games like ‘This little piggy.’  We did many family road trips when I was younger with just Joni Mitchell, Fate for Breakfast and the Beach Boys. (Bonus points for anyone who can identify Fate for Breakfast.)  We now have a CD with my eldest daughter’s name in it which is just brilliant, my kids don’t sleep well and it helps calm them down and get to sleep.
  3. CDs

  4. I spy with my little eye, something … – The most venerable of car games.  I used to think it could only be played by people who could spell, but then realised we could look for red, or blue, or green things.  And for older kids there’s ‘Twenty Questions’ or ‘Animal, Vegetable or Mineral.’
  5. Drawing – a small notebook and pencils are ideal, even very little ones can do that.  Pencils are good because they won’t stain the car!  Even better, something like a cheap magnadoodle.  We have one that is about A5 size with a little magnetic drawing board and an attached stylus so you can’t lose it.  We got it from a supermarket for about $3, apparently you can find them at $2 shops too.
  6. Magnadoodle

  7. Screw top containers and little bags – we have various ones we’ve collected over the years, lots of vitamin supplements and sports drinks use them.  Big plastic containers with screw tops and wide mouths that little hands can fit inside, or drawstring bags like sunglasses come in.  This is a great game for little ones, they will open them, put things in, take things out, transfer them, close them again.  Use marbles, coins, plastic counters, keys, anything depending on size and your baby’s age.

    Car toys

    Another variation is purses and organisers. We have an old diary/organiser with a little notebook and calculator on one side and opening on the other, it’s a hit for drawing, pushing buttons and putting business cards and paper in and out.


  8. Peekaboo – Little ones can play using a cloth nappy or wrap.  Then they can become a blanket if they fall asleep.
  9. Tents – Another good use for a wrap.  Drape it between the backs of the seats and you have a little cubby house.
  10. Food – Something that has to be remembered on long trips is things that are easy to store and eat.  Yoghurt squeezies, cubes of cheese, cut up fruit like apples, dried fruit, muesli bars, rice crackers, and of course bottles of water.  And they can be entertaining as well – use the lid of a water bottle as a tiny container for one or two sultanas, getting them out with little fingers is great for co-ordination!  Make a little bento box with divisions for tiny finger foods.
  11. car bento

  12. Stories – One for the older kids, use the landscape around to inspire stories to tell them, then turn the tables and get them to tell you one.  This is really good on drives you have to do a lot, we go past a giant man when driving down to Alice Springs regularly and big girl has quite a friendly relationship with him.
  13. Aileron Roadhouse

  14. Torches – Absolutely essential for drives at night.  A little torch can be used to highlight toys hanging over a baby’s chair, shone on their feet or hands, or make shadows on the roof.  Just be careful of the driver!       torch

And of course the best idea is to break it up as much as you can.  We’ll be taking two days on the trip back.  What do you do on long trips to keep little ones entertained?  I’ll be doing long trips for years to come so I’d love some more ideas!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie September 28, 2009 at 8:59 am

I just did a big trip with my 3 kids (age 4 (nearly 5), 3, and 3 months – Melbourne to Newcastle then back again 2 weeks later. I had my mum with me for the first half of the first leg then did the rest on my own. I did each trip over 2 days and actually used a lot of the activities above – eye spy is a big favourite, they also did lots of drawing (I bought them activity packs which hang over the front seat and give them a ‘desk’ to write on and somewhere to put all their pencils. The 2 kids each had their own lunch box which I refilled at each stop so they could eat whenever they wanted to. We sang lots and made up a great game where we replaced all of the nouns in ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ith things we could see out the window – had us all luaghing for ages (eg Hey Diddle Diddle the car and the truck, the sign jumped over the bridge…) Both kids picked up the idea really quickly. I think the othe important ting that made the trip possible was to have long rest stops – I’d leave early and try to time stops around the baby’s feeds (although would just pull over as soon as anyone needed to go to the toilet) – then when we stopped at a rest area we’d all eat, go to the toilet, eat some more then have a good run around – I usually stopped for about 90 mins and that was enough for everyone to feel comfortable getting back in the car and driving for a few more hours


Deb September 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Wow, you’re very brave doing it on your own! I think the long trips are bad enough with two of us. I absolutely agree about stopping for a long time, we try to time the journey for the good stops. Breakfast is at a particular roadhouse, then there’s a park for lunch so we can have a run around. I remember some of the drives with newborns and young babies who need to feed NOW! At least they can understand waiting now.


Annie October 5, 2009 at 5:31 am

yeah I was a bit nervous doing it on my own but it worked quite well (once they were all strapped in it wasn’t too hard!!!) I thought of a couple of other games we played – we each picked a colour and then waited to see cars of that colour come past – with kids that age it doesn’t need to be a competition, everyone just gets excited when anyone’s colour comes past – and we picked things to count – windmills, herds of cows, trees (that one got hard really quickly (Miss 4’s idea, and she abandoned it when we just couldn’t count them), bridges etc. She was actually really good at keeping track of how many of each thing we’d seen, and it generated a lot of conversation.

We’re going away again this week but I’ll have my husband with me this time so it will be easier, but will definitely use all those activities again – and I love the idea of little bags and containers etc, that would be great for my son in particular, will try that one this time too.


sarah March 24, 2011 at 7:14 am

im 11 and my brothers r 5 and 6 and ill do with them sometimes is every time the car went under a bridge we ducked our heads. i guess i convinced them if they dont they will bonk their heads.we r going to louisiana and its 24 hrs trip in the car!ive been seaching the web for things to do.


Deb March 24, 2011 at 7:25 am

Hi sarah,
What a great idea to look for games! We used to drive a lot and that’s where I got some of these ideas. We used to duck too, and we had to lift our feet to go over railway lines and cattle grids. I don’t know if you have them, they are sections of the road with holes in them so the cattle can’t walk over them and get out.


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