When we shopped for our minivan, we specifically chose one without a DVD player. Neither my husband nor I have anti-screen opinions or judgments towards those who use them. Simply put, it was the cheaper option, and we figured if we could survive a childhood without screens in the car, our kids could too. Although there’s usually a moment in each car trip when one of us will say, “It’d be great to turn on a show right now!”, overall, we’re grateful for the decision we made and the bonding experience we’ve gained from car rides without screens.
It can be a daunting task to consider entertaining toddlers for hours on end, while they’re strapped in a car seat. Here are some of my favorite toddler-friendly entertainment options for a long car trip.
Entertainment for a Screen-Free Road Trip
Dollar Store Finds
One of my favorite ways to prep for a trip is shopping at the dollar store for some cheap car entertainment. They have small cookie sheets you can stick magnets to, my kids’ all-time favorite mini xylophones (if your ears can handle it), stickers, coloring packs, etc. If you can get creative, you’ll find lots of great entertainment options here!
All three of my toddlers really enjoy using paint with water books like these on our car trips. I fill the water pens up before we leave and the pages are reusable once they dry, so it can be used several times during a single car trip. Magnadoodles are another time filling and mess-free option for the car that have been approved by my toddlers.
My girls LOVE stickers. You can find stickers or sticker scene sets really cheap at the dollar store or the Target Dollar Spot.
I found a cheaper version of this one at Target’s Dollar Spot. These keep my crew entertained for a good chunk of time.
Kid- and Family-Friendly Music
If you haven’t tried using Amazon Music with your Prime subscription yet, then you are missing out! They have lots of family-friendly albums and playlists. My kids loved listening to Daniel Tiger’s Tiger Family Trip soundtrack on our last vacation. Interactive songs with motions are a great way to get some wiggles out while riding in the car.
My kids really enjoy reading anytime, and that includes in the car. For road trips, I like to choose books that are more interactive like lift-the-flap, counting, or I-Spy types. Call it satisfying my inner elementary school teacher, but I also enjoy visiting the library before a trip to find books that fit whatever destination we’re heading towards. Also, did you know you can find audio versions of several toddler books? On our most recent trip, we listened to Goodnight Moon and some Dr. Seuss.
Talking to Your Kids
I know this seems like it should go without saying, but interact with your children too. My son is really into trucks, so we all point out trucks we see as we’re passing them. If you’re passing a farm or animals, point them out to your kids. Part of the reason you’re traveling is to give your children experiences they wouldn’t get at home, and letting them see the road along the way is a big part of that.