Top Seven Ways To Keep A Toddler Busy in the Car.

by Amber on April 12, 2011

This past weekend, we piled the whole family in the car (including the dog), for the seven hour trip to Michigan. Where we stayed for approximately 36 hours before turning around and heading home. Insane? Yes. Especially since we have a toddler who gets antsy after about 15 minutes.

But we found ways to cope. And let me tell you, this required more than a little creativity on our parts. But our pain is your gain, because I’m going to share the top seven most effective ways to keep a squirmy toddler busy while strapped into a car seat.

  1. Get yourself a portable DVD player. And lots and lots of Sesame Street DVDs. This is something I told myself I would not do in the days before Tori, since TV rots their brains, and heck, car trips are supposed to be fun. Man, was I stupid then.
  2. Bring lots of books. Like a hundred. This will both make you feel better about all the DVD watching and keep her busy for about five seconds a piece. As an added bonus, all those books make excellent throwing devices when she decides to throw a temper tantrum.
  3. Present squirmy toddler with a sticker book. Preferably with some paper to stick them on, but expect the stickers to land anywhere and everywhere except the paper. NOTE: This might not be the best idea you ever had if you’re driving a rental car—you wouldn’t believe how far a kid in a car seat can reach.
  4. Feed your toddler lots of snacks. Cheerios are good. But you know what’s better? Anything with peanut butter in it. There’s nothing like a little peanut butter to fill ‘em up (and glue their mouths shut).
  5. Put a tolerant canine within reach. Dogs provide oodles of fun for toddlers. Tails can be pulled. Feet grabbed. Ears yanked. And said canine? Can act as a cordless vacuum to dispose of all those cheerio crumbs.
  6. Invent games. Games like, “let’s see who can be quiet the longest!” And “look at the flying cow!” And “the one who takes the longest nap wins!”
  7. Invest in a good stereo. And music that sounds great loud. Because when all else fails? A little “Wanted Dead Or Alive” is sure to drown out all but the loudest screams.

So that’s what we came up with. What are your suggestions? I could use them, because we’ve got a twelve-hour road trip coming up this summer. I’m sure that will be even more, umm, fun. Right?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca April 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm

My kids are very atypical. All that you mentioned is useless on our car trips. Mine even refused to sleep as NEWBORNS in the car. Instead they wailed their heads off (my parents live about 2 hours ONE WAY) while we were in the car no matter what we did.

As they got older (and currently they aren’t too bad) they got better. Now they look at what we are passing by and ask questions and talk among themselves and to themselves about what they are seeing and it is nice. Not quite bliss, but nice.

What about books on tape and cheerful children’s CD’s and…those soothing nursery rhyme songs….which might lead to a nap?
Rebecca recently posted..Dear Quickie

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Amber April 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

I think road trips are one time when having two definitely comes in handy. Even if they’re squabbling, at least they’re busy.

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Meagan April 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Our boys are good travelers. We started young- Wil’s first 3 hour drive to my parents’ was at 1 month.

They have a stack of books (“Budgie the Helicopter” is a favorite. They also like to look out the window watching for tractors and cows. Sometimes they nap, sometimes they just sit quietly, sometimes we sing the alphabet song -repeatedly.

I recently downloaded a road trip bingo game to play in the car although we’ve only played once. It gave them lots to look for.
Meagan recently posted..Federal budget is just like any other

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Amber April 13, 2011 at 8:42 am

Ahhh. Sounds like your boys could teach mine a thing or two!

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Amanda April 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Vincent hated traveling backwards as a newborn, but he got much better once he could sit forward-facing and could see everything around him. Before we discovered his tendency to get car sick, we used the DVD player for long trips. When we travel with my in-laws to South Carolina (which will include four children this year, ages 8, 6, 4, and 10 months), we make multiple stops along the way. Usually, we try to get the kids to walk or run around as much as possible to wear them out a bit before getting them back in the car. Of course, when we’re traveling there, we drive all night, so the kids end up sleeping. On the way back, we travel during the day, so the DVD player gets used, snacks are eaten, games are played, etc.

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Amber April 13, 2011 at 8:42 am

That’s a lot of kids! WE try to take off at naptime, but we haven’t tried the drive at night thing yet. Sounds like we might have to!

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C @ Kid Things April 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I like tip 6 the best, particularly “let’s see who can be quiet the longest”. Except I’ve actually tried that with my kids. I don’t think they made it 10 seconds.
C @ Kid Things recently posted..The World is His Ladybug

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Amber April 13, 2011 at 8:41 am

Yeah, that one doesn’t work so well. But I have high hopes that one day it might!

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erica April 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Love these tips! And you are so right about the peanut butter… but I would not recommend peanut butter things in the summer… or if you care about what sticks to the backseat of your car.

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Amber April 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Good to know. Good to know.

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Jen April 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Yup, sounds about right!

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BalancingMama (Julie) April 14, 2011 at 8:28 am

I have an almost inappropriate love for our portable DVD player. We take too many car trips – couldn’t live without it! Books & stickers are definitely good too.

Our newest road trip helper? My iPhone and lots if great kid apps. Doodle Buddy and Balloonimals!
BalancingMama (Julie) recently posted..The future

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Amber April 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Hmmm, I’ll have to check those out. Before our 12 hour odyssey (I may be insane…)

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Marisa June 30, 2011 at 11:51 am

I just about died laughing over the peanut butter comment! Great ideas! thankS!

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Amber July 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm

It works. For real. I love peanut butter!

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