How do you feel about traveling in the car with your kids? Is it stressful, something you really look forward to or are you somewhere in between? I think our family is somewhere in between. If it’s a trip that takes fewer than two hours, we’re good to go but much longer than that, we start to go a little bonkers. (We’re still three car seats across the backseat!) Especially if we hear “Let it Go” blasting one. More. Time! That’s why we’re sharing these ideas for screen-free entertainment in the car.
Screen-free Entertainment for the Car Ideas
I’ll preface this list by saying we’re not “anti-screen” in the car. We actually save our kids’ Kindles specifically for road trips because it’s a special treat for them to get to veg out a bit on them. However, there is still plenty of time to fill on most road trips. While it’s totally okay for kids to get “bored” and entertain themselves, these tips may make it a little easier to keep them occupied and keep everyone a little happier. 🙂
Many of these screen-free entertainment items can be bought at your local Dollar Tree, in the Target dollar spot, or Walmart, but we’ve mostly linked to Amazon for your convenience.
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I know, this is a wide-open category. There are books for all ages and all levels! Mix it up with a variety of picture books, chapter books, interactive books, etc. You could incorporate any theme of your trip, from the holidays to the beach, camping, Disney, visiting family or friends, etc. Our library also offers free audiobooks on loan, so this could be a fun family-friendly option that everyone could listen to in the car. Audible, of course, has millions of audiobooks to buy as well.
Our favorite sticker books recently have been these silly face sticker books. They are so cute, and all my kids love making funny face combinations. We also have a few of these silly dinosaur sticker face sheets, and they are equally as cute.
This “Paint by Sticker” book is super cool too. It’s something that takes time, requires concentration and can (fingers crossed) keep kids occupied enough for a little quiet time. My five-year-old got the zoo animals book fo Christmas, but he really has his eye on the dinosaur version.
I first saw Wikki Stix at one of our favorite local restaurants a few years ago. They passed out little packs to the kids to entertain them during our visit. It was SUCH a huge hit. The kids played with them for days after. They are colorful and bendy and create a great opportunity for creative play.
I got this big pack for Christmas for our kids this year to take on road trips with us.
My 5 and 7-year-olds love LEGOs, and we usually let them each take a plastic shoebox-sized tub in the car for road trips. This way, they can also take them to a hotel if we’re staying in one, and it contains the mess and pieces a little better. This dino 3-in-1 creator set is neat because you can make three creatures (or more, for sure!) with minimal blocks. BTW- If you’re a dinosaur-loving family like we are, here’s a guide all about dino gifts. 🙂
Polly Pocket is really great for the car because you get all the elements of a “scene” or theme in a small package.
You can pick up a deck of flashcards at the dollar store or the Target dollar spot. They have letters, numbers, matching, shapes, and colors for littles, and sight words, multiplication, addition, etc. for slightly older children.
We picked up a set of small dry-erase tracing cards in the Dollar Spot at Target a few years ago, and they have been really great to keep in the car. They check a lot of travel boxes: compact, learning tool, low mess factor, etc. Also available in a book format.
Speaking of low-mess factor, another huge winner in this department is something like the Crayola Color Wonder coloring pages and pads. These Daniel Tiger ones are perfect for my two-year-old! (She loves to color on ANYTHING she can get her little hands on.)
Also, check out these Melissa and Doug reusable Water Wow! paint pads that are handy for car rides. We got the 3-pack for our three littles and they love trading them around. You can reuse them over and over again.
My older two are slightly better at using crayons or colored pencils in the car. They would fill up a whole notebook or doodle pad in no time. We always keep these supplies in the car. It’s the OG screen-free entertainment for the car.
Melissa and Doug with another win! These cute lacing cards are just right to keep little hands busy in the car.
I don’t know about you all, but my kids are in constant competition to see who can get a laugh out of someone. They make up the silliest, weirdest jokes imaginable. Joke books can be very helpful for budding comedians to practice their “craft”. What family doesn’t need a good laugh on a long road trip!?
My in-laws get our kids a subscription to Highlights/High Five each birthday. I’ve read Highlights since I was a kid, so it’s nostalgic to flip through Hidden Pictures and catch up with Goofus and Gallant. There are tons of learning and entertainment elements to Highlights!
This has to be the most classic road trip game, huh? (Another OG screen-free entertainment for the car game) “I spy with my little eye, something that is….” It’s a great way to pass the time, check out new surroundings, and engage with your kiddos in the car. Also available in a book format, if you need some inspiration.
Little People are great for travel because they are, well, LITTLE! 🙂 We love this little castle set for the car. You wouldn’t believe how much creative play it inspires for being so tiny.
A magnetic doodle board is a great option for smaller hands. I love this one that can do different colors! It’s a great mess-free and screen-free entertainment for a road trip.
This Melissa & Doug magnetic set features career options for dress-up play.
These road trip bingo cards are so cute! I feel like at 5 and 7 my older kids are at the perfect age to be engaged with this game on the road. They are super competitive!
When in doubt, pass a snack out! Seriously, snacks are a MUST on a road trip. If you want to save time and money, we wrote a whole separate post on Healthy Hacks for Road Trip Snacks.
Safe, Semi-screen free travels to You!
We hope you’ve gotten a little inspiration for some screen-free entertainment for the car. Do you have any extra ideas for entertaining kids in the car? Share in the comments! Safe travels! 🙂