Since I was in the backseat of my parent's car with both of the kids, we didn't have the same type of room as we have on past road trips. I took a tote with a few of their favorite and most entertaining books (such as look and find type books), and some art supplies, both dry-erase activity books and traditional crayons and coloring books... and some printed pages I whipped up the night before and stuck in plastic sheet protectors. Because I love you all (yes, even you!), I will share them. :)
I am too cheap to print with color ink in my home printer, so I printed these in black and white and just used markers to color them in. But because I love you (yes, especially you!), I tossed in some color to make it even faster for you to get these printed and get on the road! If anyone out there is cheap like me, I also have the black and white versions available for download :)
The printable pack has three sheets: find the letters of the alphabet, find each color, and find a vehicle of each color. I handed my son the page (in a plastic sheet protector) and a dry erase marker, and he happily called out colors and letters for a large portion of the trip. I'll be honest... these were good for me, too, to give me something to do during the drive!
We also took our kid-tough camera (we have this one, thanks to grandma) and my son had a blast just taking pictures of anything and everything. I had jotted down a list of things to have him watch for to take pictures of (cows, windmills, different types of trucks, things of different colors, etc), but he was entertained without me giving him any tasks. I planned to make a fun photo book for him... until he deleted all the pictures. Stinker.
Technology to the rescue!No matter how many fun things I could have packed, none of them are space-efficient or effective at holding my young kids' attention as technology. I loaded my Kindle Fire full of free books, apps, and a couple of short shows, and put a couple of games and short videos on my phone. (My smart phone is still very new and I don't love the kids playing on it, so it was to be a dire emergencies backup for our ancient iPod... which of course died 30 minutes into the trip and refused to hold a charge. The best laid plans...)
Everything I put on my Kindle was FREE! which makes it even better. There are loads of free (mostly "lite" versions) games, apps, and e-books available for every platform. These are the ones that my kids loved -- all on Amazon, and all free as of today:
Learn Along with Sesame Street and Sesame Street from Around the World are not your typical Sesame Street seasons, but they are free and my kids don't mind that some of them are odd topics, such as "Lead Away" where "Oscar, Elmo, and Rosita learn how to protect themselves from the dangers of lead." Our favorites are Music Works Wonders, Math is Everywhere, and The Get Healthy Now Show.
Car Coloring Racer. This is a super simple app, but it kept my vehicle-obsessed 3 year old boy entertained for at least an hour, and begging for more. He loved the music that went along with it, and there were plenty of "coloring pages" to keep him busy, and enough that he didn't even notice or care when he repeated them. He just used the free play mode, but older kids would enjoy the challenge of racing the clock to color the car, I'm sure.
Bubble Pop Game for Toddlers. I thought my 18 month old daughter would love this app. She didn't, but my son did. Again, super simple -- touch (and drag) to form bubbles, touch again to pop them.
Cars, Trucks, and Community Vehicles -- Puzzles for Kids. Again, my vehicle-obsessed 3 year old boy loved this app. It didn't hold his attention for a super long time, but he was happy to redo the puzzles again another time after a break.
Subway Surfers. This game is really popular on every mobile device platform, it seems, and BOTH of my kids love it, even if they are always smashing into trains and having to start over. It's not particularly age-appropriate, but this was one of two games that actually held my daughter's attention for more than a couple of minutes, and I think she might actually be more skilled at it than my son is...
Barnyard Games for Kids (Free). This is the app that literally saved my sanity on the last few hours of the trip home. It is awesome and perfect for toddlers like mine, especially for my daughter who was so hard to find digital entertainment for. It is designed specifically for *little* littles, so they can't easily exit the game or do anything crazy. When we start traveling for famil reunions this summer, I will definitely be paying the $2 to get the full version with 9 games instead of just the 3 that come with the free version.
Another big tip: for those of you with Apple devices, learn how to use Guided Access! It is awesome and would have saved me from listening to Cookie Monster's "Share It Maybe" over and over after my daughter deleted the other videos I had loaded on my phone (by using KeepVid). I had read this article/tutorial explaining Guided Access, but I completely forgot about it until after we got home [facepalm].
With summer coming, are you planning any fun trips with your littles? What tricks work to keep your kids happy in the car?