Oh, the weather outside may be frightful, but inside the car or plane you can keep the mood delightful. Stop meltdowns or ants-in-the-pants syndrome with easy activities you can do right there in your seat. Read on for ideas for all ages. And, tip: If you’re traveling by car, be sure to pack a lap desk for the crafty activities!
Activities for Toddlers
Edible Necklaces: Pick out their favorite circle-shaped cereal and let them string them on yarn or thin plastic rope. You’ll end up with bracelets and necklaces for the whole family to snack on! And you’ll have worked on honing fine motor skills, in the process. Before the trip, prepare little bags with cereal and several pieces of string — and don’t forget to the tie a big knot at the end so the cereal stays on the string (this could get messy!).
Coloring Fun: Have them pack their crayons to color holiday-themed drawings to mail to Santa. You can find a jackpot of free coloring pages at the Crayola website.
Activities for Two-Year-Olds
Construction Paper Self Portraits: Challenge the kiddos to create a “Me Doll,” a self-portrait of how they picture themselves. All you need is construction paper cut-outs of a doll, shirts, pants and shoes. Add some yarn, googley eyes and markers for the little details. It’s a great gift for Grandma if you’re on route to her house for the holidays!
Make Food Art: During snack time, try some food art! Pack up pre-cut pieces of melon in the shape of rectangles and triangles and see where your imagination takes you. Below is one example (from amazing food art blogger How About Cookie) that’s simple fun; add clouds and wheels to the steamer and choo-choo the road time blues away.
Have a Word Safari: Bring a box of animal flashcards and play “name that animal.” This Brainy Baby flashcard set has got some quirky ones to add to their animal vocabulary.
Activities for Three-Year-Olds
Craft Gingerbread Men: Run, run, as fast as you can to this craft. Prepare gingerbread cut-outs (we like using felt, but paper works, too) and any stickers, glitter and other artsy items to decorate them. Give your kids the heads up: These are not for nibbling!
Try a New Kind of Story Time: Check out their favorite holiday story in audio book form from the library. Give the eyes a break and let them use their imagination through the art of narration.
Enjoy a Maze Craze: Challenge your little road trip companions to several rounds of figuring out mazes! You can download a bunch of free printable mazes online here.
Activities for Preschoolers
Color & Concentrate: Get counting and color by number! Yeah, it’s the oldest (and easiest) trick in the book — but kids love it!
Walk Down Memory Lane: If you’ve got the time, prepare a DVD slideshow of when they were babies. Kids this age love seeing how much they have grown since infanthood.
photo: Eden, Janine and Jim via flickr
Activities for Kindergarteners
Decode Like a Spy: Unveil a secret message and encourage your kids to decode it using a master legend. Then, turn it around and let them create their own secret coded letters. Check out the Melissa and Doug blog for more!
Photo: Melissa and Doug blog
Make ‘Em Laugh: Bring along a joke book and take turns telling jokes.
Activities for School-Age Kids
Make Note of It: Bring along a journal and have them chronicle the family trip. If writers block happens (and it will!) then prompt your kids with questions like “What made you the most happy today?” and ask them to describe things they’ve seen.
Go Tell It: On the way back, write a bunch of postcards to friends and family telling them all about the wonderful trip they just had.
How do you keep the kids busy on road trips? Share with us in the Comments!
— Sommy Rhee