Travel Play Ideas for Kids – The Car Journey

Car Journey Survival

Whether it’s a long or short journey, being in the car with kids can have its challenges. In my experience it’s always best to be OVER prepared!

This week I was thankful for this policy. We travelled to the children’s hospital for Floss our daughter’s pre-op. The journey is about an hour, but after a long wait at the hospital we hit rush hour traffic on the way home and it took 2.5 hours to get back! I was very grateful we’d gone prepared.

If you are needing to make a hospital visit with your child you may find some of the book recommendations in this post helpful – Reading Rambles – Reading for the Pleasure of it! Poetry and Book Series.

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Prepare the Environment

Getting the temperature right and making sure the sun isn’t in their eyes with screens can go a long way to a more enjoyable car ride for everyone. We have a ‘car blanket’ that always travels with us.

We also use a play tray and a car organiser attached to the seat in front to make things more accessible for Floss. The play tray is essential for us as it gives Floss a flat surface in which to play on. I’ve added links below to what I mean, you can get all of these in different shapes and sizes.

Car Journey Toys

Here’s what we took this week for our car journey. Do check out my Travel Play Pinterest board that has loads of ideas for car play toys and other travel play ideas.

The Nexus MagnePad

This is a travel/ portable version of Nexus’s larger magnepad. It’s about A5 in size and a great little piece of kit to take out and about. Using the yellow pen you can make shapes, letters, numbers or draw by moving the pen across the pad. This raises the small balls to the surface. Simply use your finger to depress them.

Really lovely fine motor skills activity for little ones and bigger kids can challenge themselves with more intricate designs. This has been a big hit with the big kids too – Daddy is often found doodling on it!

My Busy Bot Bag

I’ve purchased a few Busy Bot Bags recently for Floss and she’s really enjoyed all of them. The cute little bag with the zip is an instant appeal and all the contents are beautifully bright, inviting and engage the senses.

This bag is called ‘Something Beginning With…’ It’s got individual cards with vibrant, fun illustrations for each letter of the alphabet. There are magnetic letters to match with each little card too. Floss loves to match this set up with her growing collection of story stones.

You can find my full review here of various busy bags.

Story Stones

Lately, Floss has got really into these gorgeous story stones from Imagistones. She uses them as small world play item, matching with letters, counting, sorting and storytelling. She’s a little obsessed and loves to fit them into small purses and bags to take around the house or out and about.

I used to paint for Imagistones before my health deteriorated (a lovely small business run by two sisters – Nic and Bec), but now I’m just a huge fan who likes to buy yummy stones from them. A little 2022 update to say that Imagistones is no longer in business.

You can find other stones here and I will be writing a blog post on how to make your own soon. I have found some similar stones here that come in a few different pack sizes if you want to have a go yourself. I recommend using acrylic paint pens to decorate; I use POSCA pens.

Crayons and Mini Books

Vegan block crayons - Tiny Land

As I’ve mentioned before in posts, we never leave home without crayons and love our ‘Waldorf style’, vegan crayons from Tiny Land. Alison, who runs Tiny Land, makes them from home in her kitchen! An incredibly talented lady – The Willy Wonka of Children’s Toys! Often I’ll match these up with little pads or homemade booklets of paper. We’d done this a lot recently so I decided to pop a couple of Usborne mini books in for the car trip. Here’s a few of our favourites.

We never knew we needed Tonie until we got one and now we don’t know what we did without it!

Tonie and Creative Tonies

Several years ago we got a Tonies Box. It’s now 2022 and we are still obsessed with it and use it daily. There are now oodles of Tonies and Creative Tonies to choose from. You can find out more about Tonies here and if you are deciding between a Tonie Box and a Yoto Player head to this post to see which one may be best for your child. Yoto now do a super cute mini player that is perfect for travel.

Learning a language - One Third Stories - Teach your child French - Spanish - Italian - German - Clockwork Methodology - Story Box - Foreign languages - Story time - Story books - Great reads

Our Tonie box has been used every day since it arrived and often for long periods of time in a day. It’s perfect for car journeys and has approximately 7 hour battery life. You pop your little character on and depending upon what it is pre-loaded with it will play music, tell stories or educate you on a subject.

The super clever part is that there are special Tonies – Creative Tonies – that you can download 90 minutes of audio onto of your choice. It could be music downloads or a relative telling your child a story. Magical! This was perfect for our car journey.

Small World

Small world is a huge part of Floss’s play wherever she is. She can pass so much time just by having a couple of different character in her hands and narrating their adventures.

As I said earlier her story stones are used as small world, but right now you’ll nearly always find at least one fairy in her hand too! There are so many possibilities for small world play characters that fit most budgets. You can get wonderful wooden ones, but also great little plastic ones that you could also use for outdoor, water, small world play too.

Tablets and Technology

We don’t use a tablet much, but we do use one. I was very grateful to have it with us on the trip back from the hospital. For Floss it stops her from falling asleep and having a danger nap. You know the nap I mean – the one that dashes all hopes of a reasonable bedtime! We have Amazon Prime – so Floss watched The Gruffalo on the way home.

The most important thing when travelling is safety. If you can think and drive carefully because your kids are calm in the back then do what you need to do to keep things that way. You don’t need to feel guilty about it. There’s nothing that puts stress levels up and concentration levels down like upset children in a car!

Transitioning from the Car Journey

We love little bags! Often when you’ve got a car journey there’s somewhere you need to be in the middle. We always pop in a little bag to pack everything into. For some children you could have a separate little bag for the out and about part of the car journey. For Floss, and I’m sure other children too, she likes to get everything packed away and accounted for!

Top Tips for a Car Journey

  • Check the temperature – children in car seats can get a lot hotter than we do with all the wrap around padding. Make sure the temperature is right for them,
  • Pack snacks and then pack a few more!
  • Keep them well hydrated when in the car, yes you’ll probably have to stop more, but dehydration can make your little one feel really cranky.
  • Be prepared to take a break when they need to not when is convenient.
  • Keep a little something in reserve for the return journey that they didn’t have on the way out.
  • Use what’s around you – we can spend ages playing the spotting game, for older children it might be i-spy. The spotting game is so simple. but toddlers and young children love it. You or they spot something and then ask questions about it. For example – I saw a bird. What was it doing? Flying. Was it Flying high or flying low? Flying high. What was it flying by? etc. Then spot something else. It’s a great way to introduce lots of new vocabulary too.
  • If there’s more than one of you in the car, be prepared to sit in the back.
  • If there’s more than one child travelling decide if it would be better to have the same toys or different. You know your children best.

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