Going on long car rides with kids can be exhausting. They fight. They whine. But really, they just need something to keep them occupied so you don’t have to threaten to turn the car around and go home every 15 minutes (no parent has ever done that…). This list of car games for kids has tons of ideas, tips and inspiration to keep your kids busy while in the car, on a plane, or even in a waiting room.
40+ DIY Car Games for Kids
These activities use common household items or toys that you probably already have on hand, so you can easily create some awesome projects with little or no cost. With a little bit of preparation, a boost of enthusiasm and a whole lot of patience, you can make travelling with your kids a lot less stressful and (brace yourself) maybe even enjoyable!
Magnet activities are fantastic! For starters, they are portable, which is obviously a plus when traveling – AND even more importantly – the parts actually stick to something. So there is less likelihood of pieces flying all over the car when you hit a pot hole. Less mess makes this momma happy! Old baking sheets, container tins and your kid’s alphabet magnets are great supplies if you want to throw together a quick DIY magnet activity. Check out these awesome resources for some DIY magnet activity ideas:
Magnetic Shapes Car Game via Brit+Co
DIY Kids Travel Activity Board via B-Inspired Mama
Magnetic Travelling Farm Game via Unoriginal Mom
I have a soft spot in my heart for felt. I have visions of creating lovely felt toys, hair accessories, games, and books for my kids. I even have a whole Pinterest board devoted to felt projects, just calling my name! Perhaps I’m a bit delusional thinking that I will some day muster up the time and energy to create a variety of fake felt food rivaling the $9.99 collections at IKEA. But even so, I still firmly believe that felt truly is a versatile and easy to use material where you can create beautiful, professional looking projects with very little effort.
You can make toys, scenic boards, puzzles and games for your long road trips. Twenty minutes, a pair of scissors and a few piles of colourful felt fabric and you’re on your way to creating something that will keep you child busy and more importantly – quiet – on a long car ride.
DIY Ice Cream Felt Board via The Busy Budgeting Mama
Travel Tic Tac Toe Game via Parents
Travel Memory Game via Kids Activities Blog
Felt Board Name Game via Mama Papa Bubba
DIY Travel Felt Board via Small + Friendly
Wipes Case Felt Board via The Grassy Noall
Candy Tin Can Activities
I associate small candy tins with my Grandma (am I the only one that thinks that?), so it’s not very often that I buy them. But I think I’m going to start! Because these tiny tins are absolutely perfect (not to mention functional) for portable kids activities. They are small, and, well, anything small tends to be cute. So think small X’s and O’s, small Lego kits, small doll beds, the options are endless! And since they are small, they can be easily tucked into your child’s pocket for a day on the go. Check out these awesome ideas:
Mini Travel Game via Canadian Family
Lego Set via Mommo Design
Mini Magnet Fishing Game via Homemade Gifts Made Easy
DIY Magnetic Travel Puzzles via Delia Creates
Tiny Tin Bedroom via Tea Rose Home
You don’t need to be an expert at sewing to make some amazing travel activities from fabric. Just a few simple straight stitches (or the dependable no-sew seam tape if you don’t have a sewing machine), and you are on your way. Fabric is lightweight so it travels easily and it comes in every print and colour you can imagine. Check out the roll up chalk board mat (how cute is that?!), memory game and fabric maze below. Roll it up or fold it into a small square and it will easily fit into your car, purse or busy bag.
Roll Up Chalkboard Mat via Joann
Emily’s Memory Game via Purl Bee
Fabric Maze via Twin Dragonfly Designs
Popsicle sticks are available at the dollar store, and there are tons of easy activities you can do with them. And what’s best is that since they are so cheap, you won’t mind if some of the sticks get lost before you make it home from your road trip. Check out the velcro craft stick activity below to make some 3-dimensional artwork, or the awesome craft stick puzzles (how cool is the puzzle one!?).
Velcro Craft Sticks via Desert Chica
Craft Sticks Puzzle via Motherhood On A Dime
Traveling with kids may make you want to invest in a set of heavy duty construction ear protection headphones (or you might want to do that anyway, just saying…), but it’s also a great opportunity to bond with your kids and could even be used as a time for them to learn without being “schooled”. What better way to teach them than when they are trapped in a car with nothing else to do but the activities you have for them? Check out these fun AND educational ideas!
Colour Matching Activities
These colour matching and sorting activities are lots of fun for pre-schoolers (and if the adults need some zen relaxation time in the car, the clothespin matching game might help you ignore the antics going on in the back seat. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the satisfaction of matching up all those clothespins!).
Paint Swatch Game via One Little Project
Busy Box via The Activity Mom
Homemade Colour Book via Craftulate
Number and Counting Activities
Let your child practice their math skills with these fun number and counting activities. They require simple materials and very little effort, but if your child enjoys learning, these will keep them busy and improve their counting and math skills. Win-win.
Preschool Math Printable via 1+1+1=1
Bottle Top Count and Match Game via The Imagination Tree
Count and Sort Box Math Game via The Imagination Tree
Fine Motor Activities
If your kids like to work with their hands and fingers these activities will be great! My girls LOVE crafts, so these would be winners in our house. With any luck, you’ll be amazed by how quiet and in-the-zone they’ll be once they start one of these.
Summer Inspired Sewing Cards via Kids Activities Blog
Felt Flower Button Snake via Kids Activities Blog
Sticker Matching Activities
We have thousands of stickers in our house (thank you dollar store…), and I’ve never really thought of any creative ways to use them. But there are lots of fun matching activities that will use up some of those stickers and keep your kids entertained. The older kids will be happy matching, and the younger ones will be happy just sticking them to something. Doesn’t matter much to me as long as they are being quiet!
Simple Matching Sticker Game via Tinkerlab
Sticker Matching Pole via Testy Yet Trying
If you put together an activity kit in a small re-usable container, your kids will be thrilled at both the activity AND the surprise of opening it up to see what’s inside. Try re-packaging some of your kids favourite toys, crayons or small objects that they love to play with in a lunch bin, plastic container or sandwich box. Or you could put a sampler of your kid’s favorite toys in a recycled travel case, purse or wallet. You could even wrap it up with ribbons and tissue paper. Nothing makes kids happier than a small present!
DIY Travel Coloring Cases via Family Fresh Meals
DIY Portable Lego Kit via Fun at Home with Kids
Paper Doll Kit via Grey Luster Girl
DIY Activity Wallet via Hellobee
Collect a variety of printables (there are plenty of free ones on Pinterest) or activity sheets and compile them in a binder. Then your child can pick and choose their favourite sheets and work through the binder as you make your way along the road trip.
Road Map Busy Bag via The DIY Mommy
Road Trip Binder via Gluesticks
Travel Bingo Game via Simple as That
WARNING! Some moderate crafting skills and time are required for these! I’ve always wanted to make a quiet book, but I’ve found the task a little bit daunting (see my dreams about felt above). It doesn’t have to be a complicated project though. You could just as well print out some photographs of your kids favourite toys and put them in a small photo album for a fun I-Spy game. If you do have the skills required to make a quiet book, there are so many wonderful options! Check out these great ideas:
I-Spy Book via Happy Baby Designs
Pop-up Book via Crate Paper
Activity Book via In The Studio
Patterned Quiet Book via How Does She
Car Track Quiet Book via iCandy Handmade
Fabric Activity Book via Brown Paper Packages
Castle Peep Summer Camp via Maya Made
I can’t make any promises that your trip will be a quiet one. But at least with these activity ideas in your back pocket, it might just end up being more enjoyable! You might need several of these to keep your kids busy for the entire trip, and it will likely take a little bit of pre-planning, but it’s worth it if it brings some peace and quiet to the trip! Safe travels!