Monday, June 25, 2018

Screen-Free Road Trip Activities for Kids of Every Age

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Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

When you're taking your kids on long car rides, you and I both know the easiest form of distraction is a cell phone or tablet. But in our many travels over the years, we've noticed that even though the kids beg for a movie or device, staring at them for too long in the car makes them grumpy and tired.

And honestly, between technical problems, low battery life, and the agony of waiting your turn (#firstworldproblems) I sometimes feel like handing out screens causes more problems than it solves.

Our solution is to become experts at finding other methods of car entertainment. Divided by age, here are some of our favorite unplugged road trip toys and activities.

Best Baby and Toddler Car Toys


Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
10 months+

For years, this little turtle has been in our bag of "quiet toys" to take to church, and I have to say that for an adult I find it way too satisfying to push the colorful buttons down and slide them all around. I'm honestly not sure how to put the appeal into words, but for a low-key toy that doesn't make noise, flash lights, or even move much, it certainly fascinates the kids.

Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
newborn+

This is another one that you just can't not play with, I don't care who you are. Babies love to suck on the knobs at the ends and the ball easily stays in their hands even if they're not too good at grabbing things yet. Older kids like to squish the ball and watch it snap back into shape, or slide the colorful beads around. Another similar toy my babies have liked is the Oball, but this is my favorite.
Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

ages 1-3

To be perfectly honest I'm not sure my kids ever learned much by playing with this toy, but let's be honest: that's not why I bought it. The buttons and fun lights are fascinating to toddlers, and since they get yelled at every time they play with (and lose) the real flashlights in the house, they love this one. It's especially mesmerizing at night when the light really shines in the darkness. This can entertain a toddler for hours after sundown.

Best Road Trip Toys for Preschoolers

Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
ages 3+

Crayloa has a whole line of Color Wonder products with mess-free clear markers that only write on special Color Wonder paper. (As someone whose child has autographed various pieces of furniture, this is a life-changing product.) There are lots of different kinds of markers, coloring books, and blank drawing pads to choose from. FYI, there's also no-mess fingerpaint but I would not recommend that for the car (it's clear but still sticky.)
Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
ages 3+

This is an upgraded version of the Etch-A-Sketch or maybe the MagnaDoodle you're probably familiar with from your own childhood. While this may technically be a screen, I'm not counting it as one because it's not backlit and there's no passive watching going on with this toy. My kids can spend a long time drawing on this pad with the included stylus, pressing the button to erase, and drawing something new.

Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

ages 4+

Remember Colorforms? This is like that, but maybe better because the puffy shape of the reusable stickers is easier for chubby and/or uncoordinated fingers to get a hold of. The pages are sturdy and the books are spiral-bound so they lie flat easily. There are lots of different scenes so it takes a long time before a kid gets bored with this toy. Highly recommend.

Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
ages 3+

These have kept my kids plenty busy over the years. I like that the figures are girls instead of fully-developed women, and that their clothes are something you'd see in an elementary school instead of a night club. (Ahem, I'm looking at you, Barbie.) There are also specialty sets like princesses, mermaids, and superheroes. And if your kids aren't into dress up, they will probably love this human body set.

Best Travel Toys for Elementary-Age Kids


Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

ages 5+

What I love about the beautiful books in the Usborne Doodle series is that they're freeform enough to play with for a long time, but provide enough structure to keep kids from running out of ideas. On every page there's a partial drawing to complete (something really interesting like wacky robots, mazes built out of pipes, and so on) and even teenagers can get into this almost as much as their younger siblings.

Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

ages 8+

This is not like other Rubik's products, where unless your kid knows the solution they're just cubes of frustration. This is more like Rubik's Cube meets the tangram. It's a twisting puzzle (with traditional Rubik's colors) that can be bent, posed, and manipulated into hundreds of different shapes. Older kids will like trying to match the ones in the included challenge booklet, but mine mostly prefer to create their own or just experiment and see what happens.

Unplugged car games and toys for everyone in the family, from babies to teenagers.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

ages 6-15

My older kids love scratch art, especially my 14-year-old artist. It's basically drawing in reverse, so it works your brain as you try to create a picture using negative space (although you can make it as simple or complicated as you want.) The kit here is perfect for families: plenty of rainbow, gold, and silver paper plus 4 styluses so everybody can do it at the same time.


These offline travel toys are tested favorites of my kids on car trips.
Phones and tablets are fine, but I prefer these because they get us all to our destination with a little less stress and restlessness.

Good luck on your next family road trip and don't forget to check out the rest of the list at Surviving a Road Trip with Kids!

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2 comments:

  1. THANK YOU for this post! we are about to embark on a road trip from Oklahoma to California with our 20-month-old granddaughter. It's been a few years since I made this trip with her father and I was wondering what was out there to keep her amused in the car!

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    Replies
    1. Best of luck! That's a hard age to keep happily contained in the car for such a long time but you can do it!

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