Road Trips with a Toddler – 9 Lessons from the Front Seat

Road Trips with a Toddler – 9 Lessons from the Front Seat

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Until a few months ago, we lived on the opposite side of the country from family and friends.  This means that for every trip to Grandma’s house, we boarded multiple planes and spent almost an entire day on airplanes and in airports.  Now doing this as often as we did with a newborn and into the early toddler years, we were feeling pretty proud of our ability to smoothly travel with a baby or toddler. 

So, when we moved close enough to family to drive and visit on a regular basis, we were thinking it would be a breeze compared to flying across the country.  Well our first 8-hour road trip to Grandma’s was not quite as easy as we expected.  However, I live by the motto, “you win, or you learn”, and we definitely learned a lot on this trip.  Keep reading to find out what we learned when taking a road trip with a toddler, so that you are prepared to hit the open roads.

Road Trips with a Toddler – 9 Lessons from the Front Seat

Toddlers have a really short attention span

Theoretically, I already knew this.  However, at home or the playground where my toddler can run from one activity to the next, I didn’t fully develop an appreciation for how frequently new activities must be furnished.  Airplanes usually have enough good people watching and looking out the window and new noises to keep a little one pretty occupied.  However, my son thought the constant view of fields did not make for a very interesting trip. 

We had taken a variety of activities, but not nearly enough for the entire 8-hour trip.  In the future, we will take many more activities.


Activities that work for other kids may not work for yours

You can easily find recommendations for travel activities online.  However, each kid is unique and what is magic for others likely won’t work for you.  Use all these ideas, to spark ideas of what you think your child will like.   Ideal activities are interesting, non-toxic if eaten, and low mess.  Once you have some ideas of what might work, do a dry run.  Try them out while you are driving across town or take a mini road trip to a nearby city.  See which activities work well in the car and keep your toddler entertained and which ones aren’t worth the effort.  This will help you narrow down your list of activities to pack.

These toddler travel activities can help you start the brainstorming process of what may work for your kid.


Get a travel tray

There are a variety of travel trays available, and you will definitely want to invest in one.  This is the one that we have and really like. When selecting a travel tray, there are a few things to consider:

  • How it attaches, you will want to make sure it will be easy to put on and take off
  • Avoid cupholders that go below the tray base because these can be uncomfortable
  • Waterproof because you will want to clean the tray frequently
  • Compact
A toddler using a travel tray to hold toys and a drink on a road trip.

Know that the travel tray may not always work

The travel tray was really helpful for meals.  It was great to set my son up with his drink and food in a way that he could eat it without making a big mess.  However, when we wanted to sleep, the tray just annoyed him.  It worked well for us, to be able to remove the tray from the front passenger seat.


Plan for a play stop

No matter how many activities you pack, your little one will need to run around at some point to burn off some excess energy.  I suggest planning a stop midway that will allow a break from the car.  There are a number of rest stops with playgrounds now, and many that have big green picnic areas.  Plan where this stop will be.  By doing your research online ahead of time, you can have a good plan that will save a lot of stress while traveling.

A toddler playing on a playground.

Plan your gas and food stops

Similar to the point above, you will want to have a general idea of where you plan to stop for food, gas and restrooms.  Figure out what you want in your idea stop.  Do you want gas and coffee, or a specific fast food restaurant?  You can research these ahead of time to save stress during the trip. 

I love using the iExit app to figure out where to stop.  You can read more about it and my other must-have travel apps here.

Are you starting to see a theme about planning here?  To maximize your efforts, you can grab my Family Travel Planner here.


Take your motion sickness medication

The person in the front passenger seat will be turning around a lot during the trip.  If there is even the slightest chance you will get car sick, take motion sickness medication to prevent it.  The non-drowsy version of Dramamine which contains meclizine, is my favorite.  I can read, work or turn around and help my toddler without getting nauseous. 


Download some baby tunes

Toddlers love music and there is something about Baby Shark and other toddler songs that appeal to that demographic more than any other type of music.  Before your trip, prepare a playlist or CD of favorite toddler tunes. When your little one starts getting cranky, break out his favorite songs.  These work wonders for pulling my son out of a cranky fit while we are driving.


Consider how sleep will happen

Even if it’s naptime and even if you walked your toddler around the neighborhood before getting in the car, there is no guarantee that sleep will occur.  However, to improve your chances, consider how you can make the backseat darker.  Window shades help to some extent.  Does your little one fall asleep best with a full tummy and a cup of milk?  If so, plan a food stop shortly before you want sleep to occur.  Also make sure you get food, gas, drink, bathrooms or anything else everyone else needs before your toddler falls asleep.  The worst thing is for sleep to finally happen and then someone needs to stop for a bathroom.


There are the 9 lessons I learned on our most recent road trip.  Before your next trip, you will also want to check out these tips for traveling with a baby or toddler.

Pin It For Later

Road Trips with a Toddler – 9 Lessons from the Front Seat

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

If you are traveling with a baby that’s younger than 6 months, chances are good that he’ll sleep for a good portion of the flight.  However, if you have an older baby or toddler, a plane is way too exciting to allow for sleep in many cases.  Instead of sleeping they get frustrated that they can’t crawl/walk around the plane or kick the seat.  Therefore, it’s important to have a bag of tricks to keep your tiny human happy while trapped in a flying tin can.

Things that make for good travel activities have a few characteristics in common. 

  1. Quiet
  2. Low mess
  3. Easily contained
  4. Lightweight/easy to pack

Here are 10 activity ideas that are great for travel entertainment to get you started.

Sticker Activity Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

These are great because of all the variety and ways they can be used for various ages.  For older babies, you can get small stickers and stick them on their nails.  Figuring out how to get them off can provide a nice span of quiet entertainment.  For toddlers, sticker books are good fine motor skill practice as they peel the stickers up and stick them in the desired location.  Many sticker books have scenes where once the stickers are on, you can have your older toddler explain the story they created with the stickers.  You can also create your own sticker activities by using a sheet of stickers and having your toddler sort them into groups based on certain characteristics.  You can also find sticker books that have reusable stickers to create endless fun.


Traditional Activity Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

These are great for older toddlers.  They can provide a variety of educational activities.  Mazes, handwriting, counting, and letter identification are just a few of the activities you can find.  These books are often lightweight and provide educational entertainment.

I love this activity book because it wipes clean for reuse on every trip.


Magic Coloring Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

One of the requirements of airplane activities for kids is that they be low mess.  Markers are great fun for toddlers; however, they often manage to color on everything except the page.  These magic coloring books come with specific markers that only work on the pages.  Therefore, your toddler can enjoy coloring with markers while you relax knowing they won’t redecorate the tray table.


Colored Beeswax

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

This is a little-known activity idea.  Colored beeswax is great once your child is ready for Play-Doh.  Unlike Play-Doh, the beeswax doesn’t smell, or crumble and make a mess.  If your child likes to play with Play-Doh at home, pulling out the beeswax on a flight, can be a novel change that is sure to excite your little one.


Pre-Downloaded Movies/Cartoons

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

I know, I know, you are thinking that you don’t want to encourage screen time. However, when entertaining a toddler while flying, the rules need to go out the window.  This is the perfect time to allow screens that are limited at home.  Having an Amazon Fire Kids Edition is a great way to have readily available, kid-friendly entertainment.  All kids enjoy this, but those that have limited screen time at home, are often extremely entertained by this normally “forbidden” item.


Favorite Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

These can be a little more challenging as they often add bulk and weight to already overflowing carry-ons.  However, one or two favorites can be a good edition.  If you are flying overnight and hoping for sleep, books commonly used during a bedtime routine can help set your little one up for successfully sleeping.

A classic story like, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, is always great or some kids prefer books with flaps or different textures to feel.


Magnetic Blocks

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Many toddlers love to play with blocks.  However, these can be tricky on a plane as they fall and get lost easily.  Magnetic blocks make it easy for your toddler to build creative structures and towers, but they are going to tumble everywhere as easily as traditional blocks.


Favorite, Small Toys

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

If your child has a favorite toy that isn’t too hard to pack, bring it along. This includes stuffed animals and blankets used as comfort items.  However, be forewarned that many times toys that are loved at home just aren’t that exciting on a plane.  See the next idea for a solution to this problem.

This skwish toy is quiet and flattens down to easily fit in a carry-on bag.


Small Presents

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Wrap up a few new, small toys and let your child open them at intervals throughout the trip.  Because of the excitement of flying, items that are readily available to play with at home may not hold the same appeal.  However, what kid doesn’t like unwrapping a new toy.  Collect a few small toys and wrap them up before leaving.  Then at different intervals throughout your trip or when your struggling to provide entertainment, let your toddler open the small present. The toy inside may provide 3 or 30 minutes of entertainment, but either way it can serve as a distraction to prevent an oncoming tantrum.

Pro Tip: Get something that comes in a set with a variety of items, like these tiny toy trucks, so you have a bunch of little toys to unwrap.


Coloring Books and Crayons

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Coloring books are a staple of toddler entertainment.  However, traditional crayons are likely to roll right off the tray table and all over the plane.  Invest in some triangle or square-shaped crayons specifically for flying.  These are often larger and much easier to keep track of as they aren’t rolling everywhere.


For more trips on flying with kids, check out these posts:

What are your best airplane entertainment ideas for toddlers?  Let me know in the comments.

Pin It For Later


How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

How to Help Your Toddler to Start Talking?

How to Help Your Toddler to Start Talking?

Every parent wants their children to develop in the usual way. If their kids don’t start speaking until a certain moment in their lives, parents become concerned about their children’s speaking ability.

In that case, it’s important that you don’t put additional stress on your kid’s back.

What you should do is help them to start uttering words and phrases in many amusing ways.

Here’s what I think can be useful for every parent and toddler.

How to Help Your Toddler to Start Talking?

1)    Use short words and speak slowly

The reasons why your toddler still doesn’t want to speak may vary. If you and your partner tend to speak too fast and use too many words, that could confuse your toddler.

Also, the kid will recognize if you don’t include him or her in your conversations.

For starters, you need to address your toddler as much as possible. You should do that using short words that the kid can relate to.

Instead of saying ‘Take that toy and put it back in the box’, you can take the toy and say ‘The bear is going to sleep’. In the latter example, the keywords are the bear and sleep. You can also imitate the act of sleeping to provide another illustration for the meaning of the word.

parents walking with a toddler

When you’re cooking, show every ingredient you use to your kid and name it. You can keep repeating the drill. Then you can also add colors to the activity in one of the later repetitions.

If you use more short words related to tangible things in your home, the toddler is more likely to memorize them.

2)    Wake up the animator inside you

For some toddlers, it’s not enough just to keep showing them things and naming them.

Simply put, some kids are more demanding, and we don’t say that in a negative way.

On the contrary, they simply aren’t easily amused. If you and your partner are such people, it’s highly likely that your toddler will follow suit.

In that case, both of you need to wake up the animator inside you. This means that you should use more facial expressions and physical motion when you’re teaching your toddler to speak.

Here are some actions and expressions you should use frequently:

  • Nod your head when saying ‘Yes’ and shake it when you mean ‘No’.
  • Point to the things you want your kid to bring to you or put into the box.
  • Imitate eating when you’re feeding your toddler.
  • Do the actions from the songs you’re singing, such as “If You’re Happy” and use other expressions to boost your toddler’s speech.

You can also make up songs using some common words from your kid’s everyday environment. Those songs need to be short and simple, just like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”.

If you notice that your kid likes to play Hide and Seek, you can hide different toys and objects around the house. The act of finding those things and naming them with you will be delightful for your toddler. As a result, he or she might learn how to name them.

mom reading to a toddler

3)    Encourage speech in all situations

Some children might find it easier to speak in their comfort zone. That’s why your toddler might want to talk at home but be hesitant about it outside.

This is where you should play a boosting role and encourage them to keep saying words everywhere they go.

For instance, when you’re at a supermarket, you can turn the entire process into a word-learning game. You can let your kid touch different fruit and vegetables and name them. As explained by the London nanny experts, some toddlers are kinesthetic learners, i.e. they learn more easily through touching and moving. Parents and nannies need to ensure that such kids can learn things in their favorite way.

Moreover, you can join your child in playground activities. While the kid is swinging, you can encourage him or her to say the colors of the clouds and the trees in the park.

If you teach your kid words in a fun way outside the house, they’ll be excited to go out with you and do those activities.

toddler pushing a small cart through a grocery store

4)    Treat them with respect

Speech development is a part of the toddler’s cognitive development. That’s why it’s important to treat your kid with respect to everything he or she does.

For starters, avoid yelling at them, especially immediately after they’ve just learned a new word. Even if you’re raising your voice for a good cause, they might not be able to understand that.

Also, avoid using baby talk with older toddlers. You may notice how toddlers aged 2 or 3 refer to those younger ones as babies. It’s important for them to feel they’re treated in accordance with their age.

Likewise, expose them to appropriate teaching materials. Instead of plain baby books with words, use classic picture books and stories for bedtime.

Conclusion

Every kid has their own tempo in everything they do. The same goes for the development of speech. Parents need to be patient and keep doing the things recommended by speech therapists and experts.

In many cases, toddlers say only a few words and then start babbling overnight. There’s no reason to worry as long as your toddler is generally developing in a natural way.

So, apply our strategies in your daily activities with your toddler and always show your kids ultimate support in everything they do. Eventually, they’ll be able to utter more and more words.