17 clever ways to keep your kids happy in the car (that DON'T involve electronics)

Looking for ideas to entertain the kids without using electronics while traveling this year? Here are some great ideas to make for an (almost) peaceful trip.

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  • It seems every time I see a child on a train, plane or in the car, they have an electronic device to help pass the time and keep them occupied. While I am all for educational games, and the occasional movie or TV show to distract my little ones, there are times when electronics are not an option.

  • If you do not have internet connection, your battery dies, or you simply want them to get away from screen time for a while, what do you do? Here are some ideas:

  • 1. Magic Ink books

  • These books allow your kids to color without the mess of markers or risk of dropping 20 crayons between the seats of the car.

  • 2. I spy

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  • Not only are there I spy books you can purchase that will keep your kids occupied for quite a while looking for hidden pictures within a picture, there are also homemade I spy jars you can make.

  • Just put a bunch of objects into a jar, and ask your child to find a specific one. "I spy the blue marble, do you?"

  • Don't want to spend any money? Play the game as you travel. Pick something inside the car or plane, or even outside. Just make sure it is far enough away that your child has enough time to find it before you pass it.

  • 3. Pencil games

  • Use a note book to create tick-tack-toe boards, hangman stations and even a word scramble.

  • 4. Bingo

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  • Make up different Bingo cards for each child and have squares for things you know you'll pass on your drive. For example, gas station, cow, train tracks or be more specific with city signs or landmarks. Use stickers or a pen to mark off spots and have a fun prize for the winner.

  • 5. Read

  • Encourage your kids to bring some books along to read as you travel. Pick a chapter book that you can take turns reading out loud or bring picture books for the younger ones.

  • 6. Would you rather?

  • Play fun speaking games that require only your imagination such as "Would you rather?" Ask age appropriate questions that give two options: "Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?" Ask them to expound on their answers.

  • 7. Crafts

  • Ella-phant and Flora 🐘🌸✌ @ej_02_ #carcrafts #elephant #flower

    A photo posted by Emmalynn Chalmers (@owlmeetsfairy) on

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  • Have your kids make crafts like friendship bracelets or beaded jewelry that will keep their minds and finger busy for hours.

  • 8. Legos

  • Glue a Lego base to the inside of a lunch box so your little one can have a portable Lego station while you travel.

  • 9. Magnets

  • Creating a magnetic board is an inexpensive way to entertain your child. Buy a cookie sheet at the dollar store along with magnets and let them play. There are magnet letters, characters from their favorite TV shows or numbers that you can get to play with along your journey.

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  • 10. Felt boards

  • Operation felt board

    A photo posted by Marcy (@searching4tchrbalance) on

  • Like the magnet board, felt is another great activity that you don't have to worry about falling and trying to pick up as you travel. Cut out different flavors of ice cream to stack on a cone, or pizza toppings. Glue a piece of felt to a cookie sheet and watch them build culinary creations.

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  • 11. Stitch cards

  • Stich cards that use yarn or string to go through the holes on the card is a fun way to entertain your little ones. You can buy age appropriate cards so they are different for each person.

  • 12. Sing

  • A great way to pass the time is to sing your favorite family songs. You can do simple ones like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," or even go up a level with familiar Disney songs. See how many words you can remember as you sing.

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  • 13. Classic car games

  • Epic round of #cargames today

    A photo posted by Andrea Dello Russo (@badannie2001) on

  • There are some games that will never die when it comes to traveling in the car. The license plate game is a good one. Whoever can spy 10 license plates from different states wins.

  • There is also the A-Z game. Similar to the license plate game, except instead of license plates you're looking for letters. They have to be in consecutive order starting with the letter A.

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  • 14. Another license plate game

  • A different game to play using license plates is the Letter Plate Tales game. Use the letters on a license plate to make up sentences. If the letters are DEB it can be Dad Eats Bears. Bonus: the sillier the better.

  • 15. Tell stories

  • Another fun game to help your kids build their imaginations is to tell stories. You can tell true stories, or ones that are completely made up. Set a timer for 20-30 seconds and when it goes off, the person speaking stops, and the person next to them has to pick up where they left off.

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  • All of these ideas are simple and fairly inexpensive. While bringing the iPad or tablet is easy and quick, there are other ways to entertain your kids away from electronics. If you are searching for other options, try one or all of these ideas on your next family vacation.

  • 16. Make surprise bags for your kids to open at specific landmarks

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  • One way to keep your kids interested and excited about staying in the car longer is to have bags marked with the different landmarks and cities you will see along your way. Use paper bags so they cannot see what's inside. This builds anticipation and is a fun way to keep them happy about a long road trip.

  • 17. Keep your snacks in a one compact container

  • On the blog now ---- DIY Snack Box #RoadTripHacks #diy #ad #budgetsavvydiva #Safeway #roadtrip #snacks #craft

    A photo posted by Sara Lundberg (@budgetsavvydiva) on

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  • Using one storage container for your snacks is a convenient way to keep everything together. You won't have to search through different bags to try and find the one snack your child wants. By using a bead holder or something with different compartments you can control the portion size of each snack. The walls can be moved to accommodate large snacks, and you can personalize each snack box for each child.

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Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in anthropology and a masters in psychology. She is a mother of twins.

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