This week my family has ventured south for a short break at the beach. Travelling for several hours in the car with a toddler gave me time to think about ways to engage this age group. Here I share my top tips for saving sanity, sneaking in some language learning and even enjoying the journey!

  1. Audiobooks and Spotify Stories: We’ve only recently discovered that Spotify plays host to thousands of tracks/recordings of children’s stories. They’ve been a hit! We’ve listened to a combination of new and old stories. The Playlist ‘Kids Bedtime Stories Read by Celebrities’ (including Dame Judi Dench!) is set for the drive home.

  2. Board Books: Any book is a good book but on car rides, these book types in particular earn my vote. They are robust enough to handle my little one’s attempts at ‘reading’ while he’s sitting in the back seat. I needn’t worry about tears in pages or frustration at not being able to flip through individual pages. They also generally are a good fit for the car (and car seat) – not too big or too small.

  3. Songs: Whether it be made up songs about sights you see along the way, familiar songs with new words (e.g., “Old McDonald had a boat”), listening to songs you love or songs your toddler does, we’ve found singing together is a fun way to pass the time. You can play a snippet of a song and guess what it is, or ask your toddler to finish the line (“Humpty Dumpty sat ……”)

  4. Melissa and Doug Water Wow Books: These books are well-loved and never fail to excite our little one. There is absolutely no mess involved, and kids love how the colour appears on the page by “painting” it with the water brush. Once the picture is revealed, you can ask your child to find particular objects according to a description (i.e., find something blue, round, tall) or ask them to tell about the things they see.

  5. Sticker Books: There is nothing my son enjoys more than filling the doors and windows at home with stickers. On road trips, we love these reusable Melissa and Doug sticker books because you can’t get stickers ‘stuck’ all over the car seats and windows! You can also play games involving following directions (i.e., Put the green car next to the red ute). Finally, if there’s time, I’ll wrap the sticker book (even when it’s not new!) in some old paper as a ‘present’ to be unwrapped. This buys some time and adds to the excitement of the trip too.

As we approach the destination, we chat about the activities we’re looking forward to, the kinds of items we’ll need to do them (i.e., For the beach we’ll pack….) and when some of these things will take place. Of course, there’s nothing better than arriving at your destination after a long car ride but hopefully these tips will make that travelling time a little more enjoyable. We’d also love to hear any tips you have for engaging your children on car trips or while travelling!