It’s said that getting there is “half the fun.” But sometimes it feels more like half the battle, especially if you have a young child in the backseat of the car who’s wiggling and squirming, determined to break free of the seatbelt and shoulder straps.

Traveling with a toddler or preschooler can be challenging. Some days your child will sit quietly in the car and flip through a book, other days a 10-minute trip to the grocery store feels more like a cross-country road trip than a simple errand. So, what can you do to keep your child happy and entertained when you’re on the go? Plan ahead. Pack a few low-effort (and super easy to clean up!) travel activities.

Whether you’re going on a road trip or headed to grandma’s house to celebrate the holidays, DIY projects make traveling fun, creative and engaging. Even better, your children will be creating a memento to keep (or even gift to grandma) making the trip even more special. With these five activities, you’ll finally put an end to the four words that parents never want to hear: Are we there yet?

Button bracelets are fun, easy and a great way for kids to express their creativity while on the go. It’s also a good activity for improving fine motor skills. In addition, buttons are small, light and easy to pack.

Supply List:

  • Buttons
  • Length of ribbon or cord
  • Scissors

Directions:

  1. Weave the ribbon through the buttons. In order to have the buttons sit side by side and have the bracelet sit flat on the wearer’s wrist, weave from the bottom of the button, cross over the top, and then dip back down again.
  2. When you have enough buttons on the ribbon for the length of a bracelet, tie the two ends of the ribbon together.
  3. Create unique color schemes and designs using different sized buttons. If you’re feeling ambitious, try making a button necklace.

Long before children were entertained with handheld electronic devices and headrest TV screens, families played games on road trips and long car rides. I Spy, the Alphabet Game, the Name Game and I’m Going on a Picnic are classic, time-tested car games that families have enjoyed for years. Road trip car bingo is another popular favorite. You can make your own bingo card game boards at home or print one online. Have the cards laminated at a copy shop. This way the boxes can be checked off using erasable markers. Bingo!

Supply List

  • Erasable markers
  • Road trip bingo card

Directions:

  1. When someone spots an animal, airplane, road sign, body of water, railroad crossing or any other item that’s on the bingo game board (you can get really imaginative with the items when you design your own bingo boards), the players mark the corresponding picture on their boards.
  2. The first person to get five pictures in a row wins.

Doing arts and crafts projects in the car can be messy, and no amount of scrubbing or steam cleaning is going to get that red hand print off the backseat cushion. When you’re doing on-the-go projects, it’s best to steer clear of things like paint, glue and glitter. Keep it simple. And that might mean doing some prep work at home. Stone Owls are a hoot, but if you want to cut down on the mess, prepare the rocks at home and then bring them with you to color and design in the car.

Supply List

  • Round, flat stones
  • White acrylic paint
  • Markers, felt pens

Directions:

  1. Before the trip, have a scavenger hunt in the backyard and look for round, flat stones.
  2. Paint all of the stones with white acrylic paint and let them dry.
  3. In the car, use markers or felt pens to design and color the stones to look like owls. Don’t forget the eyes and a beak. Maybe some eyelashes? Wing outlines are important, too. Get creative and take a no mistakes approach to this fun, stone craft.

The journey is as important as the destination, right? A travel scrapbook will keep children engaged during the entire trip—it doesn’t matter if it’s a two-hour ride or a five-day family vacation. Have children record and keep track of the day’s events and highlights. What did you see and do? Have them draw the vehicles that they saw on the road. Did you stop for lunch? Write down what you ate and file a take-out menu in the binder as a souvenir. Have the kids collect everything, including postcards, maps, coupons, tickets, toll receipts, driving directions and hotel or campground reservations, in their all-in-one travel scrapbook. Then, mark each town or city you visit with a sticker on a map.

Supply List:

  • Three-ring binder
  • Pencils, pens, markers, stickers
  • Camera

Directions:

  1. Record and keep track of the events and highlights of the trip.
  2. Draw pictures of what you see and file souvenirs in the three-ring binder.
  3. Take pictures on the trip, and then add them to the scrapbook later.

What’s the best thing about pipe cleaners? It’s simple: they provide hours of creative, no mess entertainment. Animals, people, shapes, chains, loops—you can make almost anything with pipe cleaners. You can even practice making letter shapes, which is a great way to make a car ride more educational. Why not have your child create all 26 letters of the alphabet out of pipe cleaners?

Supply List

  • Pipe cleaners (for easy transport, keep them stored in a clear plastic tub)
  • Scissors
  • Buttons and beads are optional

Directions:

  1. Bend, twist and form pipe cleaners into animals, shapes and loops.
  2. Add buttons and beads to your pipe cleaner creations.

The next time you hit the road, these five DIY craft projects will keep the kids happy, entertained and out of trouble.

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