The thrill of scenic drives with picturesque landscapes isn’t usually appealing to the youngest members of a road trip crew. If you’re setting out on an automobile-powered excursion this summer, you’ll need some kid-friendly entertainment ideas.

Here are nine activities that will keep kids busy and parents sane (for a while).

1. Chalkboard Book

Grab several pieces of cardboard, preferably all the same thickness. Paint the cardboard with chalkboard paint and let it dry.

Gather all your chalkboard pieces into a pile and make the book binding with duct tape (maybe a kid-friendly patterned roll of tape). Carefully open the newly emerging book and tape the individual pages together too.

If you have old board books that the wee ones aren’t reading anymore, you could simply paint over the existing book’s contents. This would save you the hassle of binding your own book.

Give the new book to the kids with handful of multi-colored chalk (sidewalk chalk might be best for little hands). Sure, chalk is a little messy, but brushing off the dust is easy compared to traveling without adequate entertainment!

2. Felt Tic-Tac-Toe

Cut two pieces of felt, large enough for the tic-tac-toe game board. Sew the hash mark on the surface of one piece of felt. Put the two pieces of felt together and sew around three of the edges, leaving the fourth edge along the top open (this will be the pocket to store the game pieces).

Get two more pieces of felt in contrasting colors (neither the same as the game board color). Use a circle template to trace 12 circles on each piece of felt (it’s always helpful to have a few extra game pieces on hand).

Use the sewing machine to make 'X's on one of the felt colors and 'O's on the other (if your sewing skills are lacking, you could make squares instead of circles).

Teach the kids how to play and remind them to put the pieces back in the pouch when they’re done.

3. Magnetic Checkers

Find an old, metal cake pan. Make a checkerboard on the bottom. Options include:

  • Paint
  • Preprinted checkerboard scrapbook paper
  • Individually cut paper squares in contrasting colors

Gather medium-sized buttons in two different colors. Glue a magnet to the back of each one.

The number of buttons will depend on the size of your pan and the checkerboard squares (traditional game boards are eight squares by eight squares). To determine the number of buttons for your board, count how many black squares are in the first three rows (or just two if your board is small). Each player will need that many buttons.

4. Route Mapping

Find a map that displays the area you’ll be traveling in. You could even print one yourself if you don’t want to sacrifice an official Department of Transportation map.

Give your kids the map and a marker. Let them trace the route, noting each town you pass through.

To make the game fun for both the way there and the way back, laminate the map. Wipe it off once you reach your destination and give it back to the kids before heading home.

5. Patterns

Before leaving home, make several pattern cards. Draw a long rectangle and then divide it into several squares. Color each square a different color, leaving the last square on each card blank.

When you get in the car, give your kids a bag of LEGOs and the pattern cards. Ask them to make the patterns they see on the cards, finishing each one with the color that should come next.

Before coloring the pattern cards, make sure you have plenty of the corresponding LEGO colors. The size of the LEGOs will depend on the age of the kids playing (don’t give youngsters small LEGOs that could be a choking hazard).

6. I Spy Worksheet

Go here and print this I Spy worksheet. Print one sheet per participating child and laminate it. Then, go over here and print the individual I Spy cards. Cut out the cards and put them in a little baggie.

When you get in the car, give each child a worksheet, a bag of cards, and a dry-erase (or washable Crayola) marker. Tell the children to pull out a card, find that object on the worksheet, and circle it.

If you have multiple kids in the car, turn the activity into a race. See who can complete their worksheet first.

7. I Spy Bottles

Gather some empty, plastic water bottles. Put several small items inside: small toys, coins, screws, paper clips, old keys, and anything else that will fit inside the bottle opening.

Fill the bottle about ¾ full of dry rice. Add the lid to the bottle and run a bead of hot glue along the edge to keep the lid in place.

Have the kids shake the rice around, revealing all the items.

8. Lacing Cards

Cut pieces of cardboard into recognizable shapes. Punch holes along the edges. Give your child a piece of cardboard and a shoe string to lace through the holes.

9. Popsicle Stick Building

Get some Popsicle sticks from the local craft store (colored ones are more fun). Also get some no-sew Velcro dots with adhesive on the back. Put the dots on the ends of the Popsicle sticks.

Let the kids build with the sticks, attaching one to the other with the Velcro.

Even if your road trip is just a short outing, it helps to have entertainment ideas. If you have any suggestions of your own, let us know!