Today’s installment of Creating Really Awesome Free Trips is by one of my real life friends, Cassie! Cassie and I went to high school together! She’s got 2 cute kiddos and 7 awesome car games for kids to keep ’em happy and healthy on road trips!
Hi! I am Cassie, from the pint-sized traveler! I am beyond thrilled, and honored, to be here on C.R.A.F.T. today! With summer just around the corner, I am sharing some pretty awesome (almost) free activities for your kiddos while traveling in the car. Some are from my blog, some are tried-and-true, and some are new!
#1 Piles of Pipe Cleaners!
Having a bounty of pipe cleaners available, is always a smart thing! They are very cheap (I found them in packs of 100 for 2.99, but then used Mr. 40% off coupon to drop them down to 1.79!) There are so many different uses for them – from stringing beads and making bracelets, to creating stick figures…honestly, the list goes on! However, today I am suggesting you take these bad boys and put those “Are We There Yet?!?”s to rest! Decide how long you will drive each day (an estimate is just fine) and gather enough pipe cleaners for each kid to have one for every hour you drive (decide what works best for your children and their age group – perhaps you need 30 minute increments). Before you head out, get the car prepped by making a loop around the car handle on the ceiling with string and running it across to the other side above their heads. Explain before you take off, that every hour (or half hour) you will hand out a pipe cleaner to each of them. Instruct them to make a loop with the pipe cleaner around the string (like so!)
I first have our kids string cheap pony beads on the pipe cleaner (leaving enough room to twist the loop shut) to use up extra time and keep those fingers busy. At the end of the day you can all count the hours and remove the pipe cleaners so you can start fresh again!
#2 Felt Rules!
This is another super steal of a deal (0.25 per 8×11″ sheet of felt) and has many uses! This is a tried-and-true busy bag, but we are simply going to amp it up with more scenes and cut-outs and attach it to a clip board! I suggest cutting out 8-10 different scenes and placing each one in a separate zippered sandwich or quart size bag and labeling it, and then throw them all into a gallon sized one! I glued a whole felt sheet to a clip board, and then clipped the ziplock bag under the clip. This gives a nice hard surface to play on and keeps everything well contained!
Here are some great scene ideas to get you started:
* House (create the different parts such as windows, door, roof, flowers, trees, etc.)
* Faces (the sky is the limit! Cut a head and then go wild – frowns, smiles, teeth, big eyes, small eyes, freckles, lashes, noses – you got it!)
* The States! (older kids can actually create a map of the United States!)
*Ice Cream Cone (and all the flavor options!)
* Animals (include whiskers, tailed, spots, etc.)
* Ocean (fish, seaweed, bubbles, waves)
#3 Travel Log!
Older kids are the natural fit for keeping a journal of sorts, but don’t forget the little ones too! They can draw pictures, cut out pictures from magazines and travel brochures (if you sign up with your destination’s visitors bureau, you can request free catalogs!) and scribble as well! Assign a portion of the day to writing when the car should be quiet. Decide what is best for your family, perhaps the kids need a prompt from you (Today I have seen the color ______ the most because…) or maybe something more “traditional” (The best thing I’ve seen on the road today was…) or maybe letting them write wherever their heart takes them is better. Aside from the actual writing and coloring spending time, I would first have them “create” their journal! There are many ways to tackle this, from free to inexpensive. The free approach (and my favorite!) is to take an old cereal box or other cardboard piece and cut out a front and back for the book. Cut large pieces of white paper out and glue them on the cardboard to create spaces to write and color.
(here I created an area for the “title” as well as the main picture)
Using white or lined paper, cut them down to the size of the cover (or fold) and then staple! You can also use binder rings if you have those lying around, or even paper clips! Super simple and free! If you don’t want to make it, check your dollar store for 0.99 journals.
Of course make sure crayons, pencils, stickers, glue sticks, safety scissors and other embellishments are close by (I generally empty my junk drawers in my craft room into small plastic containers with lids, and let them go at it!)
#4 Car Printables!
What would a road trip be without a rousing game of roadside bingo or the license plate game! There are so many awesome blogs and sites to hit up for free printables! Here are a few links to check out! License Plate Game (care of LivingOnVacation.org), Road Trip Bingo (care of Free-Puzzles.Net), and our family’s FAVORITE… Slug Bug! (care of Not Inadequate)
#5 Books on Tape!
Yes, many libraries lend books on tape for free, but not all. If you can’t get your hands on free books on tape, please save you $15 and create your own! Small kids will love hearing your voice coming from the speaker, and older kids can relax their eyes and listen to you tell them a story (with out you having to even be awake! … UNLESS you are driving!! In that case, please keep your eyes OPEN!) You don’t need fancy recording equipment to make this happen, for some just their phone will work! The first thing I suggest however, is to determine which car you will be driving and what features it has (CD player, USB Port, MP3 plug-in?) If you can plug your smart phone in to play through the car’s speakers, then perhaps a simple voice note is the easiest! Of course you won’t be able to record a novel on here, but a shorter children’s book should be just fine. If you don’t have space on your phone for this or can’t sync it up with your car, then record the story onto a CD. Record new stories as well as favorites! And don’t forget to bring the books along!
#6 Twizzler Writing
With this one, let them play with their food! Grab a package of the rope twizzler (pull and peel), not the traditional braid, and using a lap desk, or other hard surface, have them practice their letters! You can print and laminate (or stick in a ziplock bag!) large letters for the younger ones to trace. Call out words of things you say as you drive past and have the older ones spell the words out. The best part is clean up is a synch… and a tasty snack 😉
#7 Fun Snacks!
You may not normally allow your children to eat in the car, but on any road trip, those rules MUST go out the window! You can keep the mess to a minimum by not bringing in messy foods to start with, but don’t bother trying to keep the spills from happening, because they always will! Instead, organize it! On our Great 30 Day Road Trip last summer I packed these fabulous boxes ($1.99 at your local craft store – just bead organizers!)
Try to stay clear of tons of sugary treats that won’t stick with them long and will cause mood crashes. While this is not an activity, you will be amazed how long it keeps them busy! Another twist would be to package each snack in their own ziplock bags and then have the kids sort them into their own boxes. However, this would be a sure way for added mess, so do whatever won’t make you too crazy. We live in our car, so a little mess doesn’t bother me one bit! You can also bring along stickers for the kids to use to decorate their boxes (don’t forget to get out the paint pens before to personalize their boxes!)
I hope we have inspired you to pack many, many frugal activities before you hit the road! Just remember, do not show all your tricks at once. Try to stagger the activities so that you never run out of a “trick” to pull from your bag when those “Are We There Yet?!?”s start whining at you!
Be sure and check out Cassie’s blog for more fun travel tips at the pint sized traveler!