I'll be honest... If we are in the car for more than 15 minutes, I hand my 2-year-old the iPad. It used to be The Little Mermaid, but I've downloaded a handful of learning apps. So he plays those games in the car. Some of them teach 1+1+1=3 and other skills.
I don't mind it for 20 minutes here and there. But I know that screen time should be limited, especially when it isn't actively monitored.
In a few weeks, we are taking a weekend trip: it's about 4 hours there and 4 hours back. (Old me would say "Great - That's The Little Mermaid 2.5 times each way.") It's all about improvement, right? If it means watching a movie for part of the trip and doing activities for the other half, that's improvement. If it turns into a full 4 hours of activities, that would be amazing! I just want to be realistic since he has gotten used to the iPad.
I've been searching and searching the web to find some ideas for car rides, particularly longer rides, like the one in a few weeks. And I've found a lot of great ideas. I want to share them with you!
- Miniature white board with colorful dry erase markers. Alexander loves drawing on the little white board that we have. I'll pack some colorful markers. It will be a nice surprise!
- Throw-away camera. This is a big fat maybe. A disposable camera is always fun at every age. I'm just not sure he'll be able to wind it up after taking a picture, which means we'll have to help him after every picture! Maybe I can find one that keeps taking pictures. Then again, he will end up taking all 28 pictures in about 30 seconds!
- Toy catalog. We get catalogs in the mail a lot, and I can also pick one up from Toys R Us (or something similar). He may like flipping through the pages and looking at all the pictures.
- Pipe cleaners with buttons. He likes pushing pipe cleaners through buttons, and we have large buttons that would work well. I need to consider how to keep this activity from being messy.
- Salt shaker with toothpicks. I have seen toothpicks that have a blunt end, and there is some sort of salt shaker where the toothpicks will fit perfectly. He might love that. Again, I need to find a way to corral the toothpicks without them falling all over the floor.
- Crayons for windows. I don't know if these even exist, but if they do, I think Alexander might like drawing on the car window (if it comes off easily). I should also test this out on a very short trip to see if (a) he can easily reach and (b) the color comes off easily. This is one of those things I should think through before just going for it!
- Feathers. He might like putting feathers through the holes of the salt shaker as well. There may be another way to play with feathers. It will be something soft and flowy and pretty that he hasn't played with before.
- Sewing cards with yarn. I'll laminate a few cards in different shapes. Then I'll punch holes around the edges of the cards and include a piece of yarn with one end taped. He can use the yarn to sew through the holes in the card.
- Felt board with cut-out shapes. I have a black felt board that I've already made. I will cut out a square, triangle, and so on. I may use a piece of white chalk to draw shape outlines on the board, and he can match the shapes to the outlines.
- Wooly Willy. That's the game where you use a magnetic wand to draw on the man's face.
- Metal pan with magnetic letters. We have a set of magnetic alphabet letters. He might enjoy arranging the letters on the metal pan.
- Magnetic matching game. I'll create a new matching game. I will tape the "board" part to a cookie sheet. Then I'll magnetize the backs of the game pieces. And he'll simply put the pieces onto the board.
- Velcro fun. Grab a Velcro strip and stick little pieces of Velcro to the back of objects. He will love putting objects onto the Velcro strip and pulling them back off.
- Small boxes of raisins
- String cheese, cut in half lengthwise
- Cheerios and Goldfish crackers (in a portable snack container)
- Chocolate chips, as a treat
- A sippy cup, just for the road (less mess)
- Mini crustless PB&J sandwich bites (I'll share a recipe post on this later!)
- Ziploc bags for trash, toothpicks, dropped food, baby wipes, and so on
- Animal sounds mixed CD. Make a CD that's got some fun songs Alexander will like, plus a whole series of animal sounds. He might enjoy copying them and identifying the animal. (Plus, it will be the first time we've used the CD player in our car.)
- Book on tape. Rent a few stories on CD that we can play in the car.