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We do a fair bit of driving and my kids are pretty used to listening to audiobooks and doing coloring/sticker books while we drive, but we have a 16ish hour drive coming up in a month, and -- unlike most of our drives where I have another adult there to handout snacks and otherwise help -- I'm going this one alone. We also have a variety of fidgits, rubiks cubes, kanoodle, magnetic games, etc, that they're used to doing on trips. So I feel like I would like to get them something novel to keep them busy for at least some of this trip. Novel - but not messy... lol. My kids are 10, 8, 6, 4, and they can't read in the car (car-sick and 3 dyslexics).  They don't enjoy or do very well with roadtrip games like "I spy" or "See who can find something that begins with A... Z" sorts of games.

Hit me with your best ideas for non-messy, quiet things kids can do in a car, without losing or dropping pieces! 

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Mad libs.  Make sure the younger ones know the parts of speech, put the 10yr old in charge of the mad libs.  He/she can call out "ok a color adjective" or "a plural noun"  The others can call out answers, you get final say, 10yr old reads off the final story.

Plan lunch to be ON the road.  It can be a bit messier in the car....but it's something to keep kids occupied.


Also, the 10 yr old, honestly...can totally take on the job of handing out snacks, making sure the kids in the back are putting their trash the assigned trash bags etc.  


Leave very early in the AM so they will sleep some of the way.


Surprise toys work great for the 8 and under crowd.  So...you drive 2 hours, stop for a pee break, everyone gets back in the kids get a My Little Pony or Barbie or Spider Man or Minecraft or whatever action figure or doll or whatever.  Encourage them to bring one or two that they have so that they can plan with those WITH the new one, but don't tell them about the surprises.


Candy.  I don't mean lots of make them crazy type of candy, but among the snacks, including candy they don't usually get can make the snacks more interesting.

Stop at fabulous road stops.  My parents used to make an 8hr+ trip to visit my grandparents every year.  Most years, we passed under this "restaurant bridge."  (google Illinois tollway oasis)  As a small kid, we thought this was the COOOLEST THING EVER!  We didn't stop often, but when we did, even though it was basically just like a mall food court but smaller....it was SO COOOL!  If there is anything along the way that your kids think are SO COOOL, THE COOOOOOOLLLLLEEESSSSTTT THING ever! then just plan to stop there.  Try to work it into your regular pee stop.  Even though it doesn't seem refreshing, that's the kind of stuff that refreshes young kids.  

Also, don't forget pillows and blankets and quiet music and such so that kids can sleep if wanted/needed/etc. 

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We have a variety of the bingo cards that my kids like, even the adult kid.  I also added a Boogie Board to our stash, but I had to put a cord on the stylus.  Silly thing came without one.  A knitting nail was popular for a while- think like a knitting loom but for making cord.

I'll second the stopping at fabulous roadside attractions.  If it looks interesting, stop and stretch.  Some of our best memories are from the weird and wonderful things we saw on our breaks.

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You already have a ton of great things, so I'd also consider rotating through them -- don't put them all out at once, but as HappySmileyLady says, at each rest stop or stretch break, add something or swap out something from your stash of already-owned car toys/activities, so it "feels new".

A few more ideas:
- magnetic Tangrams
- Create a Scene -- magnetic
- Colorforms -- lots of pieces, so a few may disappear, BUT they stick to the backdrop, so slightly less likely to loose pieces; they build own shapes, scenes, etc.
- "Wooly Willy" -- magnetic, enclosed so no mess/losing parts; linked is a set of 4 different ones
- pinball -- enclosed so no losing parts, handheld (so good travel size)
- "water pinball"
- Wikki Stik -- or even better: just get a jumbo pack of pipe cleaners -- it doesn't matter if some of them fall or get lost 😉
- logic "slider" puzzles -- no loose pieces
- Etch a Sketch -- classicclassic-minimagnetic Doodle Board, or other variation
- Magic Slate or Boogie Board or Magna Doodle

This would only be a short-term activity so that the sound wouldn't drive anyone crazy, but a thumb piano is lovely, even if just "plunking" and not playing a tune, and it has a fixed volume, so it can't get too loud. 😉

Edited by Lori D.
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Dry erase markers for the windows, and a challenge to draw and write mirror image so it can be read from outside...

... with appropriate guidelines for each child.  (I have to remind one "nothing rude or crude," and another that the markers are permanent if they get on the upholstery.)

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