Road trip amusements for a 2.5 year old?
March 13, 2019 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Going on a long road trip with a 2.5 year old and am seeking non-digital, non-messy diversions for them. They love those Melissa and Doug Water Wow! pads, but most things in this product sector seem geared towards older kids. Any suggestions?
posted by malhouse to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My kids used to LOVE Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free sheets/markers when they were that age.
posted by heathrowga at 4:16 PM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

At that age, my kids' favorite road trip toys were a large Magna Doodle, Melissa & Doug reusable stickers (like Colorforms), and a set of small plastic animals (Toobz brand) that they carried in a small zipper bag. Your kid might not be old enough for the Toobz animals - it depends on how much they put things in their mouth.
posted by belladonna at 4:26 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

May be a bit too young , but Melissa and Doug makes a license plate marching game with a wooden map board and the 50 plates attached by elastic so you can flip them as you find them. My kids are now 12 and 14 and we still bring this on every trip!
posted by freecellwizard at 4:35 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

In addition to Water Wow we get a lot of mileage out of Color Wonder (they make some small markers and books that are a good traveling size) and reusable sticker books like Colorforms (there is a Daniel Tiger set, if that's what your kid is into).

The key is novelty - our stuff like that all lives in the car, so it's like a special treat when she gets to play with it on a trip.
posted by cpatterson at 4:48 PM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Forward facing the car seat for ample window gazing (sunglasses if needed or tint screen) and kids/music they like.
Edit to add - games of asking what they can see outside/eye spy type stuff.
posted by PistachioRoux at 5:09 PM on March 13, 2019

A good old fashioned CD, or load up your phone with good kids songs and audiobooks. See if your library has audiobook versions of any favourite storybooks. I highly recommend all the They Might Be Giants kids albums!
posted by slightlybewildered at 5:21 PM on March 13, 2019

A magnadoodle has been my daughter's favorite toy since she was about 2.5, and she is nearly 3.5 now. We have this V-Tech one and my 5 year old son also loves using it to practice writing, so it has great longevity. Perfect activity for the car.
posted by gatorae at 5:29 PM on March 13, 2019

If you need to get supplies at a grocery store (maybe even gas station) and they have hot wheels cars - let the kid pick one or two. Cheap/fun/says ages 3+ but my 2.5er loves em)
posted by PistachioRoux at 5:44 PM on March 13, 2019

On our big road trip last year (5,000 km) I got my kids, 3 and 6, tone/tongue drums. They got to bang away and the sounds were pretty pleasant.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:00 PM on March 13, 2019

We've had some luck with wikki stix, and reusable sticker sets.
posted by mmc at 10:08 PM on March 13, 2019

Bag of Boredom.
All sorts of nonsense from dollar stores, appropriate for ages.
Each child gets one toy (I have two who are adults now). When the child gets bored, the toy can be exchanged for another toy of the parent's choosing. A choice of two possibilities can be offered. Sometimes a child asks for a specific toy which has already been enjoyed.
Keep some toys back for the next day.
posted by TrishaU at 11:43 PM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Like TrishaU, I have had great success with stocking a small backpack with a bunch of small stuff - books from the used bookstore, a few rubber bracelets, Water Wow or Color Wonder pads (2.5 was too young for Color Wonder for my kids, they'd drop the markers and then scream), little toys collected from around the house in the weeks leading up to the trip, magazines with lots of pictures like National Geographic. I'd dole them out one at a time as the kids started to get antsy. Make sure to save some for the trip back, which is always harder.
posted by SeedStitch at 6:44 AM on March 14, 2019

I assume you mean things kids would like that you don't have to be involved in, but I still have to point out that songs (with or without cd) and talk-games are always good. Guessing games like I-spy or counting games (can you see 10 white cars before I see 10 blue cars?), alphabet games... my mom would hand me a piece of alphabits cereal and see if I knew the letter, then see if I could name things that started with the letter, or see if I could recognize that letter on a road sign, just a handful of cereal would get us many many miles.
posted by aimedwander at 11:03 AM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I remember that my mom used to whip out a pack of pipe cleaners and pony beads to string on them after a couple of hours on the road and my sister and I would flip out over them. There is SO MUCH you can do with pipe cleaners if you are a little kid! I guess I would avoid the beads for such a young child but a pack of brightly colored or even glittery pipe cleaners would definitely be good for a solid chunk of playtime.
posted by DSime at 11:19 AM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

My 2.25 year old loves these NatGeo sticker books, which also have coloring components if you already have crayons in your car stash.

We also used Wikki Stix, Melissa & Doug lacing toys, and one of these ugly-but-compact magnetic tinbox toys from Lee Publications.

Pipe cleaners are also a greatidea ... and I heard that window clings/reusable vinyl stickers that can be displayed on windows are good, though our toddler is too short to reach the windows from her carseat so that might be for larger or older kids.

Definitely the novelty of whatever you're bringing is important, though! Make sure at least some things are new to them, and only dole out a new toy/distraction once they're totally bored/done with whatever they'd been playing with previously.

We just got through a 11.5 hr flight (I FEEL LIKE A CHAMPION) with a combination of these ... plus some judicious screen time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by alleycat01 at 11:49 AM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of little things definitely. And new things. Put the things in tiny bags, gift wrap them, something to make unboxing them fun/take up more time.

My kids (from ages 1.5-4+) like building things, and we had great luck with magnet tiles -- on an airplane, I only brought out part of the set at a time, say, all 12 triangles, or just the car and some squares, to minimize number of pieces to keep track of. Bonus: they are also really fun to build with when you get where you are going.

Other suggestions: a couple of small dump trucks/construction vehicles and some cheap/bright bead necklaces, or a bag of pom poms, or something else fun to use as "dirt", with some cups or small boxes to use to help make a construction site. (Small snack foods also work well...)

Also, we had good luck with play-doh (yes really), though I strongly encouraged the use of the box the play-doh came in as a play surface to keep the mess contained (disclosure: my son was 3.5 and I was sitting next to him to help, your child may vary). We got glitter play doh for extra fun.
posted by puffyn at 12:10 PM on March 14, 2019

We love doing Mad Libs books on long car trips. Everyone can play and the driver can keep his or her eyes on the road.
posted by trbrts at 4:48 PM on March 14, 2019

My 2 year old was amused by a Slinky for a very very long time on a recent trip. Also something to buckle and unbuckle (there’s a toy with just buckles on a pillow we have.) And tiny containers of Playdough.
posted by melodykramer at 5:52 PM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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