Effective Ways to Keep Your Toddler Entertained in the Car

toddler entertained in car

Long car rides can be brutal with an energetic toddler who isn’t thrilled  about being strapped down.  My daughter used to fall asleep as soon as we put her in the seat, up until she was about 11 months old.  Now at 16 months, she needs to be constantly entertained and doesn’t fall asleep as easily.

Now that we have a newborn with us during those car rides, I can’t even slip in the backseat to help keep her occupied. It’s a tough age to ask them to sit still in a car for an hour or  more when they’re not independent enough to entertain themselves for too long.

Therefore, I’ve been trying to brainstorm some ways to keep my daughter busy.  Here are some things that worked for us and hopefully you will have some luck with them too!

This post may contain affiliate links for which I would receive a small commission should you make a purchase. 

toddler entertained in car pin

Backseat mirror with music and lights
       Brica Firefly™ Baby-In-Sight® Mirror - image 3 of 6

My daughter loves this Brica backseat mirror since we recently got it for her. As soon as she gets in the car she pushes the button to start the music. She can’t reach wen she’s strapped in, but it even comes with a remote.  They’ll love getting to push the buttons to make the music and lights start and stop. My daughter also finds it hilarious to wave to me in the mirror!

Interactive & musical books

This Touch & Teach Word Book has been a lifesaver with keeping my child occupied in the car.  She loves clicking the pictures to hear it say the words and it’s also helped increase her vocabulary.  It’s portable enough to bring on trips and provides some educational stimulation which is always a plus.


toddler entertained in car

My daughter loves to read so we always have a couple books in the car for her, however she can get bored quickly because we are not there to read them to her.  That’s why I like the Touch & Teach Word Book best.

Etch a sketch

Etch a sketch is another fun activity that I remember from when I was little! I love these types of activities that don’t require several parts/pieces and best of all: no mess! Even a 1 year old can use this to make little marks on the display and swipe the bar to erase.

You can never have too many snacks

I really hate giving snacks in the car because it just makes an absolute mess.  Also, I’m still nervous about her choking and not being able to get to her fast enough if that should happen.  For this reason, I’ll only give non-messy snacks that are easy to chew which limits me with choices. She only gets a water cup in the car (no milk because she loves to throw it).  The least messy foods I’ve found are string cheese or any cheese blocks, apples (if they’re soft enough), grapes (cut in half), carrots (steamed and cut in small pieces), goldfish, green beans, corn, eggs.

These little Munchkin containers keep a lid on their snacks with a hole thats easy enough to stick their little hands in, but not open enough to dump out. A must-have for snacks in the car.

If you’re not as concerned with the mess, pouches, crackers, oat or granola bars, and cut up fruit are all easy to give. Maybe your kids aren’t as messy as mine!

Related Post: How to Make Meal Time Less Messy

Water WOW coloring books

These are an awesome non-messy activity for your toddler.  The Water Wow color books use markers to color on the pages, but the color only shows up on this special paper. They color clear on any other surface, so you don’t have to worry about them coloring on your new leather seats!

Soundtrack of their favorite music

I love the Spotify App to stream music and they have a pretty good selection of kids music.  My daughter’s current favorite: Shake It Off by  Taylor Swift.  Not a kids song, but great for her to dance and start moving to.


Cute kids songs and nursery rhymes will definitely get your baby’s attention. My daughter honestly likes when we sing more than listening to the real music (even though we sound terrible). The wheels on the bus, Row your boat, and Old McDonald are some of my daughter’s faves. She’s almost able to sing along too!

Lap Tray

This Car Seat Travel Tray is an awesome idea to keep all of these items in front of your child. It can even be used on their stroller or high chair! Definitely a smart purchase to have everything your child needs within arm’s reach.

Something cozy

toddler entertained in car

What toddler doesn’t love to snuggle up with stuffed animals or a soft blankey?  Basically anything thats warm and fuzzy will do.  If it’s around a nap time, usually we will be ok with her just holding her bear and sucking her thumb for a little while.

iPad with educational apps

iPads can definitely be a lifesaver to keep your child occupied.  There are so many free apps and videos out there now so don’t hesitate to let them use it if appropriate.

Wrapped items

Use wrapping paper to loosely wrap some little toys or safe-to-use items from home (we know baby would be happy with tupperware lids and empty water bottles).  Your toddler will have a blast trying to unwrap these items and he won’t quit until he’s finished.  That should keep him occupied for a little while and tire him out, as well!

More Tips For Car Riding:

Plan ahead and keep car stocked

Don’t wait until the last minute to get your child ready for the road trip.  Have things prepared the night before so you’re not missing anything.  Even better, just keep all of these items in the car so they don’t go missing and you’ll never forget them

Quick clean Up

Always keep a roll of paper towels, box of tissues, and small garbage pail or plastic bag for garbage, in the back seat. Trust me, it will come in handy for those runny noses, spills, and messes.

Back seat organizer

This Backseat Organizer will help keep all of these things I just mentioned neatly stored in your car when not in use. This way they’re not just creating clutter around the floor and between the seats.

Leave at nap time

This is a given if you’re making a long trip and you’d want your child to sleep most of the time.  We always plan our car rides around naps and bedtimes and most of the time it works out, especially if it’s a long ride. Give them their favorite stuffed animal, love, or blanket and hopefully they’ll be cozy enough for a nap.

Head strap

I haven’t used these yet, but I think these Car Seat Head Strap Bands would be great because my daughter’s head is always falling forward now that she’s switched from the infant car seat to the convertible. It doesn’t seem to bother her or wake her up, but it can’t be comfortable! I’m definitely going to order one of these soon to try out.

Do you have any fun ways to keep your toddler entertained in the car? Please share!

Related Post: 6 Good Habits You Should Be Teaching Your Toddler Early On

Related Post: How to Get Your Home Toddler-Ready

toddler entertained in car pin

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1 Comment

  1. Lots of great ideas in here! We do lots of road trips too, and food is definitely our kids favourite way to be entertained!

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