DIY Road Trip Busy Bags for Toddlers

Because... You learn a thing or two when you're in a car for 14 hours with a 1.5 year old.

We had the pleasure of going on a long weekend getaway and attending a wedding in Colorado last week. Somehow we came up with the brilliant idea to drive a total of 30 hours there and back with our little one *please note the sarcasm*

The most important thing we learned for this experience is if you have to drive, travel at night.

Our little slept most of the way there, and woke up about 2 hours before we reached our destination. That was such a relief because that was his first road trip out of the state and we were worried that he wouldn't do so well since he's still so little. The journey home was a little different.

We traveled all day long.

It was hard on me to sit for so many hours at a time, so I know it was probably tougher on him. And considering he only had one major meltdown, I'd consider this a successful trip.

While I was packing for our Colorado retreat, I made sure I had several activities to keep him entertained and, even though his screen time is severely limited at home, he was allowed to watch a few pre-downloaded Netflix movies. I also used a dollar store cookie sheet as a work tray that could be set across my child's lap to create a surface for him to play and keep the pieces in one spot.

I like to put a few activities in a pencil pouch, because we also use these busy bags while we run errands and during the week for his curriculum. I try to have a fine motor, math and language activity in each one to keep them balanced. Most of these toddler friendly activities can be found year round at the dollar store and even in Target's dollar spot during back to school season.

If an activity has too many pieces, I put them in snack sized ziploc bags to try to keep it contained and to give him choices in the activity he wants to do. So far it's working out pretty well because my little guy hasn't figured out how to open the bag yet. But once he does, I will separate each busy bag to give each activity it's own bag.

We also took 3 of my 1.5 year old's favorite board books, because he loves listening to stories. I always try to pack a book that has multiple stories in it, because that eliminates the need to travel with so many books.

Here's the breakdown of our busy bucket:


I shared this organization hack on Instagram a while ago (follow me), but I picked up a few packs of these puzzles a while ago with this file folder to keep them contained. When my little got tired of putting the puzzles together, I had him name each image on the pieces to hold his attention a little longer.


1. DIY Felt Car track - I made the track out of felt and used yellow paint to make the marks. We placed it on top of our work tray (aka cookie sheet) and made different road patterns for the car to "drive" on.

2. DIY Lacing Beads A- I cut up different colored smoothie straws to make the beads and used a shoe lace for as the string. This one is one of my favorites, because the straws are easily replaceable and are less of a choking hazard than beads... They're also really easy to clean up.

3. Word Match Puzzle - These puzzles are apart of a set I found in Target's dollar spot during back to school season. Since my little one is under 2, we only used 2 at a time. Although he is still learning to put the puzzle pieces together, he can match the animals and images. An added challenge is the pieces are double sided, so it makes him use his problem solving skills a bit more.

4. Pipe Cleaners - I love pipe cleaners can be used in so many fun ways like sorting the colors, bending them to make whatever their imaginations can create or dropping them into a water bottle for a little fine motor fun.

5. Counting activity - The counting cards and poms are another dollar spot find. I separate the set to have 2 out at a time because they are double sided. The cards have white circles in the ice cream for the kids to match the number of poms on.

6. Matching Activity - There's a few ways to play with matching activities for younger kids. One is to lay the cards out and have them match them that way, or our favorite is to separate the animals so I have a set and my son has the other. Then, we take turns asking for the animal on the card.

7. Popsicle Stick Color Match - I paint several sets of popsicle sticks various colors, then put the corresponding colors on a piece of card stock paper. Then, have my baby match the colors. We also use the popsicle sticks as flash cards to learn the colors.

8. DIY Lacing Beads B - This is very similar to #2, but is a little more difficult because the straw "beads" are longer, so it takes more concentration to get the string through.

9. Alphabet Puzzle - Another double sided, dollar spot find. I really like this busy bag activity because it has the upper and lower case letter (which I use to teach the name and sound of the letter) and an image and word that begins with the same letter. It comes in handy because I can show the word while stressing the beginning sounds of the word - which is a part of teaching kids how to read.

10. Number Match - I put numbers and counting dots on a piece of cardboard, then cut up a few popsicle sticks and put the numbers on one side and counting dots on the other. We are able to work on counting chronologically forward and backward, as well as work on skip counting by 2.

11. Wooden puzzle - I found this at Dollar Tree along with a few others like shapes, a plane and truck. Considering they are made from wood, keep my kid entertained and are only $1 a piece, I'd say that's a parenting win!

12. Transparent Color Cards - Another Dollar Tree find. You're supposed to be able to put the cards together to blend colors, but it doesn't work very well... but since I paid for it, it's going to get used, so we currently use them to learn the colors.

13. Coloring and Stickers - This is my little one's favorite. A pack of crayons, their favorite stickers and a mini journal (click to DIY your own) goes a long way on a long trip.

14. Opposites - These single-sided puzzles are apart of a set from Target and are a great visual representation and introduction to opposites.

15. Shape & Color Matching Puzzle - These double-sided puzzles are from, you guessed it... Target! I really enjoy this set because it teaches 2 fundamentals at once.

Do you have any road trip magic you use with your kids? Please share your wisdom!

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