Are you heading out on a long road trip soon and needing some car activities for a 1 year old? Long car rides can be challenging with young children, but with a little preparation, a long trip in a car seat is possible!
We moved away from our families several years ago, and one of my biggest hesitations about the move was the long trip back home for visits. Admittedly, a long trip with young kids is still not my favorite thing but there are definitely ways to make it better. Here are a few great ideas for the best travel toys, the best snack ideas, and some essential tips for long drives.
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How to Prepare for a Car Trip with a One Year Old
Before you set on a family road trip, set expectations and prepare your family for the ride. If you have older kids, discuss some ways they can be helpful in the car. Giving older children responsibilities during your travels is a great way for them to gain confidence and for you to get some help!
It is a good idea to think about where everyone will sit in your car. We have four kids and a minivan. I spend some time before our trip thinking about where each family member will sit on the drive. Who gets along? Which older child is the most helpful with the baby? Who gets carsick? Before you set out on a long car trip, the first thing you should do is think about how older children can help the younger kids.
Of course, if you are new parents and there are no older siblings, you may want to think about which family member will be helping with the one-year-old on your trip. The driver will need to focus on the road, so the other adult will need to be prepared with snacks, activities, and ideas! One adult may want to sit in the back with the little one to make it easier, or at least keep a bag of tricks near you to easily access them for your toddler. Switching off duties is also a good option!
Safety Considerations when Traveling with Young Children
If you are traveling alone with a baby or toddler, consider traveling during nap time or sleep times. You may also consider breaking your travel day up with rest stops and snack breaks along the way to prevent fatigue.
As a safety note, remember to make sure your child is safely contained in a car seat. If you need help making sure your child is safe, stop by your local fire station or police department. You can also consult the American Academy of Pediatrics on the latest car seat safety guidelines.
What should your toddler wear?
When planning your road trip with a one-year-old, consider what is most comfortable to wear during a long journey. Think about soft and cozy fabrics that will breathe. I like to dress my little ones in soft cotton or fleece with elastic waistbands.
I avoid jean material or super stiff clothing. Girls may prefer soft cotton dresses with shorts in the summertime. Your baby wants to be comfortable on a road trip! I also pack a soft blanket, just in case the car is cool. It’s also perfect to have if you need to set your baby or young toddler on the ground during your road trip.
Of course, remember to pack a spare outfit or two, along with additional diapers or pull-ups for a diaper change. Another great thing to remember is to pack a change of clothing for Mom and Dad, just in case you need it!
Essential items to pack for a car trip with a little one
There are some essential items to remember to pack for a car trip with your little one.
- Diaper bag
- diaper cream
- water bottle for each member of your family
- healthy snacks
- First Aid Kit
- plastic bags
- toddler snack cup
- travel potty
- hand towel/bath towel (I keep one of these in my car. You can clean up spills, wipe down wet slides, etc.)
- favorite books
- small toys
What kind of toys to bring on a car trip: Car Activities for a 1 Year Old
When choosing toys for a car trip for one to three year olds, I gravitate towards items that little kids can easily manipulate. My favorites are Little People figurines, small new cars or planes, action figures, and Duplo blocks.
Be sure to include a travel tray or a small cookie sheet so your baby’s favorite toys don’t disappear into the car seat. Since little ones have short attention spans, I gather small new toys throughout the year from inexpensive places like Target’s Dollar Spot and the dollar store. When it is time for our summer road trip, I pull them out!
Easy Activities for a 1 Year Old
If you need some easy activities for a 1 year old, consider some that integrate fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
A great option are magnetic animals that can cling to a cookie sheet or letters of the alphabet for early letter recognition. These will really grow with your child and you can pass along to multiple children.
Color Wonder Markers and Paper
Color Wonder markers and papers are a great thing to have in the car or on a plane! Older toddlers who have mastered holding a marker will love bringing the colors to life. It is also a great thing to have on hand when you need some quiet time at home. These are old favorites in our household!
Reusable stickers and pads are extremely popular in our household. These may require some adult supervision but are one of the best road activities for our crew. Our big kids like helping the littles make different arrangements in the right place on the sticker pad and a great way to keep them occupied.
Be sure to stop by your local library before heading out on spring break or summer vacation. They often have busy boxes or bags available for toddler checkout. You can also check out audio books and videos, in addition to new books.
Make your own sensory bin from an empty tissue box or small cardboard box. Let your child decorate it with stickers. Then make a simple game out of placing different objects in the box for her to pull out. Examples of items in our busy boxes include balls, post-it notes, washi tape, and play food.
Things with Buttons
If all else fails, try something with buttons! We find our little ones love an old phone or remote control to play around with! Playing with buttons, zippers, and snaps are all great fine motor activities.
Portable DVD players
I try to limit screen time in the car, as it can cause grumpy moods if our little ones spend too much time on them. But, sometimes it can be a good thing! Grab some videos at the library of your little one’s favorite cartoons or shows to pass the time.
How often should you stop on a road trip with a toddler?
When you are traveling with a toddler or young kids, be sure to plan frequent stops. In our family, we make everyone go to the bathroom during each stop to prevent accidents. Also, try to plan stops before or after a good nap to prevent your toddler from waking up.
Consider packing at least one meal in the car, if you have a really long drive. We like packing a picnic so we can eat on the go. This also allows us to eat at a rest stop and let the kids run around a bit before we have to get back in the car.
I hope these ideas help you plan your next road trip with the family. Have a great time with your crew and be sure to keep reading for more travel ideas. Sign up for my free family packing newsletter too! Bon Voyage!