Summer is in full swing, and that often means more hours on the road. While the destinations are worth it, the trips are sometimes rough. So the more ideas we can have to keep everyone occupied and as happy-as-they-can-be-in-a-car-seat, the better!
While the lesson is the thing I care about the most in the books we read before bed every night, we tend to go for more interactive or high-interest books in the car. The 3 1/2 yo doesn’t read on his own yet, so he needs books that keep his attention just by looking at them, and the 7yo needs the most exciting books possible if we have any hope of keeping him from begging for extra screen-time!
Road Trip Books for Preschoolers
I’ll start with the 2 – 4 age range, because it can be hard to find books for them that at first they won’t tear up and then that keep their attention even though they have the attention span of a gnat.
- First Look and Find Books by Phoenix International Publications – These books are the BEST for little ones who tend to be tough on books in the car. All the pages are made of sturdy cardboard, and the covers are soft and comfortable in their laps. The series includes books with TONS of different characters, shows, and movies that your kiddos probably already love. We have had these books in our car since our oldest (now 7) was about 2, and they have definitely stood the test of time. Our favorites right now are Mickey and the Roadster Racers and Beat Bugs (PS – If you haven’t seen the Beat Bugs Netflix series and you love Beatles music, because really who doesn’t, you should ABSOLUTELY check it out. It is a great way to introduce your kiddos to the best band of all time!) Each page of these books is filled with pictures for your kids to … big shocker here … look at and find things. Ours have looked at them over and over and over and still ask for them every time we are in the car.
2. Look and Find Books by Phoenix International Publications – As your preschooler gets closer to 4, the Look and Find books with paper pages become more of a possibility, and they are just as great as the cardboard version. The pictures become a little more intricate and they have even more fun trying to find the things shown on the side of each page. If you have read my guest post on Mom’s Got it Made about How to Raise a Reader, then you know that one of my favorite ways to get kids engaged with books is to read books that include their favorite characters. And even though you don’t really “read” these books, they are still great for getting the younger crowd to see that books can be fun and entertaining!
3. DC Super Friends: To the Rescue by J.E. Bright – We also love lift-the-flap books of all kinds for the car. This one is our favorite! Again, it has characters my 3 1/2 yo already loves. The illustrations are super-cute, and the flaps are sturdy enough for him to handle on his own. This may be better for the 3+ crowd because of the flaps.
4. Lift-The-Flap ABC – by Hannah Watson – We have started working on letter recognition with our 3 1/2 yo, so we are loving our ABC books around here. One of our new favorites is this Usborne lift-the-flap book. Their flaps are very sturdy and great quality. The book is colorful, and cute, and includes all sorts of different skills (like beginning sounds and upper/lowercase matching) that my youngest can use for years to come! In fact, any of the Lift-The-Flap Usborne books would be great for the preschool age range – here’s a link to their entire list of them if you are interested.
Road Trip Books for Early Elementary Kids
Kids from 5 to 8 are easier and harder to entertain in the car. On the one hand, their attention span is longer, so they can focus on one thing for a little longer than the younger crowd. But on the other hand, they are more likely to reach for (aka – beg for) a screen to keep the boredom at bay. So like I said in the beginning, we use very high-interest books for our 7yo in the car. Here are some that work the best.
- Pencil and Paper Games – by Simon Tudhope – This Usborne book is a great one when you have a passenger who is able to play along with the kiddos. The games included range from the classics like Hangman, Boxes, and Battleships to ones we had never heard of before like Stepping Stones, Hive, and Sprouts. The ones we have played have all been super-fun, and each game includes easy to understand instructions. Because it is an Usborne book, the quality is great as well. The paper is high quality, and the games that need it have easy tear-out pages so you can both play on your own pages, even if you are in different rows of the minivan!
2. Get Smarter: Super Fun Travel Activities to Baffle Your Brain – by MoonDance Press – While we love doing some of the games together, we also DEFINITELY need our quiet time in the car. So this book is another great activity option. Most of the activities can be completed on your own in this one. And the best part is that it contains different levels so more than one kiddo could use something from it at the same time. It starts off with easier activities like drawing your own billboard and easy puzzles, and gets harder and harder as it goes.
3. The type of book that keeps my oldest’s attention the longest though would have to be a comic book. They are great because they are high-interest and have so.many.things for kids to look at one each page. In fact, this is probably the thing I personally like about comics the least, my brain simply cannot process that much information coming at me at one time, I need something much more linear. (Hmmm – maybe this is why I am terrible at video games too!) But alas, the boys LOVE them just as their dad did when he was little, and that is GREAT for the car!
We were recently sent some new comic books by Blue Apple Books publishing company to review, and while they were given to use for free, the opinions here are all my own.
This collection of newly published Balloon Toons comic books/graphic novels is great for the 5 to 8 yo crowd. The stories are engaging, the characters are interesting, and the creative illustrations give kids plenty to occupy their brains while driving. They are also a little more linear than a comic book published for the older crowd, and therefore easier to read even if your kiddo is like me and can’t process so many things at once.
Odd Creatures – by Elise Gravel – This book features adorable, stinky little creatures called Glurbs and a hysterically incompetent doctor who encounters all sorts of other Odd Creatures throughout the story. The Glurbs are cute, but definitely a lot of work – maaayyybbee even enough to make your kiddo reconsider that pet they have been begging for! And while the doctor’s advice is always less-than-stellar, his patients seem to love him anyway. But regardless, these funny creatures will ALL surely be a hit with your kiddos.
Dinosaurs in Space: Out of This World! – by Pranas T. Naujokaitis – This book is SO great! I mean, can you really get better than dinosaurs in space?? No. No, you can’t. Both of my boys absolutely loved reading/looking at this one. I loved it too! It has great moral messages about putting aside differences and working together, it is funny, and the illustrations are incredible!
Outdoor Antics – by Ethan Long – We loved Ethan Long’s “Jump Into Chapters” book called Scribbles and Ink: Out of the Box (you can see my post about why it was such a great beginning chapter book here), so I was so excited to see this new Balloon Toons book from him as well. True to its name, the antics these outdoor creatures get into are so enjoyable to read. The short nature of the stories keeps them entertaining for young kids, but if they are anything like mine, they will love them so much that once they pick them up, they won’t put them down until they are finished with the entire book.
The Epically Awesome Tales of The Brave Boy Knight and The Animal Princess – by Pranas T. Naujokaitis – While the Dinosaur book was obviously the favorite in the collection for my 3 1/2 yo, I would say these tales about a boy knight and an animal princess won for my 7yo. He literally picked up the book before I had even had a chance to glance at it and read the entire thing in one sitting. I can’t blame him, it is a GREAT one! The Brave Boy Knight and The Animal Princess both have their own epically awesome adventures, and they both get a little help from the other along the way. When you include a giant booger that attacks the kingdom, hidden treasure, animal pajamas that save the day, a cupcake that pukes more cupcakes, and a dragon who wants to avoid his chores … I’m not sure how it wouldn’t be the best book your kiddos have read all summer!
4. Where’s the Unicorn?: A Magical Search-and-Find Book – by Johnny Marx and Paul Moran – Search and Find books are not just great for the younger crowd. My oldest has recently gotten into Where’s Waldo books in a huge way, so when we saw this newly released Unicorn one at the store, we knew we had to have it. Some of the Waldo books give you multiple things to look for on each page, but not all of them. This book gives you SEVEN unicorns to find on each page! Plus, when you are done, you can check the answers in the back of the book and find MORE things to look for in each picture. This book promises HOURS of fun for your kiddos, and what could be better when traveling than that?!
As always, thanks for reading! I hope you found some great new books to take on your next epically awesome road trip!! If you have other suggestions of books to take in the car, let us know in the comments below or on social media. As I said, the more ideas we can have to keep the kiddos occupied and happy as we travel, the better!