Raising a Blended Family

Toddler in a Car (Part 3)- DIY activities to keep Little People strapped in their car seats and busy!

on March 9, 2015

The next component of our toddler-entertainment system is homemade, DIY projects. These are modeled more after creativity/exploration/self-learning activities and specifically tailored to be ones that won’t make a huge mess in the car. Some of them may be simplistic, but all of them are keyed to fit Pax’s specific interests right now, including fine object manipulation (zippers, buttons, etc), “shiny” things, and the simple ongoing-love of getting into anything and everything he can. So, here we go:

First up, a simple magnetic activity board with various activities included with it. The actual “activity board” is just a cookie sheet from the dollar store, with lots of items that either came already-magnetic or to which I added magnets. All that you see here will probably be split up into two different activities that we’ll give him at different times, with the sorting cups and smaller objects being one activity and the animals and letters being another activity. I’ve also added some magnets to a few dry erase markers, to a piece of laminated paper… the hope is that all will stick to the board and make it easier for him to color.

magnetic activity board

I told you some of these would be really simple, and so this one is:

a simple zipper pouch with buttons and wooden spools inside it. Pax currently loves manipulating zippers, and loves taking objects in and out of containers… this is the best of both worlds for him!

zip pouch

Another current love of his is wallets. He absolutely adores getting ahold of one of his moms’ wallets, and will happily sit down for an hour and carefully remove every single individual card and piece of paper, one by one, from said wallet. So, it seemed like a good idea to give him his own wallet to play with this time around, made with an old wallet we no longer use and a bunch of old cards. There are also buttons in the pockets and zippers of this as well, for more exploring and play.


Sticker time! This one is pretty self-explanatory, but we have SO MANY STICKERS for this trip. Elmo ones, disney ones, beach ones, etc… I’m planning on drawing a few “scenes” for him on some construction paper that he can decorate with his stickers. The boy loves stickers.


Random objects: When my wife saw me getting out the stud finder, she wanted to know what in the heck I was planning on doing with it. It isn’t, after all, a toy! But to our toddler is is- and so are other nontoy, household items. He loves to hear it beep and loves the way the buttons light up green and red… and, he hasn’t played with it in a few weeks because I hid it, so it will be practically “new” to him! It’s coming with. 🙂 Phones are another current loves of his, and so this old nonfunctioning one should be the perfect play toy. The other things are just things I think might interest him for a bit. I’m planning on having a random toy/object bin that we can use as fillers for other, bigger activities.


Playdough balloons: I found these on pinterest and I was a bit skeptical. How much fun could they be, after all? However, after making them, both my wife and my daughter have become obsessed with them! So I know they’ll get some use out of them, even if Pax doesn’t.  Basically, you put play dough inside an uninflated balloon (best to have a helper, one person to hold the balloon open and one to shove the playdough in) and tie it closed. All the squishy fun of playdough and none of the mess! It will be interesting to see what Pax thinks of these. Supervision required, of course.

playdough balloon

Glitter distraction bottles: no doubt you’ve heard of these before! I originally saw them in use as a time-out tool; you fill them with glitter and water, turn them once, and when the glitter is settled the child can get out of time out. However, I decided to expand this idea and put interesting things inside as well as glitter- I added some food coloring, beads, rubber bands, tiny figurines… all sorts of things to be spotted in the blue sparkly water. I also threw in some screws, which make fun metal clinking noises when the bottle is turned over. I topped it off with water, oil, and a little bit of detergent to make bubbles (because this boy loves bubbles!) before I hot glued the lid closed. Both Shorty and I have tried our very best to pry the lid off and been unable to… so I feel relatively confident that it’s toddler-proof.

glitter busy bottle

Eye spy: this is actually a look-and-find activity for our nine-year-old (with an accompanying laminated sheet dry-erasable sheet of items in the bottle for her to cross off as she finds them), but along the same lines as the glitter bottle, I’m sure it will entertain him twisting and turning and watching the rice fall!

eye spy

Color-matching activity: This was made using paint swatches and clothespins. Easy-peasy and I’m hoping it will keep him occupied. It comes at a time he is learning colors and getting them right about 50% of the time, so it is well-suited, developmentally.

color matching

Button snake: This was something else I found on pinterest, with a button fastened on one end of a ribbon and various pieces with holes cut in them to “thread” the button through. Not something he’s even remotely done before, so it should be interesting to see how he likes it!

button snake

Random Box: This box was born out of an afternoon spent watching my son carefully and with great concentration spend an hour crouched over a “junk basket” I have, picking out all the items one by one, carefully examining them, and laying them aside until the basket was empty. Then, he reversed the process, all with great concentration and complete immersion in his task. We’ve been slowly adding random items to this box (it is fuller than this now) and we even have a second “rotation” of items in a gallon ziploc bag ready to swap out if he gets bored with the current lot. It’s all about small things he can look at, feel, maybe play with for a minute… it’s all about exploration and discovery!

busy box

Beaded felt board: Saw this one on pinterest as well, in a slightly different form. The idea is that toddlers can push around these beads without actually being able to get them off the strings. This sounds fun but I am tempted to redo this board in a bigger, better version. I fear that this one is too small and simple and that he will tire of it quickly. I guess we will see! I should note, I saw soooo many cute sewing projects out there involving this sort of thing, but I am a strict non-sewer, so I felt rather limited in what I could accomplish. This is a first try but I think it could be better.

bead slider

Magnetic Puzzle: This is another sister-toy that I made simply by putting magnetic pieces onto a puzzle she already had. Wa-la, puzzle-on-the-go! Paxton has a similar puzzle with bigger pieces, more appropriate for his age.

magnetic puzzle

So that’s everything so far! Things I intend to make still include drawing a “road scene” onto a cardboard piece for him to have a road to drive his cars on, and also a pompom activity involving pom poms and stuffing them through holes into a container (again appealing to his love of opening, shutting, putting things in, and taking things out).

If you have any more ideas for me I’d love to hear them! I just want this child to be entertained and not bored! 🙂

3 responses to “Toddler in a Car (Part 3)- DIY activities to keep Little People strapped in their car seats and busy!

  1. DeCaf says:

    I think playing I spy and other engaging games tends to pass the time quickly. I don’t know if he’s old enough for that yet though.

  2. chachachaliz says:

    So many good ideas! We are driving 8 hours with Jude to Oklahoma on Friday so I will for sure steal some of the diy stuff for our trip, specially the play dough ballons! Good luck!

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