“Mo-om, are we there yet?” “I’m hungry!” “How much longer?” “Tim’s touching my side!” “Why are you banging your head against the steering wheel?” “What does ‘serenity now’ mean?” “Why are you stopping for coffee again?”
Looking for a way to quell your kids’ whining during road trips and, perhaps more importantly, help maintain your sanity? Activity books are an awesome screen-free—and quiet!—way to go, and there are options for almost every age level. Check out our picks for the best busy books for backseat-bound kiddos.
Harry Potter Coloring Book, by Scholastic
Accio colored pencils! With grown-up coloring books being all the rage, even tweens and teens will want to summon the brand-new Harry Potter Coloring Book for your fam’s next excursion. The book is filled with intricate black-and-white illustrations used in the making of the Harry Potter films, and they’re just begging for your kids’ (or your!) magic touch of color. The elaborate artwork includes settings like Hogwarts Castle and the Forbidden Forest, iconic scenes like the Sorting Ceremony from Harry’s first year and his final battle with Lord Voldemort, and all of the fan-favorite characters and magical creatures. Plus, there are 16 bonus pages of full-color art to act as artistic inspiration.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Mad Libs, by Price Stern Sloan
“Being stuck at home during a _____-storm is the WORST! My ______ brother Rodrick has been banging on his _____ all day!” So begins one of the 21 fill-in-the-blank stories starring middle-schooler Greg Heffley from the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. These mad-libbed tales with titles like Family Time and The School Dance are sure to elicit lots of laughs from the backseat as the kiddos fill in random adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and verbs to weave silly stories. And with the list of necessary words for each story on the preceding page, kids can play alone or with a friend.
License Plates Across the States: Travel Puzzles and Games!, by Tony Tallarico
It’s not really a road trip without the license plate game, right? And this activity book takes it to the next level with mazes, word searches, trivia questions, and more about all 50 states. Plus, kids can use the full-color license plate stickers inside to track which state plates they see on the included United States map. Parents may even want in on this one. Plus, for all the sticker fiends (so basically, all children), there are also 25 full-color stickers of U.S. monuments. (And good luck on actually spotting a Rhode Island license plate.)
National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun, by Crispin Boyer
Let the kids take a more active role in your road tripping as they follow the easy-to-read maps in the National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas. The book has a map for every state along with interesting-to-kids info, roadside attractions, and cool things to do. There are also Boredom Busters for each state and 10 pages of games in the back to keep your young traveling companions engaged till you get to your destination.
The Everything Kids’ Puzzle Book, by Jennifer A. Ericsson and Beth L. Blair
From classic hangman and tic-tac-toe, to pizza mazes and secret moon messages to decode, the activities in this book are varied and nonstop—two crucial elements in keeping the backseat crowd entertained. And don’t tell the kiddos, but it’s actually educational too. In between word searches, spot-the-difference picture puzzles, and trivia questions, they can keep an eye out for Mervin the Mouse on every page.
Wipe Clean Early Learning Activity Book, by Roger Priddy
For the 2–to-5-year-old set, there’s the Wipe Clean Early Learning Activity Book, which lets children practice tracing letters, numbers, shapes, and even pictures of their favorite animals with an included dry erase marker. And when they’re done, the durable, coated pages easily wipe clean, so they can do it over and over and over again. The spiral-bound format also makes it simple for little hands to flip through, which should buy you enough time to get to Grandma’s house—or at least to the next rest area.
What’s your favorite activity book for car trips?