We have been spending an overwhelming amount of time in the car since deciding to move several states away. There is only so much screen time that my preschooler can tolerate and only so many games of ‘I Spy’ that I can handle before our car trips across state lines, and from potential home to potential home, become agonizing. Preschoolers are built to move and explore, and car rides are a great opportunity for working on fine motor skills, creative play, and counting. Here are three fun and simple preschooler activities for the car that incorporate both learning and playing.
Preschooler Activities for the Car
- Found objects in the car, such as pens, tissue paper containers, paper bags, hair ties, post it notes, or coins.
- Optional: Lap Desk or Travel Tray
Counting objects inside and outside of the car is a simple way to encourage numerical thought and practice. From counting cars (we count blue Jeeps), to counting objects inside your vehicle, you can provide your preschooler with the verbal ability to not only rehearse the numbers in sequence, but also to understand that they represent a specific quantity.
For this activity, I collected the excessive amount of pens inside of the car and my purse. I then placed them inside of a cylindrical tissue container with post-it notes. The container fit perfectly in my preschooler’s car seat’s cup holder, giving him easy access to the pens and paper.
First, he counted out the number of pens as he laid them on his lap desk. There were 10. After counting, he was given the space to play creatively with the pens, and my preschooler chose to arrange them into a sun, then a wave-like design. Next, I asked him to find the number 10 on the post it notes, to reinforce his ability to recognize written numbers. He started placing a post it note on each pen until all of the pens were labeled.
2. Fine Motor Practice
Car rides are a perfect time to practice fine motor skills. Drawing flowed naturally from our counting activity with the pens and post its. My preschooler practiced drawing and scribbling with different pens on the sticky paper, enjoying the variety of textures and widths each pen provided. Once he was done drawing, we put everything away to begin the planned fine motor activity.
I gave my preschooler my collection of hair bands, which we used to practice knot tying until he was able to tie the bands together by himself. Then I encouraged my preschooler to create a hair band snake by tying the bands into a chain. Once the hair band snake was completed, he began to play with his creation.
3. Imaginative Play
While no materials are really needed, a few well-chosen props or toys can lead to extensive world building and relationship exploration. They can also provide a therapeutic or exploratory outlet through pretend play in the car. We always travel with bags for collecting trash or in case someone feels carsick. We found a paper bag was perfect for creating a puppet. Using markers and pens, I drew eyes and a mouth, and my preschooler added legs and a nose to the bag.
While this was the simplest activity to set up, my kid played with it the longest. My preschooler, his paper bag puppet and his hair band snake had an extensive meet and greet. They gave each other names, identified their favorite colors, and discussed what would be happening to my kid’s toys when we meet the movers.
These screen-free preschooler activities for the car should be a great starting point, and will lead to unplanned and new ideas for exploration. There are so many ways for preschoolers to play and learn, even in a confined space. What are your favorite ways to engage your preschooler in the car?
Based in Maryland, Amy is a nature-enthusiast who loves hiking, reading, and creating. With a MFA in painting and university teaching experience, she loves combining visual art and nature to create crafty and play-based learning experiences for her preschool-aged son. Extra crafts and fine art can be found on Facebook and Instagram @amyfixart or at www.amyfixart.com.
You might also like: