books for road trip

Road Trip Books for Early Elementary Kids

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! Below you will find books to keep the kids occupied, happy, and off the screens (at least for a little while) on your next road trip.

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 4 1/2yo doesn’t read on his own yet. He needs books that keep his attention just by looking at them. And the 8yo 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. 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.

Look and Find Books

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 8) 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.

Look and Find for an Older Crowd

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. 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 any of my other posts on the Indy Mompreneurs blog, then you know that we read a myriad of different types of books. But one of my favorite ways to get kids engaged with books is to make sure they have 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!

Lift-The-Flap Books

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 4 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.

Lift-The-Flap ABC – by Hannah Watson. We started working on letter recognition  last year with our youngest, and we still love our ABC books around here. One of our 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 8yo in the car. Here are some that work the best.

Activity/Drawing Books

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!

General Knowledge Crosswords by Phillip Clarke. Yet another great Usborne activity book. This one is a bit tough for my 8yo, but he loves a challenge. He also loves working on things together, so one of the things we do is take turns filling out the crossword clues in order to keep it more interactive. There are puzzles, mazes, and games in this books as well!

Drawing Books

Step-by-Step Drawing Book by Fiona Watt. This is another WONDERFUL Usborne Book. Both of my boys actually love this one. The 8yo has always loved drawing, and the instructions are simple enough that the 4yo can begin to follow along and draw the images as well! The drawings are fun and even inspire them to spend more time drawing their own creations in notebooks as well. Usborne has a ton of other drawing books as well. If your kiddo is super into any specific thing (dinosaurs, animals, trucks, etc.) you can probably find an Usborne drawing book to fit their fancy.

Comics / Graphic Novels

The type of book that keeps my oldest’s attention the longest though would have to be a graphic novel/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!

Comics

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.

Graphic Novels

Narwhal and Jelly books – by Ben Clanton. The newest of these books is called Narwhal’s Otter Friend, but all of them are completely awesome. These are on the easier end of the graphic novel scale. So they are great for the 6 to 7 range to read on their own. The characters are adorable, the lessons are great, and the stories are really fun!

Anything by Dav Pilkey. Though you probably know this already, they are just so popular in our house that I simply can’t write a post about our favorite road trip books that doesn’t include them. Captain Underpants, Dog Man, Super Diaper Baby, they are all great!

Have Fun!

Most of all, any books for a road trip must add fun. My biggest recommendation is to choose very high-interest books for the car. This helps keep everyone as happy as possible and not complaining about how they “have to read.” If you are interested in hearing about all the books we love and why we love them, check us out at raisingboyswithbooks.com or on Instagram or Facebook. Thanks for reading!

books for road trip
I am a mom, a high school English teacher, and (obviously) a book lover. My boys are 7 and 4, and I love sharing the books we read and the lessons we learn from them. I am passionate about the benefits of reading aloud to kids, and I hope my recommendations and insights will help other moms find some great new books to love and share with their own kiddos.

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