Long car journeys or even just a short drive to the supermarket can sometimes be tough for little ones. Keeping them entertained and soothed with sensory play activities can really help make car journeys run smoothly.

Sensory play is great for relaxation and mindfulness, building motor skills, creativity and more. It brings fun and learning together through an activity that stimulates sight, sound, touch, smell or taste. Plus, sensory play activities are easy to put together.

Here are 6 simple sensory play ideas that can keep children entertained during car journeys.  

Busy bags  

Busy bags are bags that store simple activities for your children to keep them entertained. These bags can be totally unique to your child’s interests and are great for keeping in the car to stop boredom from taking over!  

To make a busy bag, you’ll need a bag, such as a Ziploc bag, a fabric bag with a zip or fasten or even a pencil case.  

Inside, you can include sensory play items with lots of different textures to engage the sense of touch, such as felt noughts and crosses, age-appropriate sewing activities (with child-safe sewing needles!), sticker books, stretchy toys and soft toys.  

Based on your child’s needs, you can keep the same sensory bag for car journeys for familiarity or change up the contents as and when you need.  

Sensory bags  

diy sensory bag

Photo credit: Practically Functional 

Sensory bags are becoming increasingly popular among parents with babies and toddlers, but they can be used by older children too. Sensory bags are easy to make and can provide hours of fun. And the best bit? They don’t make a mess!  

To make a sensory bag, you’ll need:  

  • A durable Ziploc back   
  • Tape   
  • A liquid or gel filling (clear hair gel works brilliantly)  
  • Small toys or objects.  

Fill the bag roughly halfway with the liquid or gel, then add small objects like pompoms, small waterproof toys, glitter, sequins or beads.  

Seal the bag and secure it with tape. For car journeys, it can be a good idea to use tape along each side of the bag to keep it sturdy. You can tape the sensory bag to a firm surface such as cardboard for extra security.  

Tip: Remove all excess air from the sensory bag before you secure it to prevent it from bursting.  

We recommend supervising play with sensory bags.  

I-spy bottles 

Photo credit: The Imagination Tree

We all know the classic car game, Eye Spy, but did you know that you can turn it into a physical game for your child to keep their hands busy?  

I-spy bottles are perfect for young children and easy to make at home by reusing a clear plastic bottle and whatever you have to hand!   

All you need to do is fill your bottle halfway with rice, water beads, flour, sugar or whatever you can find in the cupboard to hide the objects. Then, add in objects for your child to ‘spy’.   

The items you put inside could be small toys, seashells, pompoms and even flowers and leaves. Once you’re done, make sure you secure the lid by taping it or using child-safe glue.  

Your child can turn or shake the bottle to find the objects inside.   

Tip: Use smaller bottles (500 ml) as they’re easier for children to hold.  

We recommend supervising play with I-spy bottles.  

Magic painting  

magic painting book

Photo credit: Usborne 

Magic painting is much less messy and a more exciting version of painting. All you’ll need is a magic painting book, a bottle of water, a paint brush and some tissue paper for wiping up any water drops.  

With magic painting, your child can use water to ‘paint’ pictures on a blank page. The water will show up coloured ink to colour in the designs. When the page dries, the ink disappears. 

Sensory bottles  

diy sensory bottles

Photo credit: Childhood101 

Sensory bottles are a bit like I-spy bottles, but they can be very calming. With sensory bottles, you can create an interactive visual experience, where your child can control what happens inside the bottle by moving it.  

They can be made at home by reusing a clear water bottle and filling it with water, corn syrup or another child-safe clear liquid. Then, add items like glitter, small waterproof toys (such as Lego), sequins, beads or seashells.   

You don’t have to use a liquid though. You can fill sensory bottles with soft craft objects, water beads, rice or whatever you have to hand.  

We recommend supervising play with sensory bottles.  

Scavenger hunt 

child and parent in car with camera

Looking for car journey activities that don’t cost a penny? This simple but fun road trip game is especially good for longer car journeys during the daytime and helps children to find excitement in the sights around them.  

Before you set off, make a list of things to ‘hunt’ for during your trip. These should be sights that you’ll see along your route, such as landmarks, scenery and animals.  

For extra fun, you can add prizes into the game, such as a prize for the person who spots all the sights in the scavenger hunt first!  


We hope you and your children enjoy these sensory activities for car journeys. If you’d like to let us know how they go, you can share photos with us on social media using the hashtag #tyhafan.  

Click here to read about 6 accessible day trips in Wales.