We just returned from a car trip that took us through multiple states and across two time zones. We logged lots of hours in the car within the space of just a few days. I packed several activities to keep our big kids busy (similar to what we've done before), but there was a definite stand-out in terms of kid-happiness and car-quietness.
The best part was that it required very little prep work for me. No sewing skills, laminating or printing required! The only two ingredients were a couple of thrift store cookie sheets and a box of modeling clay. The only prep work was not necessary, but simplified things a great deal. I cut the clay packages in half and placed them in ziplock bags so we wouldn't have to worry about dividing up the clay while we were on the road. Done and done.
This activity kept Ellie and Ethan busy for hours both on the way to our destination and on our way home. Ethan created the Zoo above. The archway in the front center is the gate to get in (it says ZOO, can you see it? So cute!) and each animal has its own pen.
Ellie created a fairy garden and a fairy, plus some darling fairy-sized accessories.
Another great thing: the clay created zero mess in the car (but our kids are older, toddlers would probably get a bit messy).
Simple and very effective. We'll definitely do this again!