Heading out on a long road trip with your toddler soon? Or heck, even an hour-long journey down the road can feel like a million miles when there’s a little one in the back crying out for your attention AND to be entertained.
Before you embark on a long car journey with a toddler, you need to check out this guide to the most appropriate toys for toddlers in the car.
What Makes a Great Road Trip Toy for a Toddler?
Toddlers really are a tricky bunch to travel with. This age and stage really brings back the best and worst of all our family vacation memories for us!
The memories are undoubtedly beautiful, and we wouldn’t change those moments for the world. However, don’t be mistaken; traveling with a toddler takes careful planning.
Whilst yes, we do recommend you pack toys for a toddler, you don’t need to go overboard – there’s only so much room in your diaper bag! And at the end of the day, all your toddler really wants is YOU!
Before we dive into our list of the best travel toys, make sure any car travel toys you buy for toddlers:
- Are safe for your toddler to play with without direct supervision (particularly if you cannot directly reach your infant in the car).
- Not too small, so no risk of being swallowed or disappearing off between car seats.
- Won’t distract the driver – we’re talking those horribly noisy ones – or even worse, a tablet being played at full pelt and no headphones!!
On this toddler toy list, we have deliberately ignored electronics. Yes, in theory, you could start introducing a small kids tablet at this age or passing them your device to get them through a tough moment.
But there are still so many other wonderful and engaging toys for this age group, you really don’t need to resort to electronics and screen time just yet (car toys for big kids, though, we’d definitely consider this!)
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Our Top 15 Favorite Toddler Toys for Road Trips
We’ve selected here 15 great travel toys that have been tried and tested with our teams’ toddlers, and we are happy to recommend them as the perfect toddler travel toys for long road trips.
Soft Activity Books have hands down been one of our favorite travel toys over the years. Children can independently explore with a variety of different scenes to choose from.
A great option in the car as all the parts attach to the book, so there is no need to fear missing parts, and you can even teether the book to their infant car seat so it doesn’t fall down. And no problem if it ends up in their mouth as it’s machine washable.
Buckle Toy Buster is another of our all-time favorite toddler road trip toys. Buster is a small soft, foldable lovie, ideal as a toddler toy for family road trips. There are six different clasps and buckles, allowing for several different activities that can be undertaken independently and help your tot with those fine motor skills.
For a toddler that loves a huggable lovie, Learn to Dress Kitty is a wonderful, cuddly plush toy with 11 different activities for small hands.
From ties to zips and buttons, they are a guaranteed car seat entertainer without any small parts to go missing, making them the perfect road trip toy for a toddler that loves imaginative play.
One of the best toddler travel toys, Billy Backpack Bear (from the same makers as Buckle Buster) is a great way for your toddlers to store a few of their small possessions with them on your next road trip.
As a toddler backpack, it’s small and light (13″ x 8″) with the added bonus of plenty of fine motor fun, plus, Billy has his own belly clock – perfect for answering that question, “are we there yet!”
Crinkle Baby Books are perfect travel toys for younger children in the car, as they come with lots of added extras, including sensory touches that are soft, chewable, and satisfyingly crinkly!
They’re still super light and come in different designs, so an easy inclusion to keep one or two of these in your luggage, and yes, machine washable!
Quiet Books are another great road trip toy for toddlers without parts that can go missing, everything your toddler needs is sewn into this soft activity book.
Plenty of bright colors and engaging activities, from zips to snapping and tying. It even comes with it’s own machine washing bag, so small parts don’t get damaged in the wash.
As your toddler’s dexterity improves, we love introducing a Magna Doodle Magnetic drawing board. We’re starting to get a little chunkier now than the soft toys, so keep it to toddler lap size and watch the appropriate age group.
The pens on Magna Doodle products normally attach, but the stamps and other attachments may not!
Alphabet Water Painting is such a great travel toy for toddlers. They are super easy to fit in your bag, and far less messy than normal paint or coloring pens. You only need a few drops of water, and your little artist is ready to go.
We love that the Alphabet water cards come clipped together, so the parts don’t go missing, making them the perfect toddler toy for the car. You can also get these water painting cards and numbers.
This Hide-And-Seek Alphabet Pop-Up has 50 shapes, colors, and letter push flaps for interactive activities.
Made with sturdy BPA-free plastic, it’s again getting on the larger chunkier side for small children but guaranteed hours of self-guided fun to suit your toddler’s attention span.
With its own carry handle, your little one can take it everywhere with them on your road trip.
This classic Take Along Shape Sorter toy by Melissa & Doug in a soft version with a handle can be a great entertainer for little kids in the car.
A chance to work on their fine motor skills and problem-solving skills as they play with the different shapes; it does have the issue that it comes with parts that can become detached. However, they are fairly chunky and easy to find if they do go missing in the car; it’s still one of the best toys for travel.
11. Window Stickers
Keeping little fingers busy on the go, these reusable cling-on farm animal window stickers are great to help younger children pass the time.
Unlike sticker books, where the fun goes as soon as the sticker is in place, the best part is these reusable gel cling-ons can be used over and over! In the car or in your hotel room, window stickers make a great travel toy for young children.
(NB suitable for older toddlers/preschoolers due to the risk they will put them in their mouth!)
If you’d rather not see stickers all over your car, the next best thing is magnets! Again, you’ll want this for your slightly older toddler, who is not prone to putting everything in their mouth!
With an easy carrying case handle, this Magnetic Busy Board is the perfect car toy for the toddler stage that can come into restaurants and roadside stops with them to keep hands and minds busy creating their own activity scene and independent play.
Take-along busy boards for toddlers are the ideal toy for a long car ride or long flights where you want to keep your little one engaged for extended periods.
With 72 different learning accessories in one kid-proof case, this is a great travel toy for the 1 to 4-year-old age group. Your young kids can be happily working on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination while you’re passing the miles.
These creative little spinner fidget toys are a fabulous addition to your toddler’s carry-on bag. They can be used on any flat surface such as the car window – or on a travel tray to keep hands busy.
Fun, colorful and available in a multitude of different character shapes, these are always a good choice for long trips. The perfect size, you can also slip them in your day pack bag to pull out when some distraction is needed!
As your little one starts to grow, it’s a good idea to level up their car play space!
A Car Seat Travel Tray works great for your older kids who are moving on to the next stage of travel toys, where some of the best toys include coloring books and higher concentration level games that need a flat surface.
Look for features such as built-in water bottle holders and a handy carry strap when choosing a car travel tray for your toddler.
More Road Trip Activities for Toddlers
Whilst toys that engage your little one will most definitely help, remember the most important thing your little one wants is YOU!
Now we know driving the car from the back seat really isn’t practical, but here are a few more ideas on how to engage your toddlers on long road trips, even if you’re the driver:
Songs – a singalong in the car to their favorite nursery rhyme is bound to put a smile on your little one’s face. Allow yourself to have fun and be goofy! Mis-singing their favorites and add your own words (maybe about your destination) always gives our toddlers a giggle
Imagination games – I’ll admit I’ve always found this one tough; I simply think I was born without this creative bone! But you can do it!!! Once you get started your little ones will help keep the creativity flowing. Start with a sensible story, then each of you has to add a silly twist.
Audiobooks – When you’re all done with the talking, a great way to pass the hours on a long car journey. A wonderful non-toy gift you can suggest to family & friends is to give something like Audible a try. They have a great range of kids’ storybooks to choose from – as well as adults; a few you could try:
- Amazing Animal Adventures (suitable for 2 to 5-year-olds)
- Llama Llama Red Pajama (a really cute collection of 20 stories from Anna Dewdney)
- Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales (great introduction to these classic childhood characters, the older ones can read along with Kindle Book)
Snacks – We cannot emphasize enough how important snacks are for a long journey – they are half the event in themselves, never mind what’s happening out the window! Do take care with toddlers, though; if they are in the back unaided, it may be sensible to pull over for snack stops, a good chance for you to all stretch your legs.
Got children in different age groups? You may also want to check out next:
- Top Tips for Road Trips With Newborns – things you’ll want to know before setting out on your very first family drive
- Fun Road Trip Toys And Entertainment For Babies – younger infants need only simply sensory toys for the car
- Road Trip Essentials With Kids – We never leave home without these items in our car.
- Entertaining Teens on Road Trips – a whole new level of stir-crazy can happen with teens in the car! Tips and tricks we’ve learned on the road to keep the peace.
© Family Road Trip