Long car journeys can be off putting with a toddler in the back – especially if you are the driver with no other adult passenger. Whereas on a plane, you can easily get up and walk about to distract, it’s just that little bit harder when you can’t just pull over for a break. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some of the best travel toys for toddlers in the car. The criteria which helped me decide which ones to try on a family road trip were:
- Can the toy be reached easily if dropped?
- Has it got lots of parts to it, which could get lost?
- How big is it versus how much space I have for travel toys in the car for this trip?
- Can it be done independently?
- Is it educational or teach new skills?
- What age / developmental stage is the activity suitable for?
- Can I easily have a few spare (eg crayons) in the front if some do get dropped?
- Is it noisy or will it distract me when driving?
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This guide is full of age appropriate car toys for toddlers, reviewed by either myself on our travels or fellow parents – no matter whether they are just entering the toddler age or an older toddler. From fine motor travel toys to quiet ones to screen free travel toys – we have you covered! Having a range of car activities for toddlers is important as their attention span is limited.
Long road trips with toddlers will still mean several pit stops, but will give you plenty of opportunities to swap over toys, refill any snacks and stretch everyones legs. Car travel with toddlers can be more fun for you too, as they can engage in singalongs or simple I-spy games and have more dexterity for the following road trip activities and toddler toys for the car.
A great tip with toddler travel toys is attach them (whenever possible) to some ring links and attach them to your child’s car seat – that way they can’t be dropped or lost and your toddler can retrieve them by themselves without you needing to pull over on the road.
If you are in a hurry and just want our top picks, below are our favorites. Further on are our detailed guides with reviews and more suggestions to keep toddlers busy on a long road trip!
Our Favorite Car Toys for Toddlers
- Best Travel Activities Book for Toddlers: Melissa and Doug Water Wow
- Best Travel Educational Toy for Toddlers: Montessori Backpack Busy Bag
- Best Travel Shapes Toy for Toddlers: Melissa & Doug Take-Along Shape Sorter
- Best Magnetic Toys for Toddlers: Town Maze Magnetic Game and Magnetic Book Role Play
- Best Travel Toy for Toddlers To Give Parents a Break: Dr. Seuss Audio Book
- Best Travel Toy for Pre-School Preparation: Leapfrog Scribble and Write
- Best Compact Travel Toy for Toddlers: Buckle Toy
- The Best Travel Busy Bag for Toddlers: Montessori Backpack Busy Bag
Travel Toys For Toddlers in the Car
This guide is full of age appropriate car toys for toddlers, reviewed by either myself on our travels or fellow parents - no matter whether they are just entering the toddler age or an older toddler. From fine motor travel toys to quiet ones to screen free travel toys - we have you covered! Having a range of car activities for toddlers is important as their attention span is limited.
Wikki Stix are suitable for older toddlers from age 3, although it will likely be you making all the different shapes! Made out of wax and yarn, there is no glue needed, so no mess. The colored sticks leave a slight waxy residue but no stains.
There are some great science ones with planets and volcanoes etc for older kids too. Wikki Stix sets are perfect travel toys for toddlers on plane, in the car for a road trip, hotel room and all kinds of family travel.
Wooden Lacing Cheese Threading Toy
A friend recently recommended this wooden threading block which is great for developing toddler and baby fine motor skills – plus it’s a very quiet travel toy.
Gel Window Clings
Gel Window stickers or gel clings are reusable, mess free and very handy if you have a window seat on a plane, or even for road trips in a car or coach. These are better for older pre-schoolers.
If you cannot find any window stickers or don’t have a window seat, then stickers, bandaids, post-it notes are another option for cheap toddler travel games.
Nickelodeon Paw Patrol My Busy Book
My Busy Books are great travel activities for kids. These are very good value activity boxes with a story, 12 figurines and also contain a folded up play mat for role play. Whilst the play mat is too big for a plane or public transport, the figurines are still fun to play with. Once at a destination or a flight delay, the play mat can come out.
This is all very compact and easy to pack in your hand luggage making them ideal travel toys for toddlers. We have a Paw Patrol, Frozen, Trolls and My Little Pony one!
LEGO DUPLO My First Number Train
My one-year-old and four-year love Duplo. The number train is easy to pack and fun too. (We just discarded the box for easier packing). We actually bought this on one of our trips away and then kept bringing it along as it was such a success.
Pieces can obviously drop on the floor of a car or airplane, so we opted to just use a couple of pieces from this set on the plane and saved the rest for playing with at the destination. If you are staying in a hotel room, villa, or Air BNB which doesn’t have any toys, bringing a few toys for moments of boredom or quiet time can prove invaluable.
Melissa & Doug Water Wow! - Water Reveal Pad Bundle - Animals, Alphabet, Numbers and More
Melissa & Doug Water WOW looks fun too and educational! Just make sure you empty the pen from water before security or add it to your clear plastic bag if pre-filled.
Aquadoodle Mini Mats by Tomy
These aquadoodle sets are some of the best toddler toys for airplane entertainment. They have re-usable colouring in mats, which just use a water pen. Once they have dried out, you can reuse them again.
This is a great idea if you are packing travel toys for 18 months and older.
Melissa & Doug Triangular Crayons
Triangular crayons like these from Melissa & Doug, don’t roll away on an airplane or train tray table! Genius and one of the best toys for toddlers on planes!
Town Maze Magnetic Puzzle Game
We have the fish version but this road maze magnetic game is even better. The different colored balls help toddlers match to corresponding colors whilst cementing color recognition and tuning those fine motor skills.
Crayola Color Wonder Disney Baby Characters, Mess Free Coloring Pages,
Mess free colouring books and pens. 'Magic' pens which only show the colour on the special colouring book and not on clothes, seats etc.
Magna Doodle Travel Doodler
All the fun of the MagnaDoodle but travel size. If you don't want to remove the three stamps, then this travel activity is best for older toddlers over 3 due to the size of the magnetic stamps. However, the pen is attached so it won't get lost! Kids can doodle away and then slide the button across to start a new design.
Create-A-Scene Magnetic Playset
The Imaginetics magnetic board opens up and creates a scene with characters and accessories that stick to the board!
This item shows construction sites, but there are also dinosaurs, pirates, ballet, mermaids and lots of other choices for boys and girls.
The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites
A firm classic, this Dr Seuss Audio book is perfect for travel. Kids can enjoy the famous voices making these popular characters come alive, whilst you drive.
Buckle Toy - Boomer Square
This easy, small, compact travel toy for toddlers is a firm favorite. Buckle style toys are just brilliant and you can't go wrong with any of them. The Buckle toy whale was the first one we owned, but this one is even more compact. The only issue is once they master the buckle, you may get asked a few times to unbuckle it, until they discover that skill!
Montessori Busy Board Toddler Backpack
A genius invention! If your toddler wants to feel like a big kids, then this dinosaur backpack could be the answer. Not only can they pack a few of their favorite toys but the bag is fine motor skill activity itself. The bag has buckles, zips, laces, Velcro and more.
OleOletOy Busy Board
Another multi function travel toy. This travel busy board bag has everything is in one place but there are plenty of activities for little hands. This Montessori Busy Board is a great sensory toy with lots of zips, buttons and games to play which are all part of a bag. The bag had enough spaces for favorite books, coloring crayons, paper, snacks and even a water bottle too!
LeapFrog Scribble and Write
Scribble and Write is a great start to learning through play and with fine motor skills with gripping the pencil. Kids can copy shapes by tracing over lines and learn letters. The easy grip stylus pen is attached sp won't get lost - a bonus for travel!
Melissa & Doug Take-Along Shape Sorter
Includes a padded case with 2 activity sides and a take-along handle, plus 9 shaped, textured blocks in various colours.
18. Lacing Cards & Boards
Lacing boards provide a compact and educational car trip toy for toddlers to take on the road; they especially help with fine motor skills. car trip toys for toddlers
19. Reading books like Fox’s Socks, Hide and Seek Pig
You may well have an older sibling road trip who will read to your toddler or flap books such as Julia Donaldson ‘Lift the Flap’ series. Fox’s Socks, Hide and Seek Pig etc. or books with texture can help to make this a quiet, solo activity for your little one too. An audio book could also be great if all passengers don’t mind listening to toddler-friendly stories.
20. Reusable Puffy Sticker Play Set Travel Toy
These reusable puffy stickers sets are great to include as part of your collection of travel activities for toddlers in the car – especially as they can be used again and again. Let kids create transportation adventures again and again! The sturdy background board (with built-in handle!) folds to neatly store it all away. For prices in an alternative USA store see here and to compare on Amazon see here.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I keep my 2 year old entertained in the car?
- Try some of the above activities and toys
- Bring plenty of road trip snacks which they are unlikely to choke on. ( Have a responsible person sit next to them if possible.)
- Plan stops so they can stretch legs
How else can I entertain my 18 month old in the car?
- Play i-spy/spot the red car etc
What should I bring my toddler on a long car ride?
- Spare clothes and diapers/nappies
- Toys and activities
- First Aid Kit
- Window sun-shades – pull down or patterned
- Back seat mirror for rear-facing child
- Water bottles
- Snacks for you
- Car seat organiser to store it all in!
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