- Traveling with a toddler is no easy feat. That’s why travel toys for toddlers are not just good to have, they’re an absolute necessity.
- To keep a toddler entertained during long car rides, you need to have toys that are engaging and somewhat involved without being too challenging and frustrating.
- And to make it easier for parents, travel toys should be easy to carry and difficult to lose — the fewer pieces the better.
Travel provides a lush breeding ground for boredom, which is why every caregiver needs a reliable selection of mobile distractions when traveling with a toddler. Versatility is key: They should be quiet enough that they won’t bother other people, are simple enough that you’re not losing or picking up a ton of pieces, and can be safely handled by the child instead of you. Finally, you want them to work for you for as long as possible.
As a person with two young children and a specialist in early childhood development, I have been fine-tuning my stash over many years.
Here are 20 travel toys for toddlers, with age-appropriate pro tips.
1. Reusable stickers that are great for window seats
These reusable stickers are perfect for travel because they can go on and off any surface, and the pad is small enough to fit on your toddler’s lap. They’re especially good if your child is seated by a window, and the scene outside provides a dynamic backdrop.
2. A toddler twist on an old classic
As young kids, when my sister and I had to sit through temple during long High Holy Day services, my aunt always gave us and our cousins a handful of paper clips. It was so simple, but so effective. These plastic rings are basically the young toddler version; plus, they can double as teethers, and you can incorporate all different sets.
3. A magazine just for them
These practically indestructible booklets contain miniature stories, poems, and/or songs, plus a find-it game in every issue. The content is geared toward 0- to 2-year-olds, but they’re great for when your big kid wants to practice reading or storytelling, too. (You could also try Highlights High Five Magazine for 2- to 6-year-olds, which has excellent content but is considerably less indestructible.)
4. Travel-themed magnets that are convenient to carry
This breaks my small pieces rule, but it gets a pass because the magnets are contained in a compact tin. Most importantly, the magnets offer myriad variations on a theme, and because it mirrors the toddler’s travel experience it’s easier for them to stay engaged longer.
5. A stuffy that comes with distractions
The Buckle Blu Whale is bright, soft, lightweight, and engaging. It keeps hands busy and provides lots of number and color learning opportunities.
6. A soft busy board with carry strap
Traveling with more than one toddler? Try this wool sensory activity board. It is similarly engaging to the Buckle whale but includes more variety in the fine-motor activities and has space for at least four tiny hands. It comes with a carry strap but could also fit into a small backpack or carry-on.
7. A DIY project that keeps on giving
Encourage your toddler to make their own busy bag to bring on the go. These purses are adorable and durable; the zipper is easy for little hands to maneuver; and little kids love carrying around small domestic items (think: pretend keys). This one also breaks the few-pieces rule, but it’s perfect for car rides with a toddler since everything will still remain in your possession.
8. A travel-themed coloring roll
These roll-up coloring templates from Mudpuppy are each a whopping 10 feet long but still completely reasonable for travel. Older toddlers, especially, will appreciate all the different items to color. Unroll a small bit at a time while you’re on the go, and unravel to display it all at your final destination!
9. A mess-free paint pad and pen
Fill the pen-brush with water and watch as your toddler intently “paints” the pages over and over again with almost no muss, and certainly no fuss. These work everywhere and are available in multiple designs (available in single or multipack).
10. A very fun activity for older toddlers
From Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” come these 10 lacing cards, perfect for older toddlers. Not only are they a beautiful way to travel with illustrations from the classic story, but they are perfect for keeping hands busy while fine-tuning those fine motor skills.