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Traveling with a toddler
A toddler’s attention span doesn’t last long. Being prepared with travel toys for toddlers will help reduce boredom and make the journey more bearable for you and your child. When you travel with a toddler you’ll constantly be switching from one activity to another. So it’s important to adjust your expectations of what will happen during the flight or road trip. Above all make sure you have plenty of different activities that your child can rotate between.
Your journey traveling with a toddler will include snacks, followed by activities such as toys, coloring and activity sets, stickers, screen time, books with a favorite stuffy or blanket, potty breaks and hopefully a nap, then rinse and repeat! In this post we highlight over 20 of the Best Travel Toys for Toddlers, and they’re all no-mess activities! Therefore, don’t leave home without these essential travel activities for your toddler. Also, if you’re flying then download our FREE Carry-on Packing List for Flying with a Toddler, available at the bottom of this post.
When our children were toddlers we took several flights from the U.S. to Europe and Canada, plus multiple 5+ hour family road trips to the beach. I personally find flying with a toddler more bearable than driving. Mostly because we can move around on the plane, but over time I’ve also learned how to simplify a road trip with kids and what to consider before traveling with a car seat. Also, in other posts I share about how to travel with a potty training toddler and surviving jet lag with your toddler or how to avoid motion sickness in kids.
Use the Table of Contents below to quickly skip to any section of this post.
Flying with a Toddler vs. Road Trip
Flying with a toddler is very different than flying with a baby, or even an older child. While traveling with a toddler it can be especially challenging because toddlers have a very limited attention span. Furthermore, toddlers want to explore, be on the move, and know what they want. As a result they aren’t afraid to scream at the top of their lungs if they don’t get their own way!
Deciding whether it’s best to fly with your toddler or take a family road trip will depend on many factors. What is the purpose of your trip – to visit family in a specific location or take a vacation to the destination of your choosing? How far do you need to travel, and how much time would it take to drive vs. flying? What is the cost of flights vs. the time and gas to drive? Can you pack light to fly with carry-on only or is it easier to load up your vehicle with everything you need? Certainly there are many factors to consider which are individual to the needs of your family.
I often chose to ride in the back seat on long road trips when our children were young. That way I could easily reach to assist my child with activities, and didn’t spend the entire trip turned around backwards trying to reach them from the front passenger seat.
Where ever you choose to sit in the car on a road trip it is important to have a large selection of activities to switch between during your journey. Always plan to bring a few special surprises to keep up your sleeve, such as a new activity or toy your child has not seen before. And don’t forget to pack the most important item – road trip snacks for kids.
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What are the must-have Travel Toys for Toddlers?
Over the years and the many thousands of miles we have traveled with our children, there are certain items we won’t leave home without.
Must-have toddler travel activities include:
- Coloring books and crayons
- Mess-free markers and water activity book
- Books (with plenty of picture you can talk about)
- iPad, Tablet or Device with Headphones and charger
The Essential Travel Toys for Toddlers
These are our favorite toddler travel toys. Firstly, here is a list of the essential no-mess activities that are lightweight and can easily be packed in your carry-on luggage. These are great options to entertain your toddler on an airplane or on a car ride. Secondly, there is an additional list of bulky and more noisy activities that would be more appropriate for use on a road trip.
Wooden Lacing Apple Threading Toy
The Wooden Lacing Big Apple Toy is a simple, pocket-sized travel toy for toddlers that’s sure to entertain your child while you’re on the go. They can push the caterpillar through the different holes in the wooden block of apple while the string wraps itself around. When they run out of string rope, they can unwind and play again!
Magnetic Travel Matching Game
The Purple Cow Magnetic Animal Homes Matching Puzzle is ideal for traveling. This simple matching game puzzle involving animals and their homes. Kids will have fun matching the pieces and assembling the correct pictures. This pocket-sized game comes in a compact high-quality metallic tin box. So it conveniently fits into any pocket, travel bag or backpack.
AiTuiTui Magnetic Drawing Board Mini Travel Doodle
AiTuiTui Magnetic Drawing Board Mini Travel Doodle is a colorful drawing screen that will inspire children to explore imagination and creativity. Likewise this mini size board is small enough for travel and easy to hold by children to take along on a trip due to its small size.
Dot to Dot for Tiny Tots Wipe Clean Activity Book
The Dot to Dot Wipe Clean Activity Book is full of simple dot-to-dot exercises and maze puzzles that are ideal for toddlers. This activity book helps young children develop their fine motor and problem-solving skills, as well as number recognition. The pages wipe clean and come with a dry erase marker so the activities can be completed again and again!
Buckle Toys – Bella Square
The Buckle Toys Bella Square is a playful bright plush with vibrant colored straps, and buckles to hold child’s attention. There are 6 child-friendly buckles in a variety of clasp styles. This helps toddlers develop fine motor skills, cognitive skills, hand eye coordination, and problem solving. The 6.5″ square if perfect for small hands and will clip to a car seat or diaper bag when you’re on the go.
Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad
The My Town Reusable Sticker Pad includes 5 colorful backgrounds and 200-plus cling-style, reusable stickers. This is an engaging option for screen-free entertainment that helps children develop strong fine motor skills and promotes creative play.
Playskool Classic Dressy Kids Plush Toy
Playskool Classic Dressy Kids Plush Toy is available in girl or boy stuffed toy. Your little adventurer can practice again and again with this dress toy for toddlers featuring 5 getting dressed activities including zip, tie, button, buckle and Velcro. Furthermore, this toddler travel toys is machine washable and comes in a toddler-friendly size with a carry-along clip, making her a great on-the-go activity for kids in the car or on a plane.
Peppa Pig Electronic Me Reader Jr
Peppa Pig Electronic Me Read Jr includes 8 illustrated board books and an electronic reader that reads each book aloud. Therefore, your child can choose a book, press buttons on the module, and hear the whole story, along with fun and surprising sounds! Following along in the book while listening to the narration is an important first step toward independent reading.
Crayola Twistables Crayons
Crayola Twistable Crayons are durable with plastic barrels to protect against breakage. They never need sharpening just twist to keep the color going! So these are great for younger children who tend to snap regular crayons.
Crayola Mess Free Coloring Set
Crayola Mess-Free Coloring Set with markers that only color on special paper. They won’t color on skin, furniture, or fabric so they’re great for on-the-go!
Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow
Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow is a no-mess water activity book that includes 4 reusable pages and comes with a refillable water pen.
Face Sticker Book
ThinkMax Finger Puppets Set
Finger Puppets are made for children, but enjoyed by adults too. You can pretend as different animals and communicate with your little kids, training their oral communication ability and logical thinking ability. Also, be careful to not let kids play them alone. This could be a choking hazard if you have children under three.
Five Little Monkeys Finger Puppet Board Book
Finger Puppet Book are good for storytelling and imaginary play with your child.
deMoca Quiet Book for Toddlers
Busy Book for Toddlers is a cloth book and sturdy sensory toy. It includes activities for your child to focus on matching Velcro colored shapes, to practice with buckles zippers, telling time and general learning.
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Road Trip Travel Toys for Toddlers
The toddler travel toys listed above are great for a road trip or flying. Here is a list of bulky and / or more noisy activities that would be more appropriate for use on a road trip.
Learning Resources SnapnLearn Number Bugs
This was one of our most used toddler travel toys because it’s durable and easy to find the pieces when you’re on the go. These cute and colorful bugs snap together and pull apart, which reinforces fine motor skills. This toddler travel toy is ideal for ages 2+ and introduces numbers, counting, addition, and color matching.
VTech Touch & Teach Word Book
Our girls loved their VTech Touch & Teach Word Book. This educational toy book for toddlers features 12 incredibly detailed and touch sensitive pages that help teach children over 100 words is six categories.
The baby book toy is designed for kids 18 months to 4 years. Pages react to your toddlers touch with sounds, music, and words; early learning center teaches fine motor skills along with words, and ABCs.
Wikki Stix Traveler Playset
Wikki Stix offer clean, quiet, hands-on and engaging play for any occasion – in the car, or on the plane. This product is made with non-toxic food grade wax and hand knitting yarn. This kit includes a convenient, bright red carrying case for imaginative play during travel.
Toddler Busy Board
The Toddler Busy Board provide a sensory experience for a wide range of developmental levels, it promote hands-on learning, basic skills and fine motor development. The soft felt wool board measures 11×12.5in and weighs just 0.4lbs making it an ideal activity for travel, including car and airplane.
Buckles and buttons are designed to have varying difficulty levels, so toddlers will enjoy the challenge of puzzles or use it as a repetitive soothing activity.
LeapFrog 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch
The LeapFrog 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch is an affordable option around the $20 price point. The laptop features a keyboard with letters A-Z and numbers 1-10, or swivel and transform it into a touch tablet.
It features five learning modes – ABCs, numbers, games, music and messages. Kids can pretend to be like mom and dad with role-play activities like emailing Scout. And parents can customize the laptop to help your child spell their name.
BE Family Travel Tray
We like to use the BE Family Travel Tray to hold our child’s activities. It’s designed to be used with a car seat, but could be adapted on an airplane using the seat-back tray. It is perfect for a drink, snacks, coloring book, crayons, and toys to keep everything within your child’s reach. And includes a tablet holder, pencil case, and large book pocket. There is no need to unload the entire play tray when it’s time to leave, the side pouches zip and fold in to make the perfect storage as an all-in-one Travel Bag. It detaches into two parts and the lower lap tray is great for toddlers. Also available in red, blue or pink.
Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet
Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet is available in blue, pink or purple. Stream through Wi-Fi or view downloaded content on the go with 16 GB of internal storage and up to 7 hours of reading, browsing the web, watching video, and listening to music. Also add wireless headphones and a protective zipper sleeve for when you’re on the go. And don’t forget to bring the charger for any electronic device!
LilGadgets Untangled PRO Kids Premium Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
These Wireless Headphones are high quality, and compatible with nearly all Bluetooth devices. Offered in six wonderful colors, they are developed, designed, and tested with kids of all ages to ensure durability of the final product while maintaining style and comfort. They are sized for kids 4+ but many reviews say they are suitable for toddlers age 2 years plus.
Travel Toys for Toddlers who have a limited attention span
Children have a very limited attention span until they reach around 18-24 months of age, when their attention span for watching short shows will start to appear. Simple apps can be introduced, but likely won’t hold your toddlers attention span for long. Similarly if you have a few apps then flipping between them can provide a longer distraction.
At home we limit technology time, in fact, neither of our girls had any TV or screen time until they were 2 years old. But when traveling we tend to bend the rules and be more flexible. ABCmouse.com is great for age 2+ and will keep your child entertained while they learn.
Finally, if you plan to use a device on the airplane don’t forget to bring headphones for your toddler so they don’t disturb other passengers on the airplane. Don’t be like us with our first child… we made this epic mistake on one trip 😬
Download FREE Carry-on Packing List: Flying with a Toddler
Are you flying with a toddler on your next family vacation? You can download our FREE list of all the items to pack in your carry-on when flying with a toddler.
Travel toys for toddlers that you won’t leave home without
Please comment on this post and let me know your favorite travel toys for toddlers. Furthermore, I’d love to update the list of essential toddler travel activities with toys that you love! Tell me one toddler travel toy you won’t leave home without?!
And remember, let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey.
Until next time,
For more about family travel check out these posts:
What to Consider Before you Travel With a Car Seat
How to Start Saving for a Vacation with Kids
How to Pack Your Car for a Family Road Trip
Traveling with a Potty Training Toddler
Simplify A Road Trip with Kids
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