My boys are currently 1 and 3 and we’ve taken them on quite a few long road trips over the past few years. Our longest drive to date has been six hours one way, totaling around 8-9 hours with stops.
Road trips often involve sitting for a couple of hours at a time. So you’re probably wondering, how in the world do I keep my toddler entertained in
I’m happy to share that we have a narrowed down selection of the best toddler toys for road trips. We used a lot of these same things on long flights as well.
My kids do great in the car and I pack us up a bag of toys and entertainment before we leave so we have things to entertain them with along the way.
This is a list of some of our favorites. We do not pack every single toy on this list for every trip but rather take a selection of what they’re most interested in at any given time.
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Tips For Packing Your Toddler’s Toys For a Road Trip
In the car, we have two car seats (because we have two kids) and in the space between is where I keep a big bag of toys for them to reach into. An old diaper caddy would work perfect for this. It’s also accessible to us from the front passenger seat so it’s easy to get to things while we are driving.
I wouldn’t bring anything that is large or makes annoying noises. You’re going to be trapped in a small space for a while so you don’t want to find yourself being annoyed while driving and traveling. Large toys can also be cumbersome and take up a lot of space so I would personally avoid those too.
We also now have the backpacks from Ten Little that are the perfect size for packing toys in for a road trip. Each kid having their own backpack with their own toys is easier to manage now that they are getting older! Having bags helps keep everything organized too. It also keeps them organized when you’re at your destination which is an extra help.
I would avoid anything with very small parts, especially with younger kids, but also with older kids too. It is devastating to them if they lose one of them but also you don’t want to risk them swallowing something they shouldn’t and ruining your family vacation.
So with all that said, here let’s dive into my top 20 picks for best toddler toys for road trips! I would pack somewhere between 5-10 of these for each trip, depending how long they are, to keep them entertained.
20 Best Toddler Toys for Road Trips
Tablets are first on my list because they really do come in handy, especially if your child is used to some screen time at home. As I shared in my post on airplane travel, we use our tablets as a tool and save them for when we really need them. And this often means when we’re in the car for a while.
Make sure you download a few episodes of your child’s favorite show and be firm with the rules you set. We don’t like to give them their tablets right away but tend to save them for “after the first stop” or “after we eat.” This way they know what to expect.
We don’t let care about them using headphones in the car like we do on the plane (the ones we use are linked below) but we do have a volume limiter installed that prevents them both from turning the volume up too high.
2. Buckle Toys
Both of my toddlers are obsessed with these kinds of toys. We have the Buckle Barrel from the Lovevery Companion Play Kit and they both still want to play with it.
There are a lot of options when it comes to buckle toys that come in different shapes with a variety of options. Once my youngest is a little bit older, I plan to get him something a little more complex. They are great for fine motor skills!
3. Pop Its
These are super entertaining for all ages in my opinion. I even find myself popping them when they’re in reach. They come in a ton of color and shape options so pick one your toddler will like! I find them to engage the most with the medium sized ones that fit in their hands.
We always pack some books with us that my kids love. They really like lift-the-flap books and similar styles that have engaging elements. Something that they can engage with on their own since they can’t read yet is a good choice.
It’s also great to have some of these if you’re used to reading them before bed time too. That way you can keep to your routine even though you’re in a hotel room or Airbnb.
In my book, books are a really great option.
5. Spinners and Squigz
My kids really love these and I like putting them on their car windows or their tablet screens for them to play with. We don’t get a ton of play with them in the car but they do like them once we get to our destination as well!
Surprisingly these make great travel toys! Young kids and older kids seem to love them.
6. Suction Cup Toys
These are so handy, especially for when you are at restaurants! We once went to a restaurant with my oldest that had a selection of these they brought to the table and I thought it was so smart.
The screen-free entertainment is priceless. They’re also easy to keep in the car, especially because they can be a little bigger and don’t fit in a bag as well.
7. Busy Books / Quiet Books / Busy Board
I purchased one of these off of Etsy for my oldest and he loved it for quite a while! My youngest plays with it now. I personally like the style where you can take the pages out and mix and match them. I have also taken pages out that they really enjoy and just bring those with us.
Busy books and boards are handy to bring because they are so many activities in one. There are also a lot of styles and options so you can pick activities that your toddler will love!
8. Magnetic Tiles
Magnatiles are a well-loved toy in our house and turns out they are pretty easy to bring with you! Just bring a limited amount and put them in a bag for easy access.
My oldest son really enjoys these, especially the new kits with the animals. There are also mini-magnetic tiles which we don’t personally own but will consider them for the future when my youngest is a bit older!
9. Water Magic Painting
I haven’t tried this in the car yet, but for kids who love painting and coloring, this is a great thing to pack! Instead of filling the pen with water, use a paintbrush and a small cup of water!
10. Coloring and Magic Coloring
Coloring is always an easy go to. And pro-tip? Get some triangular crayons so they don’t roll! Melissa and Doug makes some really neat magic coloring books (similar to Crayola styles) that only let the market color on the specific paper. It’s really handy!
11. DIY Snack Tray
I made these for a long flight journey we took and they were such a hit! I would definitely make them for a long car ride, especially if you can pack fresh food.
The little sections are fun for kids to open and clothes and can keep their interest for a while! If you don’t want to fill them with food, fill them with small toys or crafts.
I personally used monthly pill organizers to do this but if you have concerns about your child confusing this with meds, obviously, do not use these kinds of containers.
I packed them loads of our favorite snacks from Thrive Market (here is 40% off your first order).
12. DIY Sensory Bin with Play Dough
I have not yet packed these for my kids but it’s something I will do on upcoming trips! All you really need to do is pack some play dough and small animals toys or construction vehicles and let them play! I would definitely keep this for older toddlers or kids who do not eat things still!
It does help if you have a tray they can use in the car too but it’s not strictly necessary. Plus, sensory play like this is great for hang-eye coordination and strengthening little fingers.
13. Magnetic Puzzle
My oldest is very into puzzles at the moment and has a couple he likes to do regularly. These magnetic puzzles are great for on-the-go. We picked a dinosaur version but they have lots of other options as well.
14. Magnetic Tracing Maze or Magnetic Drawing Board
These stay in our car and my older toddler loves them all the time. They’re fun and challenging to do and great for pre-handwriting skills.
There’s different versions of these (we have the car maze) but I think they make a great alternative to screens and great for little fingers.
15. Sensory Books or Sticker Books
Sensory books I find to be great for kids around 2 years and below. Once around age 2, sticker books are a lot of fun for kids! Whatever you pick for them, you’ll want to make sure it’s something they can handle on their own in the back seat.
With stickers, my toddler didn’t fully get the hang of them until he was closer to 3 but your toddlers might be totally different! Reusable stickers are so much fun to toddlers. You could also pick up an activity book you know they’ll love.
And sensory books are neat because they have a lot of different options and things for little hands to explore. It’s also a bonus if they chewable elements (sensory books)! Truly the perfect toddler travel toy.
16. “I Spy” Books
My older toddler loves playing “I Spy” and it’s something I use to distract him when we are almost to our destination and he’s starting to get antsy. These books are super fun and engaging for little ones.
For my youngest, we like the “Where’s Momo?” series.
17. Cars That Transform/Make Noise/Have Various Features
Both of my toddlers love cars and vehicles of all types. They roll them around their car seats and talk to each other about them.
I love that toys like these can encourage imaginative play. Having little things around like little cars or animals can entertain young children while you’re out and about too. My sons will engage with these for a long time.
18. Handheld Water Games
I have not yet packed these for my boys because I think the games I’ve found are a little bit out of their skill level, but these are also a great screen-free alternative!
19. Yoto Player
The Yoto Player is bascially Audiobooks for kids – and what a neat idea! These give your kids control over what they’re listening too, plus they engage with the player by selecting the card for the story they want to listen to.
20. Your Child’s FAVORITE Toy
The last thing I want to add to this list so you don’t forget is your toddler’s favorite toy. Bring what they love the most and they’ll most likely engage with that longer than anything else.
When reading lists of the best toys for airplane travel, it can be easy to get caught up in the ideas. And while I strongly believe in everything on this list, the best thing to bring is truly what your child loves most. And if that happens to be a stuffed animal, definitely don’t forget that at home!!
In Summary: Best Toddler Toys For Road Trips
I hope this list of our favorite travel toys gave you some inspiration for little kids on a long road trip! Long car rides can be hard, not only on young children, but on us as adults too.
These toys have helped us make it through long trips and are staples in my travel bag. Plus, most of them work for an older age group too and are educational toys versus screens all the way there.
Enjoy your family road trip! The days are long but the years are short. And even when it’s hard, it’s worth it!
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