I won’t deny that this is one of the most difficult ages for travelling with kids (ok, for parents!) especially, flying! Still so tiny but wriggly and active and unsure what is happening around them; not quite a toddler but beyond a baby.
How on earth do you entertain your one-year-old while you’re travelling?
There are plenty of great one-year-old toys, but for this age group they are often large, clunky, interactive (ie noisy!) and not particularly luggage friendly! You really do need to consider a separate set of portable plane and travel toys for your one-year-old.
Other than our baby travel essentials, here we’re going to talk you through 13 great ideas in what you should specifically be packing to entertain a 1-year-old while travelling – our big focus is on being flying friendly.
This post is part of our tried and tested travel gear series – don’t forget to also check out our baby travel advice home page
If your child is slightly older, don’t miss our post best travel toy ideas for a 2-year-old.
Travel toys for a 1-year-olds
The most difficult thing about this age group is there propensity to want to either a) insert everything they find into their mouth or b) throw it on the floor! So finding items that are either made for chewing is great, but also easy to clean, and not too small so you can find it if it falls into a small confined space!
Buckle Toys Buster is ideal for travel as he folds up quite small and is great for those fine motor skills and problem-solving. There are 6 different clasps and buckles allowing for several different activities. Buster also has many colourful pals these days, some bulkier than others!
An interactive fun way to play along with kids is finger puppets. They definitely fit well into the portable category much smaller than most soft toys, but not too tinee tiny you will lose them under a plane seat! There’s plenty of imaginative games you can make up -and worst case if they simply end up in your tots mouth it’s not the end of the world!
Take-Along Shape Sorter by Melissa & Doug is a great travel choice of a classic baby toy favourite. The soft case holds 9 colourful, plastic shapes and offers 2 activities (sorting and identifying pictures). Its easy-grip handle is great if your tot wants to independently hold the toy but it also has parental approval for squishing down conveniently into your hand luggage.
Manhattan Toys Classic Baby Beads are a baby essential from this maker of unique educational toys (do check out the full Manhattan toys range – we ended up with a toy box full of their stuff we loved them so much!) The beads are solid wood but portable and the rattle is fun but not an overpowering noise it won’t annoy your neighbours on a plane. It’s great to see them through the teething stage, and also perfect for those fine motor skills.
Learn to dress monkey is a wonderfully loveable teddy that comes with 11 different activities for small hands from ties to zips and buttons, a guaranteed entertainer, and he’s pretty loveable and cuddly too. Also comes in Learn to Dress Kitty.
Felt Quiet Books are a fabulous baby entertainer. Children can independently explore with a variety of different scenes to choose from. All the parts attach to the book so no missing spare parts, and no problem if it ends up in their mouth as it’s machine washable.
Such a simple but vital travel toy! We never went anywhere without our stacking cups. Because they so stack away so small they’re an easy grab and go item, and most importantly we have been able to double these up as a bath toy on the go too.
We will always throw in at least one set of board books. They’re a good interactive activity with your baby whilst being small enough to slip a different one in your carry bag each time and pretty robust against little fingers and searching teeth!
Another great book option is a soft activity book. The MAMMA Kiddie soft activity book is a great option as it comes with lots of added extras including sensory touches that are chewable and bead counters. It’s still super light so an easy carry on bag inclusion.
As your baby transitions to the toddler years, colouring games are great but finding the right sort of product is tough. We love the chunky crayons by Honeysticks – completely infant safe made from Beeswax and easy to grip.
Another super portable toy that’s not too chunky for travel is a magnetic drawing board, best from 18 months+. Always best not to go too cheap in design for these products – and not too many ‘extras’ that can go missing. We like the design of Fly2Sky Magnetic drawing board as its has a sealed back to prevent scratching, and it’s small enough to still slip into a carry on.
This was a reluctant inclusion as we know it can be a little bulky for travel – we’re hardly suggesting this will work for the plane – but no beach vacation with the kids is complete without your very own sandcastle! From activity moulds to a watering can, you’ll want some sort of beach activity kit.
And what toys should I leave at home?
These are items that we have either had bad experiences with or for the sake of safety or commonsense we do not recommend using as a travel toy for this age group:
Playdoh – there I said it. I’m going to have some haters shouting NOOOOOO!! But sorry, this one is on my banned travel toy list!! Some love it, but it’s icky, messy and ends up everywhere but where you want it (mashed under fingernails, smushed into the airplane seat), you get the picture. At your peril.
Reusable Stickers – these are still really a bit too small and chewable for the one-year-old age group and they may not yet have the fine motor skills for peeling leading to frustration. The felt books are the best alternative for this age.
Musical instruments – no matter how much they love these at home, loud, noise-making toys on a plane or transport with others is a big no-no.
Tablets/iPads – I won’t deny that I’ve let my kids use our devices from a pretty young age. But not all the time, and certainly not on the plane. The main reason being the best younger kids apps tend to be noisy, and a one-year-old is not for keeping headphones on. Save the tablet for at least 2+.
Jigsaws – again, these may be favourites at home but too many an item has been lost down the side of a seat over the years to recommend this as a good travel toy.
Leave us a comment below if there are any other one-year-old travelling favourites you think we should add to our list! (or something that should definitely be left off!!)
More tips for baby travel
Are you new to travelling with a baby, or would like some more pointers and advice to make your first trip run smoothly? We recommend you also pop over to these pages:
- Our very best baby travel advice
- 10 baby travel essentials for every journey
- How to tackle your very first baby flight
- How to fly with a tot once they no longer fit the baby bassinet
- Do I really need a travelling high chair?
- Best sunshades for babies and toddlers at the beach
- Best lightweight strollers for travel (that can even fit on the plane)
- The best infant sleep solutions on the go
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