Thoughtful and engaging travel toy ideas for your preschooler
As summer rounds the corner, I’m sure you are excited as we are to plan a few family trips, whether it be cross-country, across the globe, or a few hours away. If you’re planning on taking your four-year-old along for the ride, it’s best to think ahead in terms of entertainment options for the journey to your vacation destination.
We think that travelling with a four-year-old can be MUCH easier than travelling with younger children for several reasons. For one, you can usually count on a four-year-old to be well enough potty trained that accidents will be a rare occasion.
Additionally, a four-year-old’s attention span is a bit longer than that of a two-year-old or three-year-old. This means you might be able to pack fewer toys and other methods of entertainment for your trip. We view any reduction in luggage to be a plus in our book!
In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the Best Travel Toys for 4-Year-Olds to make your next layover or road trip as stress-free as possible.
This post is part of our tried & tested travel gear reviews and our best travel toys collection
What to look for in travel toys for a 4-year-old
When you’re looking for the best travel toys for four-year-olds, remember that interactive play and improving fine motor skills are essential for preschool-age children. Toys and activities that target memory, creating, and problem-solving will keep them engaged for extended periods of time, especially when you have a variety of options to choose from.
You’ll also want to ensure that you tailor your travel toys for four-year-olds to your travel setting and space allowance. For example, you don’t want to choose toys and games that make loud noises if you’re flying to your destination.
If you’re going to allow your child to bring his or her tablet, make sure that you also purchase headphones to reduce distractions to passengers around you.
Finally, it’s essential to be aware of how much space you have for your four-year-old’s travel toys. You’ll want to choose toys and games that are lightweight and relatively compact, especially if you’re packing for multiple children of different ages.
It might be a good idea to include several activities and toys in your carry-on bag or backpack and a few in your luggage to switch out later.
12 engaging travel toys for your 4-year-old
Before we explore each travel toy selection, we’d like first to encourage you to find a suitable backpack for your child, especially if you’re going to be flying anywhere. You obviously can’t load your child’s bag down with everything they want to take along, but it will help to lighten your load and give them some responsibility in the travel process.
We are also big fans of travel trays when it comes to car travel & road trips with kids.
Travel trays are an excellent way to keep all of your four-year-old’s travel games and activities close by and organized. This Lusso Gear Kids Travel Tray is an ideal option for your next road trip. It has a built-in dry erase board and snack tray, a tablet holder, and plenty of pockets for activity books, markers, and crayons.
We can’t adequately express enough love for these mess-free coloring pads. This variety pack has enough coloring pages to keep your four-year-old entertained for hours, and the best part about these travel coloring pads is that they’re reusable!
Each page clears as it dries, and you can refill the water pin and store it to use again and again. These Melissa and Doug Water Wow Coloring Pads also help your child improve multiple skills at once, such as fine motor, reading and writing, and visual discrimination. Suitable from 3 to 7 years we got so much use out of these!
Your child can create endless patterns with this unique and travel-friendly threading toy. We love that the threading tool is attached to each toy (an adorable turtle and starfish), as this minimizes the chances that it will fall between airline or car seats.
This unique travel toy for four-year-olds helps develop problem-solving and hand-eye coordination and can also build your child’s shoe-tying skills! They can play with these lightweight threading toys again and again, and they conveniently fit into the side pocket of your diaper bag or your child’s backpack.
If you’re searching for a noise-free toy to cut down on the inevitable fidgeting and squirming that goes hand-in-hand with long flights and car rides, this travel toy works like a charm. It comes in a variety of shapes and colors, and the lightweight silicone is easy to wash off and wipe clean.
Your child can use this as a fun fidget toy, or they can play a bubble-popping game with their sibling (if age-appropriate). This Lizber Push Pop Fidget Toy is an excellent way for your child to work on reasoning skills, mental arithmetic, and critical thinking as well (even my tween still enjoys this one!)
The best travel toys for four-year-olds come with multiple playing options, and this Melissa and Doug Flip-to-Win Memory Game hits the mark. This is a perfect game for siblings to play with each other or for you to play with your child on flights or in the airport on a layover.
The wooden memory game comes with seven double-sided cards to add a different competitive element each time, and your child can keep the score right on their game card.
This entertaining book for toddlers is ideal for any four-year-old who loves to color, count, and problem-solve.
The activities within the book touch on foundational learning concepts such as numbers, letters, shapes, simple words, and counting, and the thick lines on the coloring pages help your child stay within the lines, reducing potential frustration (some children are very meticulous colorers!). The best part is, no batteries are required!
We love that these art tools come with a carrying case to minimize the chances that your child accidentally leaves that essential purple marker on a plane that’s now heading to Detroit.
The clear backpack comes with a little bit of everything, which is perfect for providing your four-year-old with different activity options. The kit contains crayons, Ultra-Clean washable markers, sidewalk chalk, stamps, and a stamp pad. You can easily remove items you don’t want to bring along to make room for other travel toys as well.
Help your four-year-old improve their number recognition and counting skills with this engaging, magnetic number maze. Children can move the apples into their appropriate number slots with the attached magnetic wand, and the clear cover prevents any unwanted messes.
The board itself has a sturdy wood construction to protect against accidental drops, and it’s appropriate for ages 3-5, so younger siblings can join in the fun. It’s a little on the bulkier side so not great for flying and small backpacks but perfect for car trips and waiting in restaurants.
There’s nothing wrong with revisiting class travel toys, and your four-year-old will love giving Wooly Willy all kinds of crazy hairstyles.
Your child can use the magnetic wand to create fun and funky eyebrows, moustaches, and hairdos, and it’s sure to have everyone in your row of the plane giggling.
Your little artists will love this on-the-go Crayola Washable Dry Erase Travel Pack, which is an excellent, mess-free solution to markers and paper while traveling.
The travel case opens up to provide your child with two different drawing surfaces, and elastic bands hold the included dry erase markers securely in place. Once finished, you can use the E-Z Erase Cloth to clear the drawing board for more masterpieces.
This travel-sized magnetic drawing board is another excellent way for your child to create endless drawings without the added clutter of used paper and potential messes of crayons and markers.
The erasable board comes with the pen attached, ensuring these two items stay together throughout your entire journey. We also love the four color zones on the board instead of just a black background option. Three fun-shaped stampers are included and snap securely onto the drawing board.
We’re fans of any travel toy for four-year-olds that’s designed to minimize the loss of game pieces, which is why the Take ‘N’ Play Anywhere Matching game has our vote.
The game can be played alone or with a partner, and the magnetic matching pieces stick securely to the metal playing boards. This is an excellent way to pass the time on a long car ride or flight, and it can be mixed, sorted, and repeatedly played for hours of entertainment.
Although we certainly don’t advocate plugging your child into their tablet for the duration of your travels, we also cannot deny that a tablet can be one of the best travel toys for four-year-olds. There are times when they’re going to be required to sit down and be quieter than usual, and there is nothing wrong with allowing them time to watch a few downloaded episodes of their favorite show.
This Amazon Fire 7 Kids Tablet with a 7” display comes with a year of Amazon Kids+, and you can download additional apps at your discretion. The tablet is also wonderfully customizable so that you can set time limits for your child each day in all content areas. The secure case protects against bumps and falls, and it even comes with a two-year warranty.
And of course, the golden rule of tablet use – bring headphones! Although 4-year olds are a little more careful with these things than the toddler crowd, you still need something robust and volume limiting like the Mpow CH6S Kids Headphones have proven to one of the most reliable and long-lasting with our kids.
Other ways to engage your kids on long trips
Sometimes all the toys in the world aren’t going to help keep your kids entertained, you’ll need some good old-fashioned family engagement!
Games – check out some of these great ideas for family word games and guessing games that can work superbly on a long journey.
Audiobooks – a great way to engage together is to listen along with a favourite audiobook – trust me, parents, you’re never too old to enjoy this, and I’ll bet you enjoy reliving some of the classic too! Why not try a Free audible trial on Amazon over the summer?
Podcasts – similarly, podcasts come in short, sharp episodes perfect for this age group with humorous stories and interesting facts that can engage for short periods of time. Adams World is a fun favourite to try, or Noddle Loaf for a laugh.
Snacks – why have we waited so long to mention snacks! Whether it’s the anticipation of an exciting snack stop or keeping energy levels going along the way, a good arsenal of healthy travel snacks will immensely help your pre-schooler on a long journey.
Leave us a comment below if there are any other four-year-old travelling favourites you think we should add to our list! (or something that should definitely be left off!!)
More tips for pre-schooler travel
Are you new to travelling with a toddler or preschooler, or would like some more pointers and advice to make your first trip run smoothly? We recommend you also pop over to these pages:
- Best lightweight strollers for travel (that can even fit on the plane)
- Helping kids sleep on planes – the best airplane sleep devices
- How to survive road tripping with young kids
- Hiking with young kids – how to make it fun & essential gear to pack
- Healthy Toddler & Kids snacks for long trips
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Don’t miss our latest travel toy guides:
- Best travel toys for every age group
- Tried & tested travel toys for a 1-year-old
- Travel toys perfect for your 2-year-old
- Terrific travel toys for a 3-year-old
- Engaging toys for toddlers on road trips
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