Engaging Travel Toys for Toddlers in the Car

Heading out on a long road trip with your toddler soon? Or heck even an hour-long journey down the road can feel a million miles when there’s a little one in the back crying out for your attention and to be entertained.

child driving a toy car packed full of toys - best car trip toys

We’ve written a few travel toy round-ups for parents before, based on our many hours with kids in the air and on the road. Today, we want to specifically help all of you about to embark on a long car journey. We’ll help you narrow it down to the best and most appropriate toys for toddlers in the car.

This post is part of both our toddler Travel advice and our family road trip series


Best Road Trip Toys for Toddlers

Toddlers really are a tricky bunch to travel with. This age and stage really brings back the best and worst of all our travel memories! The memories are undoubtedly beautiful and we wouldn’t change those moments for the world. However, don’t be mistaken; travelling with a toddler takes careful planning.

Whilst yes, we do recommend you pack toys for a toddler, you don’t need to go overboard – there’s only so much room in your diaper bag! We have provided you quite a comprehensive list here, but don’t forget kids of this age simply just want YOU!

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Make sure any car travel toys you buy for toddlers are:

  1. Safe for your toddler to play with without direct supervision (particularly if you cannot directly reach your infant in the car).
  2. Not too small so no risk of being swallowed or disappearing off between car seats.
  3. They won’t distract the driver – we’re talking those horribly noisy ones – or even worse a tablet being played at full pelt and no headphones!!

On this toddler toy list, we have deliberately ignored electronics. Yes, in theory, you could start introducing a small tablet at this age or passing them your device to get them through a tough moment. But there are so many other wonderful and engaging toys for this age group, you really don’t need electronics just yet.

>> See all our favourite worldwide road trip destinations here


Our favourite road trip toys for toddlers 2020

Soft Activity Books have hands down been one of our best toddler entertainers over the years. Children can independently explore with a variety of different scenes to choose from. All the parts attach to the book so no need to fear missing parts, and you can even teether the book to their infant car seat so it doesn’t fall down. And no problem if it ends up in their mouth as it’s machine washable.

Buckle Toys Buster is one of our favourites that sees kid through from the infant years into toddler. Buster is a small soft, foldable lovie, ideal as a toddler toy for road trips. There are 6 different clasps and buckles allowing for several different activities that can be undertaken independently.

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Buster now has some beautiful colored friends too like the pink Bella, and bright yellow bongo. You’ll be pleased to know they are easily machine washable too!

Learn to dress monkey, as well as his friend Learn to Dress Kitty, are wonderful, loveable teddies with 11 different activities for small hands from ties to zips and buttons, a guaranteed car entertainer without any small parts to go missing.

Billy Backpack Bear (from the same makers as Buckle Buster) is a great way for your toddlers to store a few of their small possessions with them on your next road trip. As a toddler backpack, it’s small and light (13″ x 8″) with the added bonus of plenty of fine motor fun, plus Billy has his own belly clock – perfect for answering that question “are we there yet!”

The MAMMA Kiddie soft activity book is another great option for toddlers in the car 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 inclusion in your luggage, and yes, machine washable!

Montessori Activity Quiet Book another one that’s great for no missing parts, everything your toddler needs is sewn into this soft activity book. Plenty of bright colours and engaging activities from zips to snapping and tying. It even comes with it’s own machine washing bag so small parts don’t get damaged in the wash.

As your toddler dexterity improves, we love introducing a Magna Doodle Magnetic drawing board. We’re starting to get a little chunkier now than the soft toys, so keep it to toddler lap size, and do watch the appropriate age group. The pens on Magna Doodle products normally attach, but the stamps and other attachments may not!

Alphabet Water Painting is such a great travel toy for toddlers. They are super easy to fit in your bag, far less mess than normal paint you only need a few drops of water and your little artist is ready to go. We love that the Alphabet water cards come clipped together so the parts don’t go missing. You can also get them in numbers.

This Hide-And-Seek Alphabet Pop Up has 50 shape, colour and letter push flaps. made with sturdy BPA-free plastic, it’s again getting on the larger chunkier side for small children but guaranteed hours of self-guided fun. With it’s own carry handle your little one can take it everywhere with them.

As your little one starts to grow, it’s time to level up their car play space! A Car Seat Travel Tray works great for your older toddlers who are moving on to the next stage of travel toys where coloring and higher concentration level games can take place. Look for features such as built-in bottle holders and a handy carry strap when choosing a car travel tray for your toddler.

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Other travel activities for toddlers in the car

Whilst toys that engage your little one will most definitely help, remember the most important thing your little one wants is YOU! Now we know driving the car from the back seat really isn’t practical, but here are a few more ideas on how to engage your toddlers on long road trips, even if you’re the driver:

Songs – a singalong in the car to their favourite nursery fits is bound to put a smile on your little ones face. Allow yourself to have fun and be goofy! Mis-singing their favourites and adding your own words 9maybe about your destination) always gives ours a giggle

Imagination games – I’ll admit I’ve always found this one tough, I simply think I was born without this creative bone! But you can do it!!! Once you get started your little ones will help keep the creativity flowing. Start with a sensible story, then each of you has to add a silly twist. We have plenty more no-screen travel game ideas here.

Audiobooks – When you’re all done with the talking, a great way to pass the hours on a long car journey. A wonderful non-toy gift you can suggest to family & friends is to give something like Audible a try.  They have a great range of kids storybooks to choose from – as well as adults, a few you could try:

Snacks – We cannot emphasize enough how important snacks are for a long journey – they are half the event in themselves, never mind what’s happening out the window! Do take care with toddlers though, if they are in the back unaided it may be sensible to pull over for snack stops, a good chance for you to all stretch your legs – learn more here.


Want more toddler travel & toy advice for your next family vacation?

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