Have a long car trip ahead of you and feeling seriously confused on how your baby, toddler, or preschooler will handle it?! I”ve been there! Discover our tried and true, very best toddler toys for road trips that we’ve used with our 1 year old and 3 year old.
Plus I’m sharing more tips and tricks that will keep even the squirmiest 2 year old entertained after I share our top picks!
Car Seat Organizer Kids Travel Tray
Okay before we jump into the road trip toys, let’s talk about where you’re using all the toys! Because toddler laps can be small and wobbly, and things can be dropped easily. This car seat organizer is a game changer for long car rides.
You strap it safely around your child’s waist, and the lap tray sits on top of their carseat. You can add cups and quick access items to the side pockets. We have this one and this one – both are great and about the same size with easy storage. They each feature a dry erase board as the tray table too, so your kid can color if it you want and a pocket for a water bottle. Additionally, they both are good quality and come in different colors.
The major difference comes down to the pockets and your child’s hand eye coordination.
This one is a good choice for younger toddlers to manage as the pockets are a bit more open and there’s more of a lip for the tray at their belly. Whereas this pick features mesh pockets, where they need a little more height/dexterity to get things out and the lip at the waist isn’t as big.
Sensory Toy Grab Bin
We are HUGE fans of sensory toys in general for calming toddlers, and find a sensory toy pack like this to not only be wildly cost effective, but also insanely perfect for road trips and travel.
We personally have this one which includes 50 total pieces and 23 different items. It’s rated safe for 3 year olds and up, but there are several items safe for 1 year olds too.
The items I feel comfortable giving my one year old in the car: sensory tubes, any of the foldover and rubik cubes, key chains, the white ball with the colors, and the motion bubble lamp.
The other items you would definitely want to supervise closely, as the fidget spinners and squishy toys can easily pose choking hazards. If you do want a fidget spinner for a baby, I’d get these one’s instead which are rated safe for 10 months and up from a reputable brand.
The one con about the pack we have, is that it does no include those pop toys, but we already have this one, rated safe for babies again, so I didn’t feel the need to choose a pack that included those as my kids don’t tend to love them.
We are huge fans of the Yoto Mini as a (mostly) screen free option for keeping toddlers entertained and is one of the best travel toys in general whether it’s a long flight or long car ride.
The speaker power is the same as the regular Yoto, but the smaller size makes it more travel friendly and easier for toddler’s to carry by themselves.
The starter pack includes 7 audio books on cards that you insert into your Yoto Player. You can purchase additional audio cards and they have a great selection of music, educational activities, podcasts, and audiobooks. Toddlers can turn the large dials to change the volume and skip back or forward.
It has a USB charging port, and the battery lasts all day. At the bottom is a little pixel screen with simple graphics to bring whatever they are listening to, to life. Lastly it features a standard headphone jack and you can purchase a carrying bag too.
Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog Fidget Friend
For toddlers who are too young to understand the beauty of a Bop It or you don’t feel comfortable with a fidget spinner, the Fine Motor Hedgehog Fidget friend is a great alternative perfectly sized for little hands. There are six fidget sides: bop it, spin the wheel, turn the crank, pull the tab, etc. all connected on an adorable hedgehog.
Parents can appreciate that there are few pieces/clutter than the previously mentioned sensory sets, and if it does fall, it’s easier to grab than those smaller loose items.
Additionally, it’s rated safe for 18 months and up, making it the perfect pick and our go to with our 1 year olds on long trips. Lastly, even my husband fidgets with this thing, so it’s a winner in our house.
Lacing toys work fine motor skills and work on a slew of practical life skills that foster confidence and concentration.
For younger kids, I love the wooden 3 piece set. The chunky wood makes it easy for littles fingers, and the various shapes keep it intriguing. Additionally, the lace is attached to each fruit, so it’s one complete item.
For older toddlers and preschoolers, the The Very Hungry Caterpillar lacing cards are a great next step. It comes with 10 unique cards and 10 laces; I just suggest tying the last to a card before giving it to your child to reduce the likelihood it drops/gets lost.
Magnetic drawing boards have been a GO TO car seat toy for us since my first was about 2 years old and is one of the best toddler toys for road trips for kids as young as 1 and up to 7 years old in my opinion. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how much she’d like it, so I got one from the Dollar Tree (they sell mini one’s every spring in the seasonal section).
She quickly fell in love, but it was too small so we upgraded her to the Cra-Z-Art Travel Magna Doodle which other’s recommended, but I didn’t like that the pen wasn’t attached to the board – making it very easy to lose. Finally we found the perfect one: the Fisher Price DoodlePro!
It comes in blue and purple. The stylus is attached, so you don’t need to worry about them losing it on the road. There are also four little magnets and a carrying handle. Lastly, it’s super durable if your toddler decides to jab the screen instead of draw.
NOTE: If the Fisher-Price DoodlePro is sold out, the SGILE Magnetic Drawing Board is a great alternative which also features a multicolored background. Additionally, for toddler’s under 3, do not give the magnets to them inthe car!
HABA Town Maze Magnetic Game Puzzle
Our local library carries a wide variety of magnetic game puzzles that my toddler LOVES. They also make perfect road trip toys as they are one piece, with a stylus attached, and large enough to grab if dropped.
While you can get a magnetic puzzle as more educational toys in a wide variety of themes from ABCs, numbers, colors, and more, we love the HABA Town maze puzzle because it has some fun features like a spinning wheel and moveable roadway block.
You can encourage your toddler to sort the colored balls to the matching colored garage too. My 3 year old loves making up stories, so we found this board open ended enough she could create pretend scenarios compared to some of the more close ended puzzles.
Lastly, HABA has some other great magnetic puzzles and travel toys to choose from and you get $10 off when you click here and spend more than $50.
Our buckle toy came in a Lovevery Companion play kit, and it’s brought hours and hours of fun! It’s always been on of our special car seat toys and provides a great challenge that my oldest has enjoyed since 2 years old.
The amazon picks have a ton of adorable options from unicorns, penguins, turtles, and more. Additionally, a lot of theirs include a zippered pocket in the buckle pillow, making it the perfect travel companion.
Busy books are essentially hands on learning activity books for toddlers that come in a huge variety of styles. The thing to keep in mind while shopping for one: how many loose pieces there are as well as your child’s skill level.
For young kids we love this Quiet Book as all the pieces are attached, it’s machine washable, and offers a variety of practical life skills and fun textures to explore. While this is rated for 3 year olds and up, we found more success using it between 1 and 2 years old.
For my older toddler, we have this busy board which is essentially a felt folder with handles and a clasp, that opens to 14 different buckling activities from zippers, velcro, buttons, and more. My daughter took a liking to this one after 3 years old.
Toddlers especially love to copy mom and dad, so what better toy for a road trip than their very own little driver toy?
For kids 6 months to 3 years old, we think the VTech Turn and Learn Driver is a fun toy. This interactive toy includes a steering wheel with a horn, turn signal, gear shift, side view mirror, and turn key.
Additionally, there are five color buttons and three modes: driving, music or animals, and songs. NOTE: it does require 2 AA batteries and the one’s included are for DEMO mode only, so swap them out before you leave and have an extra set just in case!
For older kids, we love Melissa & Doug Vroom & Zoom Interactive Wooden Dashboard + Steering Wheel which is best for 3 to 7 year olds, so it’s going to last a while! It’s not as noisy as the VTECH one, but it comes packed with features!
The realistic steering wheel and set is us mounted on a wooden dashboard that easily fits in kids laps. There’s a scrolling GPS, turn key, gear shift, built in radio with 4 stations, heat and A/C vents, gas tank counter and gas cap, turn signals and hazards, and more.
It automatically shuts off after 5 minutes. This requires 2 AA batteries. Please keep in mind though, this is a bit heavy, so while it can sit in your child’s lap, if it’s too big for them or you get in a car accident it could pose a problem.
Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow!
Water based coloring books are perfect no mess picks for road trips. The Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! are SO thoughtfully designed.
The water pen actually has a hard base, so you don’t need to worry about your toddler squeeze water out/everywhere. Each book includes four reusable pages – so once it dries the image disappears and your kid can re-use. Additionally, the cover has built-in storage for the water pen so you can keep everything in one piece. Rated for kids 3 to 7 years old, we’ve also found our 1 year old loves it.
Alternatively, the Crayola Color Wonder Mess-Free Coloring Kit is a great option for travel at your destination as the markers only work on the pages. However we don’t love it as much as Melissa & Doug’s for the car because it’s not reusable and juggling all the markers and caps can become annoying in the car.
Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads
Melissa & Doug offer a massive selection of reusable stickers. These come in a few styles with a couple things to note. First, they offer extra wide reusable sticker books, you do not want those for travel as they are quite cumbersome for little laps. Make sure you are opt for the ones that are travel size, like a small note book or sheet of paper (all the picks below match that).
Next are the style of reusable stickers. They offer puffy stickers, which are great because they work on any paper – not just the book they come with – and these generally don’t stick permanently to anything.
The other style is more of a window cling sticker that works specifically on windows, hard surfaces, or the activity book. Generally the puffy stickers come with more stickers than the window cling style.
Beyond that, you can choose from a huge array of interests from ocean, safari, mermaids, horseback riding, Paw Patrol, careers, and more.
Wikki Sticks are AWESOME and a great activity to make different designs! We were first introduced to them while on vacation at a restaurant actually and my toddler, as well as us, fell in love. They’re a non-toxic waxed yarn you can mold into different 2D and 3D designs, or fidget with.
The travel set comes with 144 sticks in bright colors, as well as a 12 page booklet full of ideas. You can also get an add on card set that your child can recreate the designs on the cards with the wikki stixs’. I do like the cards for toddlers first starting out as it shows different activities and you can teach them how to use wikki stix before letting their imagination run wild. On the flip side you could even use a simple coloring pages and have them bring the design to life with wikki stixs on top.
Lastly, these are no mess, other than picking up the loose pieces. With that said, if your child has sensory preferences for their hands, they may not like them as they do leave your hands feeling waxy after a while.
LeapFrog Shapes & Sharing Picnic Basket
While you may have a shape sorter toy, the LeapFrog Shapes & Sharing Picnic Basket is especially great for long car rides and the perfect travel toy once you get to your destination rated for toddlers for 6 months to 4 years old.
During the road trip, toddlers can play with the shape sorting puzzle in their lap. Once you get to your destination the puzzle becomes a pretend play set.
It’s a great 2-for-1 toy that conveniently stores all of it’s pieces inside and has a carrying handle to easily grab and pass to the kids.
It’s pretty much one of the only multi-piece toys I recommend for long drives. It comes with 15 pieces in total; forks, cups, a tablecloth, plus two pieces of each food shape, so you have back ups while in the car.
Additionally, kids can press the button to hear music or a polite snack request, when they place the correct food in it responds positively. There are three play modes with music, shapes, and colors. It also lights up and includes 3 AA demo batteries, so we suggest bring extras.
Magnetic tiles are obviously a toddler favorite and one of the best toys in general for this age group, and we’ve found grabbing a stack an awesome car ride toy. Kids love just fidgeting with them, and you can easily hand them a small stack to build little things with. If you have a car seat organizer, than can obviously build bigger set ups and use them for pretend play in their lap too.
We find them easy to clean up, replace, and pass back extras if anything falls. You can get toy storage bags like these, and just place 20-40 in there.
If you don’t already own magnetic tiles, there are tons at every price point out there; all with comparable quality despite the price:
LeapFrog 100 Books
We are generally a montessori family without a lot of battery powered toys, despite this list – but one item we do love is the LeapFrog 100 Animals Book which features a nice mix of real animal photos and cartoons; the other books in this style generally only show cartoons.
Beyond that though, they all feature english and spanish mode and three play modes which vary by theme. Kids touch the image to hear a fun fact, sound, or name related to it. Additionally, the light up star plays music when pressed and there are two volume settings.
It’s rated for 18 months and up and includes 2 AA demo batteries (so bring extras!). Both my 1 and 3 year old love this toy. It has a handle and can easily be grabbed if dropped and passed between multiple kids.
Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Travel Memory Game
Melissa & Doug Flip Memory Game is a simple game and another favorite of the whole family. While it’s rated for 5 to 7 year olds, my 3 year old loves it. Around 2 years old we started doing memory matching games with her, so I think if your toddler has played matching games before, you can definitely introduce it earlier.
It includes 7 double sided laminated cards, that easily store in the wooden game piece, and 24 matching flaps. Kids can play on their own or you can pass it back and forth and keep score at the bottom as a fun game with another family member.
Discover the road trip through your toddler’s eyes with a toddler camera! Discover our complete list of the best toddler cameras reviewed here where we break down toy ones, digital ones, and instant print picks!
Overall, we are huge fans of the OZMI. Which is a digital camera for toddler’s with a few different fun filters and frames. The battery holds all day in our experience. While the photos are not the best quality (think back to you Motorola Razr flip phone days), it’s durable, fun, and generally affordable.
Oh and it comes with puffy stickers! Which are another pick on this list anyway!
Truly, it’ll become one of your favorite things looking back on the family road trip through your toddler’s eyes and I highly recommend it!
FAQs on Road Trips + Toddlers
How to choose the best toddler toys for road trips?
When it comes to choosing toys for babies and toddlers during long car rides I want to keep in mind a few things:
- Are there any choking hazards?
- How many pieces can drop/get lost?
- How easy is it to pass back or pick up if dropped?
- Will they miss it if it doesn’t come home with us?
- How easy or difficult is it to replace?
- Are they interested in this right now?
Safety and accessibility are generally the two biggest criteria to keep in mind.
What should a toddler take on a long car ride?
Involving your toddler in the process of packing for a long car ride is one of the best ways to guarantee they’ll actually use the toys you bring or eat the snacks you pack.
Personally, I pull out our road trip toys, and then let my toddler pack her bag from that selection. You can do this with a baby 1, year old, 2 year old, and so on. This provides the opportunity to follow the child’s interests as Dr. Montessori suggests and increases the likelihood your kids will actually use the items in the car.
How do you keep a 2 year old entertained on a long road trip?
While some families swear by iPads for little kids, we try to avoid those as much as possible as our toddler tends to get crankier when she watches more screen time. One of the best things we’ve personally found for long car rides is the Yoto Mini where she can listen to books as that’s very calming for her and passes time nicely.
However every kid is different, so really go off their interests.
Generally I suggest parents think about what kept them entertained as a kid and opt for that. I always read and listened to music on car rides, watching screens would make me car sick, and I find that to be true with my kids too.
How do I keep my 18 month old entertained in the car?
Around 18 months, toddlers tend to really need some gross motor challenges so all of the above tips apply, but also be prepared to stop and stretch your legs more often than with a 3 year old toddler. Look for areas you can stop and let them climb or go up and down stairs for 20 minutes can make a huge difference!
How can I be entertained on a long car ride?
Bring your own headphones if you’re not driving and listen to a book or music if the kids toys are too loud. Additionally, both my husband and I love using the kids fidget toys.
What if my kid doesn’t like any of the toys while in the car?
Keep the toys for a long car ride hidden and then the night before you leave, have them pack the toys into two bags: one that will go in their car seat organizer, and the other that stays up front with you.
From there, practice toy rotation. They need to trade one in to get a new one. If your toddler is anything like mine, they may request a new toy every 2 minutes at first, in which case you can implement a timer that you trade every 5 or 10 minutes to encourage a more focused play.
Just like in a montessori playroom we want to keep a limited amount of toys on our montessori shelves to encourage a deeper play, you still want to practice toy rotation in the car too!
What toys do you not recommend for a road trip with toddlers?
Personally, I don’t like anything that has too many pieces, poses a choking hazard, or I can’t easily replace.
For instance, with my first as a baby, I’d bring a handful of larger, soft Lovevery toys on vacation, like their buckle toy. However now that she’s a toddler and we have a second kid, things get lost/dirty/broken much more often and we no longer bring those toys with us.
What fidgets are good for road trips?
Everyone has their own preference for fidget toys, so we suggest getting a multi-pack like this to see what everyone likes. Both my kids love the motion bubblers, sensory tubes, and moveable cubes/balls. My older toddler is obsessed with her squishies and uses them in pretend play and for soothing.
When it comes to long road trips with toddlers, the best thing you can do is involve them in the process, prepare their car seat with a lap tray, and have a variety of items to pass the time. We’ve found the best toddler toys for road trips to be our Yoto Mini and HABA Town maze puzzle with our older toddler. While the entire family has enjoyed this fidget toy pack and Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Travel Memory Game.