Remember when you were pregnant, and you were super anti-screen time? Yeah, us too.
With several years of parenthood between us, we live the parenting philosophy of “Do whatever you need to do,” especially when traveling. Whether you’re taking your toddler on a road trip or an airplane, your little one is going to need some entertainment. We’re here to give you more options to have in your parenting toolkit.
There are so many travel toys on the market, but which ones are worth purchasing? Where do you begin? Which toys will get you out of survival mode and into the “we’re all having a pretty okay time” frame of mind? Which toys will help to avoid the incessant pestering of “Are we there yet?” And, how do we have fun and minimize screen time?
Have we told you lately that you’re a great parent? Because you are.
If your upcoming travel is a road trip, we highly suggest starting with our Road Trip Packing List. Then move onto the list below of our favorite travel toys for toddlers. We’re working on another post for older kids, but we wanted to start with the ones who are often the squirmiest.
So, without much further ado, our 16 best travel toys for toddlers—tested and TL-approved:
Toddler Travel Toys
Featuring sturdy, chunky pieces, and a zip-up travel pouch, the Mudpuppy Pouch Puzzle is the ultimate on-the-go travel puzzle. The puzzle is available in multiple themes, each with bold artwork and made with 90% recycled paper. The finished puzzle is 14″ x 11″.
For another puzzle option, check out the Four-in-a-Box Puzzles by the same manufacturer. It’s a progressive set, with each finished puzzle measuring just 6″ x 8″.
We love a wipe-clean book. They’re so versatile and last for years. Plus, littles love the whole experience of scribbling and then wiping the book clean.
The Dot to Dot for Tiny Tots Wipe Clean Activity Book is an ideal first activity book for toddlers. It is full of simple dot-to-dot exercises and maze puzzles that help toddlers develop their fine motor and problem-solving skills, as well as number recognition.
If your kiddo likes wipe-clean activities, check out The Big Seek and Find by the same author.
Meet Spike! He’s the perfect little friend to keep tiny, curious hands occupied. With six ways to fidget (spin the wheel, turn the crank, press the button, twist the knob, pull the plunger, and move the switch), Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog is the perfect toddler travel companion.
Spike helps little hands build fine motor skills, and his size makes him easy to take on the go in the car and beyond.
You’ve probably seen (and may already own) one of Melissa & Doug’s wooden shape sorters. Now, you can take shape sorting on the go! The Take-Along Shape Sorter includes a padded case with two activity sides, a take-along handle, and nine textured blocks in various colors and shapes.
Your toddler will love the crinkly flaps, bright rainbow hues, and endless entertainment. You’ll love the freedom to listen to whatever you want to, instead of “Let It Go” for the 1,000th time. Just us?
Perfect for toddlers nine months and up, this travel companion will come with you on all the trips!
Whirly Squigz are “fun little spinners” that stick to any smooth, non-porous surface, then give them a spin, and around they go! Perfect for sticking on the car or airplane window, but also fun for littles to play with in their hands. Entertaining for kids while they learn cause and effect and work on their fine motor skills.
Looking for an on-the-go toy with one to very few pieces? Grab the Buckle Toy Busy Board. This colorful all-in-one features vibrant buckles, shoelaces, snap pockets, and a zipper. It helps toddlers—and those with special needs—develop fine motor and cognitive skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving.
It’s hard to lose and is made of soft foam material that weighs less than a pound. It also has a built-in handle for easy carrying. If you want to start with just one thing, start with this!
Another stroke of genius from Melissa & Doug, this Water Wow! Bundle (Animals, Alphabet, and Numbers) will keep your kiddos entertained for hours. If you have more than one child, do yourself a favor and get two sets. They won’t share.
These activity books are a great alternative to screens—they promote fine motor skills, early writing/reading skills, and visual discrimination. They’re ideal for kiddos 3-5, but younger and older kids enjoy these booklets, too (trust, our kids currently range in age from one to eight). Oh, and make sure you have water on hand for the refillable pens.
Another all-in-one toy we love is the deMoca Quiet Book for Toddlers. It’s a sturdy, durable cloth activity book that features nine Montessori toddler activities, including real-life challenges like buckling, snapping, and shoe-tying.
This handy little book keeps kiddos entertained (and quiet!) for long periods while working through the activities. Bonus: It’s machine-washable.
There is just something so appealing to toddlers about pens, isn’t there? Your littles are in luck because Hape’s Go-Fish-Go Magnetic Maze Puzzle comes with a “magic wand” that allows them to guide magnetic beads through a fish-shaped maze that looks a whole lot like Nemo.
Hape is known for its high-quality, non-toxic wood products, and this puzzle is no exception—it’s durable, reinforces motor skills, and helps develop refined logic and problem-solving skills. Pieces are enclosed and fixed for your safety and convenience, and its sturdy wooden materials and transparent plastic cover keep the beads securely in place.
Even as adults, we love a doodle board, so why wouldn’t your kiddos? This Magnetic Drawing Board offers a large drawing area, magnetized stamps (read: hard to lose!), and a premium eraser that is larger and smoother for kids to gently slide and erase their drawings. The board itself comes in an ergonomic shape with a built-in handle that’s easy to grip and carry.
This board brings doodles to life in vivid color, is non-BPA, and features a curved pen tip that prevents potential injuries. The whole family will love this toy!
Help the caterpillar eat its way through this cute apple toy by lacing it through the holes until you run out of string. There are 16 holes in the apple and an endless variety of ways for the caterpillar to “eat” the apple.
Measuring 5.7 “X5.5” and weighing just 3.5 ounces, this is the perfect toy to play with while traveling. Toddlers sitting on a plane or in a car are more likely to remain calm and happy if they have their caterpillar and apple in their hands. Non-toxic, lead, and BPA-free, this compact little buddy will be a favorite for your next trip.
These Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks are MADE for travel. They’re non-toxic and can be configured to make all kinds of things—jet airplanes (as shown here), a rocket ship, a sailboat, a bird, etc. Let your toddler’s imagination run wild and encourage open-ended and unscripted play with this six-piece starter set.
You can feel good about investing in Tegu for your kiddos, too: these toys are built from natural wood and made with water-based finishes and recycled packaging. Naturally safe, they’re made without lead or plastic.
Designed in the US, purposefully made in Honduras, Tegu makes heirloom-quality toys that would be at home wherever life takes you.
Two. Hundred. Pages. Of activities. Two! Hundred! My First Big Book of Coloring is a jumbo coloring book full of wacky activities that are the perfect companion for your next long car ride or multi-hour plane trip. It has cute artwork (with a theme for every child), chunky black lines, and fun characters your kiddos will love filling in (and pointing out to you).
Coloring books have been a go-to resource for decades, and they keep getting better!
This sensory exploration toy has soft, silicone bubbles that little fingers will love to poke. The size makes it perfect to carry in a diaper bag, and hand to your toddler when you need a moment to yourself.
One more toy that’s idea for traveling is SmartMax animal sets. With a soft body connected with a magnet, kids can “click” the animals together in any crazy configuration. Choose farm animals, dinosaurs, safari animals, and more.
What toys have you loved taking on road trips? We always enjoy hearing from you, so be sure to tell us what has helped you travel happily with your toddler(s). Comment here, and be sure to tag us on social media with your finds: @thriftylittles on Instagram and Facebook.
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