LAST UPDATED: October 7, 2019
Best Travel Toys for Toddlers: Promote Creative Play
Educate and entertain your child during long trips with these top travel toys for toddlers
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON October 7, 2019
Toddlers are always bursting with energy, and they can be challenging during long road trips or when traveling in planes. Fortunately, you can channel all that energy into a toy that can keep them entertained during a trip. If you don’t want to use electronic games on a mobile device to distract them, you can use one or more of the following travel toy options in our buying guide below.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Travel Toys for Toddlers
- Make rides entertaining. Without something to keep them entertained, children quickly get bored during rides. Having a toy or two in your vehicle is a good way to keep your little one happy. While playing with toys, children pay less attention to the time spent in just one position, and rides become significantly more entertaining for them.
- Enhance safety. If children don't have toys to play with during rides, they mostly focus on getting parents’ attention. They talk and sing loudly and bend over their seats to catch the eyes of adult drivers. That behavior is extremely dangerous, especially because it might drag parents' eyes away from the road. Travel toys prevent that from happening by keeping kids entertained, and therefore, make rides safer.
- Improve skills. Some travel toys are not only entertaining, but educational too. Parents can choose engaging items that improve children's motor and mental skills. By solving puzzles, coloring, drawing, and doing other similar activities, children engage their little minds and learn more about the world during every ride.
Melissa & Doug
Melissa & Doug is one of the first choices among parents when it comes to children's toys. It is a company founded in 1988 and located in Wilton, Conn. The production started in the basement, where Melissa and Doug made wooden crafts and toys. The company grew quickly and is highly-favored among customers for many years. The Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad is the top budget choice on our list.
Playskool is a subsidiary company of Hasbro and is headquartered in Pawtucket, R.I. It all started in 1928 when one of the company's employees created children wooden toys to serve as teaching aids for classroom purposes. Today, Playskool produces all kinds of fun and educational children's toys. The Playskool Classic Dressy Kids Boy Plush Toy is one of those items we find perfect for traveling.
Travel Toys for Toddlers Pricing
- Under $20: At this price point, you can get simple and entertaining toys that come in a compact and lightweight design. These are ideal for parents who would like to save some space in their vehicles, and transport and store children's toys with ease.
- $20 and up: For a couple more bucks, you can get large activity sets and toys perfect for long-distance traveling. These toys keep children entertained for longer because they are more complex. They also provide more in educational terms and last for longer due to the high-quality design.
Parents know best which toys their children find entertaining and which ones they find completely dull. Children express their interests in certain activities at the youngest age. Therefore, it's best to think of what your child finds entertaining and not just go for the first item other parents recommend.
Our advice would be to pick travel toys according to your child's age and interests. If your budget allows it, you can get different toys to see which ones your child likes the most and then pick within the category further on.
We also recommend picking toys according to the traveling distance. Activity sets and more engaging items make the best option for long trips. Complex toys and games will keep children focused for longer, so they don't lose interest in the middle of the journey. For short trips, you can get away with simple toys that are easy to pack, store, and maintain.
There are a couple more things to consider when it comes to maintaining and storing toys. You might want to pick items that don't take too much space in your vehicle, especially if you have a limited storage area. However, small toys are easy to lose under seats, so consider whether you want to avoid having items scattered around your vehicle.
- Quality and Durability. It's essential to consider the overall quality of each travel toy. Children tend to toss their toys around without worrying about their durability. An item should be sturdy enough to withstand heavy use and last for a while, so you don't have to buy a new one every time you're up for a road trip.
- Maintenance. Another thing to consider is the overall maintenance each toy requires. Some items are super easy to clean, and your little one can play with them over and over again. Others are more challenging to maintain in the long run and might get stained quickly. Therefore, consider what works better for you and try to pick materials that are easier to clean.
Best Travel Toys for Toddlers Reviews & Recommendations 2020
For those seeking out a toy to keep toddlers interested, the ALEX Discover Button Art Activity Set is a fantastic choice. It’s best-suited towards kids aged at least 18 months old. By incorporating multiple bright colors and sensorily engaging parts, it retains children’s attention. With more than 45 buttons and 10 pictures, it lets kids explore craft in a tactile way. The visual cues assist with the development of both imagination and coordination. The buttons go into place easily, preventing issues with impatience or physical difficulty. Since it comes with dual storage options, you don’t have to worry about lost pieces. Instead, it serves to keep young children active during long drives. Working to maintain enthusiasm while on car rides, this button art set is a solid option overall.
When you want a toy that lets children engage with their imagination, the Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad is a great way to go. The pad is large, enabling children to use the space to develop fine motor skills. By featuring different backgrounds, it serves as a way to learn about the world through a scope of familiarity. With hundreds of stickers that can be reused (provided they are on the included sheets), the toy keeps boredom at bay. It comes at a low price; plus, since you can use it for a long time, it offers immense value. The stickers are made using safe glue, making it suitable for children. While some individual stickers might slip out of position, there are easily enough pieces in this toy to keep kids happy on lengthy trips.
If your main focus is something that will soothe your toddler, the Playskool Classic Dressy Kids Boy Plush Toy is a terrific selection. It earns an honorable mention on this list thanks to the comfort it provides. This plush is best for kids over the age of two. Your child can use this toy to play dress up, using one of the five different outfits. It includes features like practice buckles on shoes, serving to assist kids in getting enthusiastic about self-care. The plush is fairly durable and, since the toy is machine washable, you don’t have to worry too much about spills. It’s small enough to fit in the car if you plan on travelling light. With multiple functions like zippers and ties, kids develop motor skills while staying engaged throughout the car ride.
The Kokodi writing tablet is a convenient little toy your child can use everywhere, from home to cars and planes. It's a compact and lightweight item with a wide LCD screen and pressure-sensitive technology. Your little one can write and draw on it with ease and have more fun during every road trip.
If you're worried about your child's safety because of the LCD screen, you'll be glad to hear that this item doesn't emit radiation or have a glare, for that matter. It's completely safe and comfortable even on extended use, and it's highly beneficial for youngsters. The writing tablet enhances children's imagination and preschool learning.
Furthermore, this item comes with a durable battery and an easy-to-use stylus. It weighs only 150 grams and is simple to store and transport between home and various vehicles.
The writing tablet does feel a little flimsy and fragile, though. The colors are not as vibrant as shown in the pictures, and the longevity is questionable. When it comes to the design itself, the only thing that might bother you is the all-erase feature. You can't erase parts of drawings but only the entire screen.
This is one of the most entertaining activity sets you can find for traveling. It's designed for children of different ages and contains 35 wooden pieces and 60 pattern cards. The block set can be used for creating shapes of animals, vehicles, and much more. It's fun and educational, and promotes problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination.
The set doesn't only reduce boredom during road trips, but it also boosts children's creativity and enhances fine motor skills. All the included pieces and cards come in vibrant colors and are easy to put together. They are non-toxic, sturdy, durable, and have smooth edges for more safety for children. Overall, the set is perfect for playing in all kinds of situations and places and is easy to transport and store.
One of the main drawbacks of this collection is the amount of the included pieces. The set allows you only to make one thing at a time. You have to take apart the item you made to make another one, which can be rather annoying. Some buyers also complained about the package missing some pieces upon arrival.
The Wellchild magnetic drawing board is ideal for boys and girls who are from three to six years old. It's a compact and convenient item with smooth edges and four colored zones. The package includes a magnetic pen with a string and a vibrant screen for writing and drawing. Your child can use the board everywhere, from home to cars and planes, and enjoy road trips to the fullest.
The magnetic board has a magnetic eraser as well, so children can both draw and clean the board with ease. The item is made from non-BPA materials safe for use and proves to be very durable. It even comes with a carry bag for easy transportation and storage. Because the board is compact, you won't have any issues with storing it in your vehicle, with or without the provided bag.
Unfortunately, the screen is not that wide. It's perfectly sized for toddlers, but if you want to give your child some extra drawing space, this might not be the best option. Also, it might be challenging to erase a drawing. You'll probably need to take a few swipes back and forth to wipe clean the screen.
This is a simple and fun toy that comes at a budget-friendly price and proves to be ideal for toddlers. We are talking about a lacing bead set that improves fine motor skills and engages children in preschool learning activities. Children can learn to count, sort, and stack, which means learning more about numbers and colors.
The beads come in five colors and seven shapes, which should be enough to keep your child focused and entertained for quite some time. The set offers a quiet game during car rides, which is beneficial for both children and parents. It's also incredibly easy to clean, maintain, and store, so you can take it with you and your child wherever you go.
We think that the end of the string could be more robust, so it doesn't wear out quickly. Some parents wish for the beads to be larger too. Also, most children love to make different things from the bead set, which is impossible due to the low number of items included in the package.
Here we have another set that provides hours of entertaining for children of different ages. For a low price, you get a wooden storage box with 100 magnet pieces, a guide book, three chalks, a dry erase marker, and a regular eraser. The animal-themed wooden pieces have magnetic backing for easy assembly, and the double-sided board allows for playing with puzzles on a white magnetic side and drawing with chalk on the black side.
The best thing about this box is its high portability. You can pack all the pieces inside and let your child open the entertainment box during the ride. Furthermore, the set is ASTM- and CE-approved and safe for children. It boosts imagination, inspires creative play, and encourages curiosity.
There are only two main things to keep in mind with this product. Firstly, the box doesn't have a latch on the lid and is difficult to carry around. Secondly, the chalkboard is not of the best quality. It's not easy to draw on it nor to wipe off the drawings after the use.
This is a busy board toy that has a lot to offer for toddlers. There are nine different buckles, ties, zips, and buttons your child can play with at home, in the car, and at other places and occasions. During the fun part, children also enhance practical skills and develop hand-eye coordination.
The toy is flexible and has soft corners for more safety. It's non-toxic and completely safe for children. Parents also love the lightweight and compact design that allows for great portability and easy storage. There's even a carry strap you can attach or detach according to the situation.
However, keep in mind that this is a low-cost toy. It doesn't offer much in terms of quality and durability, so it might wear out rather quickly. The zipper on the bag is the first to give out due to its fragile design. Therefore, if you're looking for a long-lasting toy or activity set, this might not be a perfect option.
- Consider buying your toddler colorful snacks when you are on a trip. They will keep the child grounded for some time as he or she shifts from playing with the toys to admiring the snack packs.
- With toddlers, one toy is never enough. Your child may have a favorite, but small children get bored easily. Give them a few toy options, and be aware of which one they spend the most time playing with. That’s the toy you should always pack for trips.
- Ensure that all the toys you buy are larger than your fist to prevent choking. Also, avoid buying toys with small detachable parts if you have an infant who loves putting everything in their mouths.
Q: Are educational toys boring for children when traveling?
A: Educational toys are the best for keeping the little one engaged for a long time. Just make sure that the toy is suitable for your child’s age. You can test out the toy before handing it over to them, and if it’s a bit complicated for you, then chances are that it will also frustrate your child and bore them.
Q: Do airlines provide travel toys for children?
A: Carry your own toys if you are flying with your child. Some airlines may provide soft toys, but it’s never a guarantee. Also, bring an entertaining children’s book to keep kids engaged in case they get bored with the toy.
Q: Are travel toys safe for pets?
A: Some toddler toys are safe for pets. Just make sure that the toy isn’t small enough to be swallowed or inhaled. Avoid buying toys that can be chewed up into small parts or small balls that can lodge in the child’s or pet’s trachea.
Our top pick is the ALEX Discover Button Art Activity Set. It will keep your child entertained and comes with a mess-free tray that’s convenient for traveling. It also helps develop your child’s creative and hand-eye-coordination skills.
A more pocket-friendly option is the Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad.