Any caregiver of a toddler knows exactly how active (as in nonstop, all over the place) this age group can be. And travelers know there’s something about putting a toddler in a confined setting—say, an airplane or a car—that can make their sudden need to run wild kick into overdrive.
We’re here to tell you about the travel toys for toddlers that can put more joy in your journeys—from car seat toys for toddlers to the best toys for an airplane adventure.
1. Melissa & Doug Water Wow!
If your littles are budding artists (or have just been known to enjoy drawing on walls and sofas, perhaps), this has to be one of the best toys for airplane travel. Spiral-bound water coloring books come with a water pen that can be refilled during your journey so kids can color in the designs within the book’s four reusable pages. In addition to exercising their fine motor skills while using the Melissa & Doug Water Wow! your young passengers will be giving you a little break from entertainment duty as the in-flight minutes tick down.
2. LeapFrog Scout’s Learning Lights Remote
There’s nothing quite like a remote control to transfix a kid, whether as a car seat toy for toddlers on a road trip or for your next flight with the littles. LeapFrog Scout’s Learning Lights Remote gets bonus points for not interfering with your Netflix queue while it imitates the kinds of remotes adults use with special effects that keep kids captivated. When kids press the music button, they’ll hear educational counting songs and catchy tunes. Shapes and first words are also introduced through the faux remote’s various features.
3. Wikki Stix
A little box of Wikki Stix goes a long way for keeping young kids entertained, which is why we consider this interactive, mess-free entertainment option one of the best toys for airplane travel that won’t break the bank. Young crafters can employ their fine motor skills to grasp and twist the sticks into the configurations of their choosing as you “ooh” and “ahh” over their ingenuity. You can show them how to twist the neon-colored sticks together to intertwine the bright colors.
4. Magnetic Fun—Cars Planes and Trains
This toy with a rather straightforward name comes in various brands and iterations you’ll find for sale all over the internet. But we like the simple Magnetic Fun—Cars Planes and Trains toy both for all the fun magnets it comes with (three sheets contain a total of 55 magnets) and for the simple convenience of its carrying case, the interior of which your kids can use to affix magnets. Count on some good long minutes (dare we hope, hours?) of entertained children as they work to pull the magnets off the sheets and put the airplanes and cars in situ on the scenery backdrops.
5. Fat Brain Toys Dimpl
Toddlers with a penchant for needing to touch everything will be mesmerized by this brightly-colored sensory toy that encourages them to use their fine motor skills while letting them poke, prod and pop to their little hearts’ delights. The silicon circles in neon hues on the Fat Brain Toys Dimpl are as irresistible to a toddler as a fidget spinner is to a pre-teen. About the size of an outstretched hand, the toy is particularly portable and easy to toss into a diaper bag, too.
6. Buckle Toys—Buster Square
If you’ve ever watched a toddler pull on a necklace or try to wrap a belt around their neck, you’ll understand why they find it hard to resist tinkering for long stretches with this interactive travel toy. The six buckles include ones you might see on things like life jackets and stroller straps—familiar enough to draw the attention of your little ones, and challenging enough to keep it. Since the Buckle Toys—Buster Square’s design is all about buckling things, it’s easy to strap this toy on to a car seat or your diaper bag, too, to keep it handy where and when you need it most.
7. V-Tech Baby on the Move Activity Bar
Simple to attach to a car seat or baby carrier, this battery-powered activity station plays scores of tunes, animal sounds and phrases that are activated when your toddler swings the cow or touches the light up button on its belly. A ring attached to the bright yellow bird has a texture that many toddlers are drawn to touch and the little ladybug has a baby mirror dangling from it, which works to snag their attention and interest, too. The V-Tech Baby on the Move Activity Bar has adjustable elastic straps that make it one-size-fits-all, so there’s no need to measure your car seat to see if it will fit.
8. VTech Spin and Learn Color Flashlight
The darkened areas in the airplane row where your toddlers’ feet dangle are just the spaces for them to shine this exciting toy that glows with five different colors. The VTech Spin and Learn Color Flashlight is a great car seat toy for toddlers setting off on road trips, too, and it teaches them about colors and animals while they press various buttons and count along. The toy’s handle is decorated with a cute little ladybug and is easy to grip, even for kids as young as a year old.
9. Taf Toys Toe Time Infant Car Seat Toy
Perfect for your littles that are still rear-facing in their car seats, this kick-inducing car seat toy for toddlers will keep them entertained and perhaps even lull them to sleep on your next road trip. Simply affix the Taf Toys Toe Time Infant Car Seat Toy to the headrest of your family vehicle or rental car and relax as your toddler starts tugging and kicking at all the dangling objects. The plush toys make crinkling or jingling sounds and even play music when tugged (you can always turn that podcast up), which has the effect of making the kiddos come back for more and more.
Longtime travel writer and adventurer Terry Ward lives in Florida with her husband and young son and daughter. She’s constantly on the lookout for the next Scandinavia Airlines Kids Fly Free deal to save money on flights to Norway, her favorite place to visit both in the winter (Northern Lights!) and summer (Midnight Sun!). A travel writer since 2001 (read: long before the kids came along), she’s written for such publications as Endless Vacation Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler and Scuba Diving Magazine, among many others. Find Terry on her website, Terry-Ward.com.