With the holiday season upon us and many families getting ready to hit the road I wanted to share some of our tried and true favorites toddler road trip essentials!
Our standard trip is about 5 hours to visit my parents. If your trip is longer you may want to do a little more prep than we do but you might also be surprised by the entertainment value of some of toddler road trip essentials. It boils down to knowing your kid and then having a couple of extra ideas in your back pocket on top of the bare minimum!
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Toddler Road Trip Entertainment Essentials : Favorite Toys
Melissa and Doug Latch Board – you could totally make a small busy board yourself. I like that it’s compact and has a variety of latches to practice.
Melissa and Doug hide and Seek board – This is a great option for the slightly younger crowd!
Magnaformers & a cookie sheet – The cookie sheet serves double duty as a play surface that keeps things from getting away and as a magnetic surface to build on! This is an idea that can easily grow with your kid!
Misc bag – this never ceases to amaze me. It’s just an old toiletry bag that I add some random things to and she loves to pull them all out explore them. We have an old cell phone, retractable tape measure, a necklace and a couple of fidget toys. The best part is that it’s so easy to customize to your toddler’s interests!
Electronic button toy – We don’t do much for electronic toys at home so any that she receives as gifts go in our travel box. These toys don’t usually last long but she is very content with them for a few minutes
Magnetic dress-up – There are tons of Melissa and Doug dress-up dolls available. You could also print off a paper doll set on magnet sheets and make your own. Great fun for that toddler independence of wanting to pick out their own clothes!
Great idea with a little supervision
Slime/Playdough/Putty – I tend to only let her play with these when I sit back there with her. I don’t quite trust her to keep it contained just yet. That said she loves this kind of stuff and we can easily get 45 mins of play from just one of these!
Toddler Road Trip Entertainment Essentials : Coloring
Toddlers love seeing how they can affect the world around them. These toddler road trip entertainment essentials allow them to do just that!
Magnadoodle – I like this because its completely mess-free and the pen is attached to the board so it can’t get lost in the depth of the car seat!
Water wow – For younger toddlers, the water wows are great because its like magic when the color of the pictures just appear. If your little one is a bit older a plainer aqua doodle might be good so they can create their own images!
Imagine ink – We just discovered these and she LOVES them. At 2 we aren’t coloring in the lines so the fact that it’s just the one marker and the colors just appear is great. Eventually, we will transition to color wonder when she wants to have more control over the outcome
open-ended creativity is always a great distraction
Paper and pens and stickers – This is a great time to allow access to pens or markers that they don’t usually get. It makes it more novel and thus more entertaining! I also usually pack a sheet or two of stickers and just let her go to town. What kid says no to free reign over a full sheet of stickers!? You may want to go for puffy or foam stickers so that they can manage without your help.
Toddler Road Trip Entertainment Essentials : Books
Noisy books – We have a couple of music books, you know the kind with the big buttons on the side. These usually get some good playtime even if it comes with listening to the same song over and over and over again.
Look and find – This can include really any kind of book that has a lot to look at. We have an introductory style one right now, but I want to get a couple more dense ones now that she is getting older. These are great for you to read with them and really stretch out the activity or great to just let them “read” on their own. I find these last a lot longer, entertainment-wise than other books
Interactive books – Lift the flap or slide-outs are what we have experience with. You could also do a write and erase for older kids.
Other great ideas
There are ideas all over the Internet for road trip hacks and tips and these are some ideas that we haven’t gotten around to but I love the idea of them!
Picture domino set/memory game – great for matching, but might work best if you are sitting in the back as well so that you can encourage actually matching
Lacing beads – We have a lacing cheese that she hasn’t shown much interest in, but the last time we had out lacing beads she really enjoyed them. I never thought about taking them in the car but we will totally be trying that!
Legos – if you’ve got a builder in the house I can totally see how a sampling of legos and a building plate could pass a lot of time in the car
the car seat offers a great time to focus
Small puzzles – You probably don’t want a 24 piece jigsaw at this point but a 2 – 8 piece puzzle would easily fit on a play tray. The restraints of the car seat might even encourage more interest than they usually have!
Stacking tower – any toy that has a central rod and pieces to stack on it would be great for a stacking fan. We have one and I don’t know why I have never thought to bring it along.
Shape sorter – We have lots of interest in our shape sorter but she often gets bored/frustrated and gives up after a couple of pieces. Maybe the restraints of the car seat would convince her to play and practice a little longer!
Other road trip essentials
SNACKS. A favorite blanket and lovie. Snacks. A sippy cup or water bottle. Snacks. Some baby wipes and napkins. Did I mention snacks?
I don’t know if your toddler is like mine but she asks for snacks just about all day long. Doesn’t matter if she just ate or not, she is always game for a snack. I feel like all moms know of the meltdown avoidance technique of snacks. Thankfully it works just as well in the car as it does in the store or doctor’s office!
People have a lot of opinions about tablet/screen time when it comes to kids. We tend to limit screen time at home but road trips are one of the times that she is allowed access to it. As she gets older she will be allowed more but for now, we save it as a last-ditch option when nothing else is working.
We use a kid’s Kindle fire and have a few Netflix shows downloaded as well as a handful of apps. She is JUST starting to figure out how to use most of the apps, but at the very least we can get 30 mins of quiet from a cartoon.
What are your Toddler Road Trip Entertainment Essentials?
We take fairly regular road trips and I don’t see that ending anytime soon so if you have any Toddler Road Trip Entertainment Essentials that you swear by please leave them down below!
If you are looking for other travel trips for toddlers make sure and check out my Pinterest board for more ideas!