Toddler Toys & Activities for Road Trips (other than an iPad!)

7.07.2018


A few months ago I mentioned the idea of putting together a post of road trip activities and toys to keep toddlers entertained in the car, and I'm finally getting around to it! As most of you know by now, we travel 3 hours one way to Texas to visit my family every 6 weeks or so, sometimes more often when there's a special event. There have been a few times I've gone two weekends in a row! Although that is not my favorite because it makes for a hectic work week in between. 

Both R and J went to Texas for the first time around 6 weeks old and have been regular travelers up and down I-35 ever since. We also drove with R to Chicago when she was 11 months old, which is a 13-hour trip one way!

R is turning 3 next month and still doesn't use an iPad or our phones for anything other than looking at pictures/videos of herself and "making funny faces," as she calls it, with Instagram filters, and she never gets it while in the car. I wouldn't necessarily say we are against technology use in the car, and certainly each person has to do what they feel comfortable with, so no judging anyone who gives their kid an iPad! But I took a lot of road trips growing up and just feel like I want my kids to be able to entertain themselves and each other in the car without the use of a phone or a DVD player, etc. That all might change as they age, but for now we do not give her anything like that on our trips.

Below is a list of activities and toys that would be great to consider for keeping older infants and toddlers entertained in the car, wether for 15 minutes or 15 hours. I crowd-sourced this list from Facebook friends, so these are not all items we personally have used. But they are all things I have heard good things about and things I think my kids would enjoy! 

Note: I've used affiliate links in this post, which just means that if you purchase through my link I get a few cents (literally cents) at no extra cost to you. It takes time to put these posts together, and I appreciate your support of this blog!

Boogie Board - I first saw this in church when a friend's 4-year-old was drawing with it during the service. Since then it's been on my want list, and at some point either someone will buy it for R for a birthday or I will just get it for her myself.

Water Coloring Book - Described as "no-mess painting for kids," this is always one of the first things that is recommended when someone asks about activities for the car. I have no idea if it really works, but Melissa & Doug is a brand that knows what they are doing, and I'm intrigued! I think R would love this.

Water Drawing Board - Similar to the above, this looks so neat! The water part does make me question whether or not it really is no mess, but let's say it spilled... worse case, R gets a little wet.

Window Clings + Cookie Sheet - Depending on how close your toddler is to their car window, they could play with window clings or you could bring a small cookie sheet or cake pan, give them some window clings, and let them go to work.

Best Word Book Ever - R loves to read, and a big book of words gives her lots of stuff to look at.

I Spy Books - On a total whim, I picked up this book for R as a valentine's gift this year, and she absolutely went nuts over it. Who knew? Not me. We try to remember to bring a few for car rides, and they keep her busy for a while.

Magnetic Tin Play Set - We don't have this, but it looks like something R would enjoy. The size of the tin is about 5x7, and there are pieces inside you can use to create a fun scene. Best for older toddlers who aren't going to put little pieces in their mouth.

Magnetibook Crazy Face - This is a similar idea! It's a bunch of faces and magnetic shapes that are a good size for travel.

Buckle Pillow - I put this on R's first birthday wish list, and my brother and sister-in-law got it for her. It's been a hit ever since, although it's probably more realistic to say that she started getting into it more around 18 months. Now approaching age 3, she is less interested, but for about a year this was a must have in the car. The size is perfect for a toddler! It's not the size of an actual pillow, FYI :) I let a friend borrow it for her 1-year-old on an airplane, and she said it was a huge hit.

Lap Drawing Board - When my mother-in-law bought this for R when she was around 1, I'll be honest I didn't think it was the best idea, but this has been her most loved car toy. We keep it in the car full time for just driving to church or daycare. She is constantly asking for "my drawing thing."

Doodle Pro - This is similar to the above. It's not something we have but just another option for a drawing board.

Fun Water Games - We don't have this, but it looks interesting. It says for ages 5 and up, so we aren't quite there yet, but wanted to throw out the idea!

Full Potty Seat - This is not a toy. Ha! But, now that R is potty trained (and when she was potty training), I found it essential to have a potty seat in my trunk for emergencies. Sometimes you just can't get to a gas station. Also, when I was traveling by myself with both kids I didn't want to lug them both inside, so I found a quiet spot in a parking lot and had R go outside in the potty seat next to the car. It's just kind of an "in case" thing.

Traveling Potty Seat - We don't have this, but I love the idea! Instead of a full potty seat (see above), this one looks like the legs expand. Needless to say, I am intrigued and think I might need this in my life.

I hope this has given you a few ideas for new toys/activities to try in the car. I'm definitely intrigued by a few of these myself! Drop a comment letting me know if you personally have used any of these or if you have a go-to toy for your toddler on longer car rides.

17 comments:

  1. I tell everyone I know about that Oxo traveling potty seat because I love it so much, haha! It’s so compact, easy to store and easy to use. Highly recommend! We love the water coloring books, too! Looking forward to checking out some of these other ideas, though.

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    1. I feel like I NEED that traveling potty seat. What a genius idea!

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  2. We don’t have nearly the road trip experience you do, but those Melissa & Doug water books are awesome - we keep one in each car and they’re good even for little drives around town. I found the Alex farm-on-a-string wooden toy to be a hit when traveling. We also have a tray table thing that can go over her legs on the car seat and it has been nice for drawing, playing with toys, etc. Snacks are a must have for Ava and Owen (he’s at a horrible age for traveling but if I give him pieces of teething wafer, he doesn’t scream too much). Unfortunately Ava gets car sick sometimes so I always have a bag ready to try to catch the puke.

    That traveling potty seat looks awesome. I definitely want to get that. Great tips! I think it’s really good that your kids are learning to travel early and that they are expected to entertain themselves without electronics. I confess that I have learned pull the iPad out for our past two trips out of town. Daniel Tiger and Raffi!

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    1. Yes to snacks! I usually pack a separate bag just with snacks. They have saved us a few times! I'm glad you like those M&D water books. I have heard such good things.

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  3. I love the window clings + cookie sheet idea! We haven't done much in the way of road trips with our little guy to really "need" diversions (we mainly just go 2 1/2 hours up to Kansas to visit family every month or so, and he usually sleeps part of the way), but I'll keep this in mind as I'm sure we'll have to change things up in the future. When I was a little kid, my family moved from Oregon to New York and did a 10-day road trip for the move. Something that hugely helped us kids have fun in the car was the fact that mom and dad had bought inexpensive new books for us and revealed them just for the trip. Having something fresh and exciting was really festive! I've somewhat adapted this for our toddler when we do go on the short-ish road trips or even when we just go to Mass on Sundays-a few days beforehand, I'll set some books aside so that they are more "new" to him on the day that I pull them out.

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    1. That is awesome he sleeps! R has gotten to where she won't sleep in the car unless she is exhausted, and J will only sleep for an hour or so, so we always need to bring things to entertain them!

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  4. i love the water coloring books!! We do have an iPad for E but only use it in extreme circumstances haha.

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    1. No judgment on the iPad! I can be useful! :)

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  5. We're heading on vaca this week and I was just thinking about things I could have for them. While some of these are too expensive for me to justify given we don't travel much (literally like once or twice a year!). This is such a great list for all you seasoned travelers, haha! I do not know how you do it!

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    1. I definitely don't consider myself a seasoned traveler! haha. We've gotten to where 3 hours to Texas hardly feels like we can call it a road trip because we go so often ;)

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  6. ooh I want that boogie board! Jack would love that!!

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  7. Since we live in the middle of nowhere we are in the car ALL the time. Its 60 miles roundtrip every day just to come to work/daycare. The Boogie Board is AWESOME. Emily uses it nearly every day. My other lifesaver has been a back of seat organizer - that way I can reach and hand her stuff throughout the drive. The Melissa and Doug puffy sticker books are amazing but we save those for restaurants. Check out the Gimars Folding potty seat - it fits in the diaper bag and I love it for public restrooms. I've always been curious about the water coloring stuff...

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  8. We learned the hard way with giving one of our iphones to our daughter on a road trip - the movement from the car and the videos were a recipe for puking EVERYWHERE. Thinking it was motion sickness. No more devices in the car now :-P

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  9. We've been roading tripping with B on 6+ hour one way trips since he was born. My big thing is that we plan around his nap, bring a few new things, a few favorites, lots of snacks and drinks and the ipad for emergencies!

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  10. Are those potty chair strictly for children? Because I know some adults who could benefit from those... Hahahaha.
    I've always loved road trips. As a kid I read and played with beanie babies and hardly ever wanted to watch DVDs.

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  11. This post is gold!! I have literally clicked every single link in this post because I want to look at all of these after I finish leaving this comment. I am totally with you on how we grew up without iPads or movies in the car and we took LOTS of road trips. It's part of why I love to read so much. In fact, we are planning to fly later this summer and I'm nervous about keeping a toddler entertained without resorting to a screen. I'm not saying I'm against them and will never use them, but so far we haven't needed to and if I can be creative with giving her things other than screens, that would be awesome!

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  12. Thank you for this! We just did two 5-hour car rides and for the most part, Zoe did very well!!!! But I didn't plan enough in advance and I was walking around Target and Walmart trying to find a doodle board last minute and neither place had them in stores. Totally ordering the one you shared soon!

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