This article about the Best Car Toys for Toddlers was written by toddler travel expert Celine Brewer and may contain affiliate links.
A family road trip with a toddler can be a stressful situation. Needing to drive for hours with a very active toddler strapped into a car seat can lead to some challenging times. But, in my experience traveling with kids, road trips with a toddler can be a very enjoyable way to travel as a family. I’ve learned that planning ahead, having the right attitude and a selection of entertaining toys for toddlers in the car will go a long ways towards success!
My Top Picks for the Best Car Toys for Toddlers:
In case you are short on time, here are my top picks for the best road trip toys for toddlers:
Best Toddler Road Trip Toy Overall:
My Quiet Book – my son just loves busy books like this. As with most curious toddlers, he could sit and play with a busy book for a long time. Perfect for parents who want a little quiet time on their family road trip.
Best Toddler Travel Toy for Focus:
Town Maze Magnetic Puzzle Game – a simple puzzle which helps develop hand-eye coordination. Plus, there are no pieces for your toddler to drop, requiring you to pull over to restore the peace.
My son just loved "busy" toys like this Quiet Book by DeMoca. With a lot of cute, attached elements like zippers, buttons and buckles, my son would have played with this endlessly.
The "My Quiet Book," for instance, is a great way to encourage sensory play in toddlers and get some quiet time while at it. The Montessori toy features 9 different activities that children love interacting with through touch and feel. This is great news for parents because sensory play otherwise tends to be quite the messy affair!
I love that this durable toddler travel toy is machine washable, comes with a zippered washing bag, and retains its shape and quality even after multiple washes. It's fun, practical for travel, and easy to maintain!
So, if you're looking for a colorful, tactile book that doubles as a toddler road trip toy, the My Quiet Book is a good choice for you.
This magnetic puzzle game is a compact, easy-to-use puzzle that kids can play with on your family road trips. Toddlers get to use their strategic thinking, dexterity and spatial skills to navigate the differently colored balls back to their matching color destinations using a magnetic wand.
The game requires no setting up, is lots of fun to play and is adorable to look at too. It just works on every level! Plus, there are also no pieces to lose, including the wand which easily attaches to the handy storage slot on the side.
Lightweight and easy to slip into a backpack or diaper bag, it is an ideal car ride tos for toddlers. Just keep in mind that this puzzle is best suited for older toddlers who have a bit more focus and can understand the point of the game.
Younger toddlers, on the other hand, can still enjoy moving the balls with the magnetic wand even if they aren't able to understand color matching just yet!
Do you remember those magic drawing boards from when you were a kid? Well, they haven't gone anywhere - they've actually only gotten better! The Double Doodle Board Drawing Tablet from Crayola is sturdy, compact, and features a gel surface on one side and a drawing surface on the other. Be it a game of pictionary or just doodling away the time, this board is up for it all.
Kids get to use the sealed gel surface for doodling with their little fingers, making it one of the best toys for toddlers in the car. There's also a reusable drawing surface for drawing on with the three included washable tripod grip crayons.
Mess-free, portable, fun and safe, this hits all my criteria for one of the best toddler toys for road trips!
To be honest, I never used a toddler car travel tray on our family road trips, but looking at them now, I wish I had!
While it's not its not a toy, I love how the Kids Travel Tray contains everything you need to keep your kids occupied while traveling - an iPad viewing stand, a safety belt to latch onto a car seat, a dry erase board to also use as a meal tray, a beverage holder and plenty of storage space for art supplies and other crucial car items for long car rides like toys and books.
This car seat travel tray for toddlers is also very durable, sturdy and made with “toddler resistant” materials to ensure that it can withstand the rigors of kids and car rides.
While perfect for toddlers on a long car ride, this little travel tray is also great for playing with those airplane travel toys on long haul flights. Kids will love playing on it while traveling, or using it as a meal tray when needed. It’s a cleverly designed travel buddy that helps keep your toddler busy while also keeping your car organized and clean at the same time!
These super fun sensory toys are so fun, my kids still love playing with them!
Your kids will have hours of fun connecting, popping, stretching and bending these Pop Tubes from The Nutty Store. They're a fun and versatile STEM toy designed with the aim of helping kids develop tactile stimulation, fine motor skills, and auditory feedback.
With no sharp edges, these BPA-free plastic tubes are designed to be durable and safe for little hands, so kids can spend loads of time coming up with different ways to play with them. Pushing and pulling them into different lengths, creating sounds and swinging them in circles, or connecting them in the shapes of letters - the possibilities are endless! These entertaining car ride toys for toddlers are sure to keep your toddler engaged on the road.
My kids loved their Water Wow activity books and used them a ton on our family travels - either during road trips or long haul flights.
The chunky water-filled pen is easy for kids to hold and is used to color in the scenes, revealing more details and vibrant colors with each stroke. The books are great for promoting fine motor skills, early writing/reading skills, and visual discrimination for toddlers aged two and up.
With no-mess, these are ideal travel toys for toddlers in the car.
Busy boards make excellent toys for toddlers in the car. I love how this fun busy board has zippers, buttons, laces, and buckle clasps, all in a compact, foam board.
Given how lightweight and portable this busy board from The Buckle Toy Store is, it makes an ideal toddler travel toy for long car rides. At 11×8 inches, it’s small enough to fit in most diaper bags, but it’s also a durable product that will last. It also has a handle so your toddler can easily carry it around.
Just note that this busy board is best for younger toddlers and might be a bit too simple for older toddlers who have already mastered buckles and snaps.
I loved reading the "First 100" books to my kids to help them learn new words.
Picture books in general are great travel toys for road trips. Each board book in this box set has 100 color photographs to look at and talk about, and 100 simple first words to read and learn. The titles in the series include "Animals," "Numbers," "Foods We Eat," "Words" and "Things That Move."
With colorful, engaging pages and lightly padded covers that make them easy to hold, toddlers will enjoy spending time flipping through the colorful pages of these educational books.
Dr. Seuss books have been a treasured part of my family since the very beginning. This set of beginner board books by Dr. Seuss is full of creative pictures and very simple words, sure to keep your toddler engaged during your family road trip.
You'll also make good use of these Dr. Seuss books in your hotel room when you are putting your toddler down to sleep for a nap or bedtime.
I especially like boxed sets for the car trips with toddlers to help keep things organized! Plus your toddler can have fun taking the books out and putting them back in!
Ok, this is also officially not a toddler toy for road trips, but it is the one piece of toddler travel gear that I never leave home without! These snack catchers are perfect for giving your toddler an easy to eat a snack at anytime. Not only does it take a long time for a toddler to eat a snack cup full of Cheerios, the end result is a well-fed toddler, which sure beats dealing with a hangry toddler!
My son loves his snack cup so much, it's in almost every single picture we have of him as a toddler!
Pro Tip: Sometimes you don’t even need a toy to entertain your toddler on a road trip. One of my favorite ways to keep my toddler mentally engaged on a road trip was to download a long Disney storybook from Audible. Some of the Disney storybooks are over 15 hours long! I also love that this activity encourages my kids to look out the window and enjoy the scenery.
Advantages of a Road Trip with a Toddler vs. Flying
I’ve always found road trips with toddlers simpler and less stressful than flying with toddlers. I like not having to carry all my toddler travel gear in a small carry-on bag; a family road trip means I have way more space to pack all my favorite toddler toys for car rides!.
Despite these advantages of a family car trip, in my experience, a little advance planning goes a long way to keep a toddler entertained in the car. With short attention spans, quick bursts of energy, and the drive to constantly bounce about and explore everything around, getting a toddler to sit still in one spot for longer than 5 minutes can feel impossible. Trust me, I know!!
In fact, it’s for these exact reasons that our cute toddlers are considerably harder to handle during family trips than newborns! But that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause either. It just means we need to carry along the essential toddler travel gear, like snacks (lots of snacks!), a sippy cup and, of course, car ride toys for toddlers!
What to Look for in Toddler Toys for a Road Trip
When looking for the best toddler road trip toys, you’re going to want to make sure they check all the right boxes. In my experience, the best travel toys for toddlers in the car need to be lightweight and compact; quiet, so they don’t bother you while you drive; easy to pack up, with no small parts, because I think I speak for everyone when I say no one wants lost toys under their seats!
However, what’s most important is that car travel toys be safe and not have any sharp edges or small parts that might pose a choking hazard. And brownie points if the car ride toys for toddlers are educational, too!
If you aren’t sure about where to start, then you’ve come to the right place. My list of toddler travel toys comes from my own trial and error over several family car trips at home and around the world. Having the right travel toys for toddlers in the car will make your family trip more fun, organized, quiet and memorable! I hope that learning about my favorite toddler toys for the car helps keep your energetic little ones entertained and engaged for long bouts of time.
Celine Brewer is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's helped millions of new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has shared her expertise on traveling with a baby or toddler by contributing to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, USA Today, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.