This article about the Best 3 Year Old Travel Toys was written by toddler travel expert Celine Brewer and may contain affiliate links.
If your toddler is anything like mine, then you know what it’s like to travel with a mobile, inquisitive and talkative little person. While he has a much longer attention span for watching shows and movies, I still like to pack travel toys for my 3 year old.
I found, like many of the other toddler stages, traveling with a 3 year old just needs a little bit of planning and preparation. To help you, I’ve come up with this list of the best travel toys for 3 year olds. I’ve personally traveled with so many of these 3 year old travel toys (and many others), which has helped me figure out which ones are winners and which one’s aren’t!
At 3 years old, your toddler is becoming a preschooler and will have more of an attention span for shows and movies. For quiet activities, the American Academy of Pediatrics gives us an idea on what our toddler can do and activities we should include based on their hand and finger skills. Drawing, coloring, solving puzzles, building blocks and even stringing bead (or cheerios!) are perfect are this age.
My Top Picks for the Best 3 Year Old Travel Toys:
Here are 5 top picks to include in your toddler carry-on bag. For the easiest toy shopping, pick up one of these Keep em Quiet Packs created just for 3 year olds.
LCD Writing Tablet – Perfect for the car or the airplane, your 3 year old can draw over and over again.
Nutty Toys' Pop Tubes are a fun and open-ended 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.
Stretch them into tunnels, mold them into shapes, use them to make a whistling noise or brandish them as swords in the next duel - the possibilities are endless!
While we recognize that these might get a little annoying on the plane, you can save them for your road trips or hotel room!
We love these LCD writing tablets! This little mess-free writing tablet is a fantastic way to keep older toddlers occupied during long flights or on road trips. We almost always have one or two in our car and pack them for our trips too. We prefer ones that have a lock feature to prevent accidental erasing (and the loud tears that usually follow!).
Toddlers will love these for drawing and games, but it's also a travel toy that they'll continue to use as they get older.
Like the Buckle Toy, the Buckle Toys Busy Board is one of the simpler toddler travel toys and is designed to be used as a learning tool for toddlers. With this board, little fingers will get busy engaging in tactile play by buckling and unbuckling clasps, practice tying shoelaces, snapping buttons and pulling the zipper up and down to reveal hidden shapes.
With no batteries, no loud noises, and no lights, the soft foam board is designed to easily fit into diaper bags and travel with you everywhere. This is a great distraction when your toddler needs a break for the screen!
Wikki Stix is the ultimate craft toy for promoting creativity, building and imagination. Made of nothing more than yarn covered in food-grade, non-toxic wax, these colorful, soft and pliable sticks stick to each other with ease to allow for hours of creativity.
With no right or wrong way to play with them; no mess, clean-up or prep involved; and even a convenient carrying tube that comes included, these simply are one of the best travel toys for toddlers and even older kids!
Let your kids explore their creative side with this adorable and versatile set of 36 magnetic sticks and balls. Easy to hold, this toy is great for developing those fine motor skills in young children and helps them achieve a firm grip! Every time they finish playing with them, just scoop the pieces up and store them in the cute drawstring pouch that comes included.
Fun, challenging and easy to carry, this truly is a fantastic travel toy to entertain toddlers and even older siblings.
Being easy to pack, these are a great toy for hotel rooms or rentals apartments too. While you're busy getting ready or making a quick meal, use these magnetic building sticks and balls to keep your toddler entertained.
It isn't always the easiest finding travel toys for 3 year olds who love to focus on the details, but classic Lego Duplo sets are the perfect travel toy. We find DUPLO sets to always be a win for our toddler. He isn't ready for smaller Lego, but these were a great alternative! Plus the larger pieces mean we don't lose them easily!
Two sets we like are the Marvel Spider-Man Headquarters (for Spider-Man loving kids) and the Town Airport, but there are so many fun options. Each comes complete with miniature characters and accessories, and are sure to keep kids occupied.
We love these Duplo sets as travel toys for 3 year old girls and boys. Not only are the pieces large enough for small hands, but they make great toys in your hotel room or apartment rentals for imaginative play.
A mess-free and portable travel toy that's perfect for toddlers! Give your toddler this set of 26 cards and help them use the refillable water pen to reveal the pictures on them. Toddlers will be drawn into the magic of the images appearing and disappearing and won't even notice their vocabulary, writing and recognition skills improving!
The cards' small size and removable ring make it all the more ideal for travel, and before long, kids will make sure you've packed it every time you leave the house together.
Crayola's Color Wonder Mess Free books are the perfect toddler airplane activity! They can color anywhere without you needing to worry about them getting marker all over their hands (or worse!). We ALWAYS had these in our toddler's carry-on and as part of our packing list!
Since the markers only work on the specially made Color Wonder Paper that comes with the kit, they are safe to use on-the-go no matter where you are.
With two 30-Page Color Wonder Pads, 10 Classic Color Wonder Mini Markers, and 10 Pastel Color Wonder Mini Markers, kids will have hours and hours of fun times to look forward to. These are ideal travel toys for both road trips and airplane rides.
These color wonder kits are one of the most popular travel toys we recommend and are great for both older toddlers and little kids.
Colorful markers that offer toddlers the option to color in pictures, draw their own, or trace out designs are what make this drawing book such a good 3 year old travel toy. Since it's easy to clean, reusable and compact, it can go along in the car or on the airplane and be reused throughout your trip.
I especially like that it has a handy velcro pocket to store the markers on the inside of the book, since the last thing us parents want to do is be searching for markers!
See the curiosity in their eyes as you help them lace the caterpillar through the different holes in the plastic apple block for the first time. Before long, you'll find your toddler playing the simple game while pretending to be a caterpillar themselves! Watch them be impressed with themselves for their ability to make different patterns with the string.
This is a great travel toy to pull out as a distraction as you are waiting for the plane to land or take off. Just tuck it away in your toddler's carry-on and pull it out when you need those few minutes to keep your toddler entertained!
The HABA Number Maze magnetic game is great for toddlers and preschoolers. It has all of the characteristics of more complex mazes, but simplified for use by little, inquisitive hands and minds! Toddlers will be entertained moving the correct number of balls into their designated slots, while having fun and learning in the process. The developmental toy allow tots to exercise their logic, planning, dexterity and counting.
The HABA Town Maze Magnetic Puzzle Game is a similarly compact, easy-to-use puzzle that kids can play with anytime and anywhere. 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. Plus, there are also no pieces to lose, including the wand which easily attaches to the handy storage slot on the side.
Packed in a compact travel-size carrying pouch, this set of eight heirloom-quality magnetic blocks by Tegu is attractive as it is entertaining. Great for supporting open-ended and unscripted play, this toy helps kids develop skills like pattern recognition, balance and sense of scale while keeping them intrigued for hours.
The safely embedded magnets make the blocks harder to drop on the floor, making them one of the best toys for airplane travel with 3 year olds.
This washable fabric book has simple activities to engage your toddler as they learn basic skills, and also doubles as a bag! Carry this along for quiet playtime, and watch even the most rambunctious of kiddos settle down and get busy.
It's also a wonderful bonus to know that the pieces will never go missing as they are all tethered to the book, making it a good travel toy to take on your road trip with a toddler!
When you have time sitting next to your 3 year old, like on the airplane, you can spend time with your toddler with this busy book. This highly interactive educational tool teaches little ones to match topics and items across different themes. It features easy-to-grip, ridged page edges to prevent paper cuts, large bright pictures for keeping your child entertained and strong velcro coins that don't fall off.
This book is undoubtedly a winner among the other 3 year old travel toys!
Busy Board's Toddler Backpack is a super cool and fully functional toddler backpack for travel that doubles as a fun travel toy. The inside pocket of the soft backpack is large enough for snacks, toys and more, and the brightly colored and adorned exterior has zippers, buckles and buttons.
This backpack is ideal for keeping toddlers entertained. Not only that but younger children will feel very important having their very on carry-on for the flight.
If it gathers dust from a long day of being dragged about, getting it clean again is as simple as popping it into the wash!
One of our most use activity books for our 3 year old was this Dot To Dot! Most activity books are geared towards preschoolers or require a lot of parent interaction. This Dot to Dot is the perfect activity book to add to your 3 year olds travel toys.
Our toddler was entertained solving dot-to-dot patterns and maze puzzles in this activity book. And because the pages aren’t too cluttered with colors, they keep kids focused on the task at hand. To start again, just wipe clean once completed!
These super jumbo crayons from Melissa and Doug are non-toxic and made of break-resistant plastic, not wax. The large size and triangular shape of the crayons make them easier for little hands to hold. Having larger crayons is ideal for travel so they don't all get lost at the bottom of the bag! Plus the triangular shape will prevent them from rolling off the airplane tray table, never to be found again!
If you plan to pack light and need good travel toys for 3 year old toddlers that are super small and inconspicuous, this mini coloring roll is what you're looking for. It's the perfect size for using on a airplane tray table and 3 year olds will appreciate the details in the print.
Perfect for keeping older toddlers entertained during the flight then roll it up in an instant and pack it away with ease as soon as you land!
My Plane Trip is the ultimate vacation planner for kids and comes with illustrations of scenes of airport terminals and plane rides. It's the perfect opportunity for parents to talk through the airport and flight with toddlers. Clear pictures and easy to read instructions detail everything from packing to landing in this book, making it one of the best airplane travel toys for toddlers for preparing them for their first flight.
Don't be afraid to pull out the book before the flight and talk through the pages with your little one, then save it for coloring when flying long haul with a toddler!
We love a coloring book that has nice big pictures for toddlers to color. They don't want images full of detail that are hard to color! We always had this coloring book, but we did find that it was a bit big to carry when we were trying to pack light.
We solved that problem but ripping out pages and bringing those along with us. A single page is also easier for toddlers to color on an airplane tray table where there's limited space!
Magna-tiles are always a good choice that toddlers love. Colorful, durable and versatile, this 32-piece set of magnetic tiles will definitely keep your toddler entertained.
Known to be one of the most popular travel toys for 3 year old boys and girls alike, the best part is that it grows right along with your kid! Watch as their fascination with shapes and colors evolves and develops over the years into a curiosity for exploring science and math, all through hands-on play!
Easily one of the most popular toddler travel toys, Melissa & Doug Water Wow! coloring pads are interactive activities with no mess! The hidden pictures appear when traced with the refillable chunky water pen. Our toddlers loved this and we always had one in our carry-on!
Since it holds color for a while before it fades, you’ll have enough time to express your admiration, and even snap a quick picture as a keepsake. And the best part? There is zero cleaning involved, so you don't even need to wipe it clean before they color again.
Even if your toddler figures out how to open the pen, there's such a small amount of water in there that it doesn't create a mess.
These Melissa & Doug reusable sticker pads are so fun for toddlers! With 5 colored backgrounds and tons of stickers to place, you'll be able to enjoy a morning coffee while your toddler is occupied! When they're reusable, durable and mess-free, they make great travel toys for 3 year old boys and girls!
While we found these large reusable sticker pads from Melissa & Doug too big to pull out on the airplane ride, we packed them in our suitcase because they are an ideal travel toy for older toddlers and their older siblings at your final destination.
Our kids loved creating scenes and even trading stickers. They easily pack in a suitcase and can be pulled out in the hotel room or apartment rental. Our kids played with them while we were getting ready for the day or when they needed some downtime at the end of a busy day.
Buster Square is one of those fun toys that improves cognition and builds hand-eye coordination for toddlers. This buckle toy is a great alternative to handing over a phone, as children get to connect and disconnect all the buckles with fun "clicks" and "snaps." It has an attached zipper pocket that can be pulled up and down to store your little one's odds and ends.
While great at keeping toddlers entertained on their own, it also even comes with colorful shapes and numbered embroidered giving parents a the perfect opportunity for engaging in fun learning.
Super soft and lightweight, this toy is a definite winner that will be enjoyed even beyond your travels!
This reimagined version of the classic jigsaw puzzle is a wonderful travel toy for 3 year olds who are learning to coordinate their actions and recognize patterns.
It's made of large, colorful pieces for little hands to grasp easily, and the magnets ensure that they don't get dropped every time they are played with. Plus, it has a tri-fold design, making it easy to put away after playtime is over.
If your 3 year old is showing an interest in puzzles, this will be an ideal travel toy.
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.