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17 Best Toddler Toys for Road Trips (from a mom of five!)

As a family that traveled full time in an RV and regularly puts 20,000 miles on our car each year, I know a thing or two about long road trips with kids. There are a few tricks I have learned with our five kids to calm the crazy and get through our travel days with as little stress as possible. The best toddler toys for road trips are the ones without little pieces but activate their creativity and sensory skills.

Related: How to Save Money on Food While Traveling with Kids

Our Personal Favorite Travel Toys

This magnetic drawing board is one of our all time favorites. Our now five year old loves to color and draw.

We’ve used magnetic boards like this since before our oldest turned three.

We use these for trivia questions for our now 7 and 8 year old. I can’t recommend them enough because they can grow with your kids.

This Crayola Touch Light Pad was actually a surprising favorite with our toddlers. It has a sensory, calming aspect that I really love.

Busy Books for Road Trips

These Melissa & Doug Reusable Stickers are a favorite in our house. 

We got lucky and found them on clearance a few years ago. They lasted our kiddos through an entire summer of almost constant road trips.

If you have kids that are older and a little more responsible, dot books are a great option.

We have these dot markers and love them, but I don’t trust my kids enough to have them in the car. Instead, I buy these dot stickers and let them use those instead. They haven’t ended up stuck to the inside of my car window yet. I figure they’re a way better option than dot markers if I’m not sure the kids can refrain from coloring on each other in the backseat.

Crayola Color Wonder

Another huge win are Crayola Color Wonder coloring books. I have talked about these a million times and for good reason.

Aside from a greasy looking stain if your child is really determined to use them somewhere other than the color wonder coloring books. these are almost 100% mess free.

They come in all different themes with lots of different designs.

There are also blank books if you have a kiddo that prefers to be more creative.

These Melissa and Doug Water Wow books are another perfect road trip toy and they’ve lasted several years.

You simply fill the marker with water and your child can color the cardboard sheets revealing different colors.

When they dry, the color disappears from the reusable pages and they can color them all over again.

I Spy Books

Who didn’t love these as kids? Our school library had only one and I checked it out every time it was available. I still remember the button and seashell pages.

Luckily these books have come a long way and there are so many different ones. They’re only fun until you find everything the first time, which is the only downside.

Imaginative Play on Road Trips

For younger kids on long car rides, open ended toys give the most bang for your buck.

We bring a few farm animals from our animal figurine collection.

We’re big on Montessori in our house, so these have been a staple for a long time through all of our kids.

In my opinion, the best Montessori travel toys are animal figurines.

For our big kids, we bring a few action figures. Our sons played with 3 action figures for hours on the way to Key West on top of a cooler we had stored on the floor between them.

Never underestimate the power of familiar toys on a family road trip. 

Screen Time

We try to limit screen time as much as we can, but on long car trips, we usually let our kids have their tablets for an hour or so at a time.

We home school, so I will usually have them do a few lessons on their Reading Eggs app. They can listen to audio books on there, can read ebooks quietly, and for the younger kids, there are puzzles and engaging videos with educational themes.

When our kids were younger, we had Amazon Fire Tablets with a kid-proof case.

Now that our oldest kids are 8 and 7, we’ve moved on to this Lenovo Chromebook for our 3, 5, 7, and 8 year olds and I absolutely love it. We put them in these neoprene cases. So far, so good. 

They’re must faster than the fire tablets and we have a much wider range of apps we can download – I honestly purchased them because Reading Eggs worked on them. 

Now I love how fast they are and how much storage they have compared to our previous tablets.

Best Toddler Travel Toys

The best travel toys for toddlers are the ones you probably already have at home.

Here is a toddler hack. 

If you know you have a road trip coming up, put away a few toys your littles already love.

Our favorites are our shape sorter and our animal figurines.

When we bring them out on a road trip, they’re an immediate hit that require no introduction and our two and three year olds stay entertained for longer stretches at a time.

We’ve done this for years and it has saved us for hundreds upon hundreds of miles of drive time.

Sensory Toys

Sensory toys are the BEST travel toys. Fidget toys, any kind of sensory toy, makes for great travel toys.

There are so many of these that we love! These ramen ones are a current favorite, we have tons of fidget spinners, and these long noodle things are great as well.

My husband and I personally love these magnet balls for ourselves. If you’ve never played with them, you absolutely MUST try them.

They’re great for long airplane rides or just for the adult in the passenger seat.

These magnets are a definite NO for kids, however.

Pop it toys are literally everywhere and I absolutely love them for keeping little fingers busy when traveling.

They have purses, bracelets, and pop its in every shape and theme. These are great for small hands and have the same satisfaction as popping bubble wrap.

Finally, these suction toys are great for car windows.

They’re marketed as bath toys, but they’re way better as road trip toys.

Best Dollar Tree Travel Purchases

Even though I know they’ll probably make a big mess and I’ll probably regret it, I always go to Dollar Tree and buy some random activity books for emergencies.

Our girls entertain themselves with barrettes and hair clips.

I’ve even found color with water books there.

For our older kids, our favorites for our older kids are the activity books with stickers and negative space throughout the book for the stickers. Basically a sticker book version of a shape sorter.

Yeah, I know I said no stickers – there are exceptions. Don’t judge me.

They also always have various travel games. These usually have small pieces, so we save these for the hotel room.

Travel Toys to Leave at Home

There are some toys that come up again and again that I think are more risk than they’re worth.

One of the biggest ones is this LCD Writing Tablet. We have one and I used to absolutely love it for road trips. Then, my four year old got a hold of it and figured out how to get the battery out. 

That’s a hard no for me. Button batteries are a huge health hazard to little kids and have even caused death. For this reason, we only use the LCD tablet when my husband and I are around. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time we even let them use it.

Legos are another great example. Our older boys are mature enough to take care of their legos, but despite their best efforts, their younger siblings have still managed to get ahold of and destroy their roadtrip builds. 

​The day I found legos in the track of our sliding minivan doors was the last time I let them have legos in the car on long roadtrips. Anything with small parts is a pain in the butt at best and a health hazard – worst case scenario.

Buckle Toy

While these are great toys for kids and even have a Montessori aspect about them that I love, I learned the hard way never to bring these in the car.

Our little one snapped one of the buckles closed on her hand and screaming ensued. I had to climb in the backseat to help her and realized long road trips are probably not the best time to use these toys unsupervised.

Travel Trays

If anyone has found a successful way to use these in the car, please let me know.

​They are just cumbersome and clumsy and end up being more in the way than anything.

Instead, I think any flat surface works. If they’re coloring a coloring book, folding it back on itself works just fine to provide stability.

These are our tried and true road trip travel tricks with our five kids. 

We somehow still love traveling after all of the miles we’ve put on over the years.

My last bit of advice is to just go with the flow No amount of perfectly planned travel toys will completely eliminate travel stress. Make memories that you cherish and remember that even the worst travel day will end up as treasured memories someday.

toddler travel toys