Holiday season is here, and for millions of families, it means one thing: travel. Whether hopping in the car for a two-hour drive to Grandma’s or settling in on a cross-country flight to Disney World, parents everywhere are preparing to take their kids on the road. And what do kids on the road need? Entertainment!
We’ve assembled a definitive guide of travel toys, books, and games for parents prepping for that next big trip. These toys are compact and great for long car rides or flights, but don’t count them out in the more everyday travel moments: waiting for food at a restaurant, or relaxing in the hotel room at night. They’re also good choices for everyday play when you get home from your trip. Plus, this guide serves as a perfect list when family and friends ask what to get your child for the holidays or a birthday. Almost all of these toys are under $20, and many are under $10; they’re also sorted by age group and category, making it easy for anyone to select a developmentally-appropriate toy.
If you do bring any of these toys along for your journey, keep a couple of tips in mind:
Think of play as a child’s work – it’s their primary method of learning and growing. These toys were carefully selected to foster creativity, motor skills, problem solving, and many other core developmental areas matched to the age of your child. A note on the age groups listed in this guide: the ages listed are the bare minimum age at which the toy is safe to use and developmentally appropriate. These ages are in line with the manufacturer’s minimums for safety hazards, to ensure that younger kids don’t choke on small parts or strangle themselves with long strings. That does not mean, though, that a toy marked 2+ wouldn’t be perfect for a four year old – feel free to consider toys at or below your child’s age range, just not above their age range.
Finally, let’s discuss the science behind these toy selections. In addition to being The Car Seat Lady, I’m also a pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics categorizes toys into five categories. This travel toy guide includes options from four of those categories (the fifth, gross motor and/or physical, are too bulky to be feasible for travel):
Symbolic and/or pretend: toys like dolls, action figures, cars, pretend kitchens, etc. encourage kids to craft their own imaginary reality and encourage creativity.
Fine motor, adaptive, and or manipulative: blocks, shapes, and puzzles develop fine motor skills via grabbing and placing, and promote cognitive development.
Art: creating mini-masterpieces with clay, crayons, etc. also builds fine motor skills and encourages creative expression.
Language and/or concepts: board games, cards, or workbooks promote practical skills like language arts and math, and are great for increasing school readiness.
Selecting a variety of travel toys across these four categories will maximize the fun and educational opportunities for your child, even during those boring moments of transportation or waiting. Read on to dive in to our 2019 guide of best travel toys, books, and games – and have a great trip!
What about kids 12m-24m, you ask? There are tons of toys for them in this guide… they’re just labeled as 0+ or 6m+. But I’ve done the hard work and selected the ones that will most captivate your toddler – and be sure to check out the hand puppet / board book pairings as well! Click below.
FTC disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this page. No monetary compensation was provided, however, a few of the reviewed products were supplied by the manufacturer or distributor to help facilitate the review. All opinions are those of The Car Seat Lady, LLC