Hot Road Trips

Best Toddler Toys for Car Rides (and Road Trips)

Entertaining your child on the road can make everything else go more smoothly

Every parent goes through it – you fear the thought of taking your toddler on a car ride, whether it’s just a quick trip to Target or a long road trip to Grandma’s. You’re already stressed from just getting everything ready for the car trip, and you cross your fingers just hoping – praying – that your child will fall asleep in the car seat.

Sometimes you’re lucky and they do fall asleep in the car, but often times they don’t. 

Is it just me or does it always seem like they fall asleep when they’re not supposed to, but don’t fall asleep when you need them to the most!

Baby sleeping in car seat
This is a mama’s dream, isn’t it!?

Anyhow, in case your toddler is awake during the car ride, you need some car travel toys to keep them entertained and occupied. There is nothing worse than a disgruntled baby in the car.

In this article, I will show you some of the best toys for car rides (mostly for toddlers, and a few for babies) which you can find on Amazon. I will also explain what kinds of toys for the car have worked best for us on our family road trips (and why).

Related Article: Road trip Car Games for kids (4-15 years old)

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND OUT MORE IN MY DISCLAIMER.

For a quick decision, listed below are 3 of the top car seat toys. Or you can jump ahead to a particular category:

Electronic Devices | Drawing & Coloring | Toys & Books | Organization Trays | For Babies

Best Device (Any Age)

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

Best for Toddlers (1-4y)

Kids Travel Tray

Best for Babies (2m-1y)

Taf Toys Play Center (with mirror)

Best Toys for the Car

So from my experience, you definitely want to get toddler car toys that are:

  1. safe for toddlers (no small pieces)
  2. easy to use (won’t frustrate the child)
  3. easy to transport
  4. easy to clean up (not a bunch of pieces)

I’ve also found that you will want to have a set of toys for the car that are dedicated for car rides that your child does not see or play with at home. You can think of it like bath toys – how excited is your toddler every time they get in the bath with their special set of floatable toys!?

Because kids get bored with toys pretty quickly, you want carseat toys to be fresh and new to them each time you take your toddler on a car trip. If you’re taking them on a really long car ride or road trip, the best road trip toys are those that they won’t get bored with so quickly. By the way, if it is your first big trip with baby, I would recommend checking out these great infant travel tips.

For example, for my 1.5 year old I have found that an Amazon Fire tablet (it’s gotta be the “kids edition”) stocked with his favorite videos downloaded from YouTube (e.g. Masha and the Bear, Yo Gabba Gabba, etc) will keep him entertained for 30 minute episodes at a time, even with the sound off (since he’s seen them so many times before)!

Which brings me to my last point – you don’t want to buy toys for the car that are exceptionally noisy because that is almost as annoying as a crying toddler. For our list of car travel toys, we made sure to pick toys that are not too loud or disruptive to others.

Top Toys for Traveling Toddlers

Category: Electronic Devices

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet

Why we recommend it:

  • Affordable, fully-functional tablet with robust foamy protective case
  • 1 year of free Amazon’s kid-friendly FreeTime Unlimited
  • Easy to store/play videos for offline entertainment
  • 2 year worry-free guarantee (they’ll replace the device if it breaks for any reason)
  • Good specs: 32 GB internal storage (expandable), up to 10h battery life, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1.5 GB of RAM

Editor’s Note: So we bought a set of these Fire 8 HD devices last Christmas on a Black Friday deal from Amazon for my then 6 and 8 year old kids. They really liked them for a while (few months), but then found out that mommy and daddy’s phones were better suited for the demanding apps and games they like to play.

The devices sat dormant for several months until we decided to try it out with out 1 year old son for playing his favorite YouTube videos on-the-go. He is 1.5 and he also likes to play simple drawing games on the Fire 8 HD tablet. It was a real life-saver on our Route 66 Road Trip over Spring Break.

Based on this experience we can HIGHLY recommend this device for kids as young as 1.5, and as a side note, 8 year-olds probably need a more powerful device. We bring it everywhere we go now, and the videos have been super helpful to entertain our son at restaurants and during car rides.

Also, with the vast availability of apps in the Google Play Store (this is a normal Android device), this is basically the only portable electronic device you’ll need for your traveling toddler.

Category: Drawing & Coloring

Crayola Color Wonder Stow & Go

Why we recommend it:

  • Coloring book with 30 blank pages and Color Wonder markers that won’t draw on anything except the special paper in the book
  • Safe and non-toxic
  • Convenient plastic carrying case for easy traveling and stowing in the car

Editor’s Note: I absolutely love this product because the markers won’t mark on anything except the pages on the book that comes with it. This means no marks on clothing, car seats, car windows, etc. All of my kids have had a set of Crayola Color Wonder.

Your toddler can play with it easily in their car seat, though I am always weary of marker caps so I’d still recommend adult (or older sister) supervision for young toddlers. As a bonus, the travel case is useful for transporting from the car to restaurants as well.

My First Crayola Touch Lights

Why we recommend it:

  • A musical doodle pad that lights up as children draw with their fingers (no extra drawing pen required)
  • A fun sensory toy for toddlers (colors, gel touch, sounds)
  • Non-toxic, portable, and easy to stow away in the car

Fisher-Price DoodlePro

Why we recommend it:

  • A small magnetic drawing board that is ultra portable and clips onto car seat or stroller
  • Tethered pen with no loose pieces to lose under the seat
  • It’s pretty durable and perfect size for a young toddler

Editor’s Note: We’ve had this product for a while now and it works pretty well in terms of being easy for my toddler to move the eraser and holding up to the way he throws his toys around. It is small and easily fits on my toddler’s lap, and has a convenient hook on the top to make sure it doesn’t get lost.

Coolplay Water Drawing Mat

Why we recommend it:

  • Your toddler can draw colorful images with an easily refillable water pen
  • The drawings disappear on their own as the water evaporates (a few minutes)
  • Drawing mat is foldable and easy to store in the back pouch of your seat

Editor’s Note: We also own this product and love the convenience of refilling the pen simply with water when it runs out and the fact that it produces vibrant images on the color mat. We keep it in the car and have found it most useful at restaurants, but it is car seat friendly as well.

Category: Travel-friendly Toys & Books

Buckle Toys

Why we recommend it:

  • Super cute plush toys that come in a variety of animals and shapes
  • Assortment of clasps and belts that buckle
  • Helps toddlers develop fine motor skills with repeated fun
  • Has a little zipper pocket in the back to store other small toys
  • Buckles can be used to clip onto stroller or car seat

Melissa & Doug Soft Activity Books

Why we recommend it:

  • Soft books that have interactive and playful elements for learning
  • Melissa and Doug have a variety of soft activity books to choose from
  • Machine washable and well reviewed by other parents
  • Easy to crinkle up and store anywhere in the car

Category: Toddler Car Seat Trays and Organization

Kids Travel Tray for Toddler Car Seat

Why we recommend it:

  • An awesome tray for a play surface and organizer in the car seat
  • It has a plastic sleeve to secure a phone or tablet for watching shows without being able to grab/throw/dirty the device
  • Waterproof surface that is strong and easy to clean
  • Can be used on airplane seats and high chairs too

Backseat Car Organizers

Why we recommend it:

  • A solution to keep your toddler’s car toys organized in one place
  • It also helps protect the back of your seat from foot marks (from older kids in the car)
  • A plastic pouch will allow front facing children to watch shows on device
  • There are a few different companies that sell these, but most get good reviews from buyers

Category: Baby Car Seat Toys

You can definitely get by without any toys in the car for young babies under about one year old. I remember my kids mostly slept in the car as babies…or they cried. It was like one or the other and they are too little to understand most toys. I did, however, come across a few products I think could be useful and work well if you are looking for a car toy for baby.

Taf Toys in-car Play Center (with mirror)

Why we recommend it:

  • The mirror is a very useful feature that allows driving mommy or daddy to see the baby’s face
  • The design of this product allows cute soft toys to dangle in front of the baby to attract their attention (at least for a little while)
  • It is easy to install on headrests for most vehicles

Baby Car Wheel Toy for Car

Why we recommend it:

  • Suitable for babies around 1 year old
  • Design allows pretend wheel to safely rest on baby’s lap
  • It has a mirror which might be fun for a little while
  • It does make sounds, so be aware of that

That’s a Wrap!

I hope you found our list helpful in finding a car seat toy for your toddler (or baby). By far the most useful toy we’ve used with our toddler on road trips is the Amazon Fire HD tablet, which was cheap, it works to play shows/movies we’ve downloaded, it has an app store, and it has a kid-friendly case to keep it from breaking. My kids like doing art, so we always found car-friendly drawing activities to be a winner. My advice is to keep car toys in the car (or rotate toys from home) so your child is excited to see the “new” toy when it is time for a car ride. This can really help hold their attention, at least for the early part of the ride. Just know that we all struggle with car rides with toddlers and babies. In my opinion, almost any product is worth a try if it might make the car trip any easier!

What about you, do you have any secret weapons, any road trip car toys that have worked well with your children? Please share your tips in the comments!

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Best Toddler Toys for Car Rides and Road Trips

Author

I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".

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