20 versatile travel toys to keep toddlers entertained on long road trips

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Travel toys for toddlers: 20 versatile toys for kids

  • Travel toys for toddlers aren’t just good to have, they’re an absolute necessity.
  • To keep a toddler busy while traveling, you need engaging toys that aren’t too challenging.
  • Travel toys should also be easy to carry and difficult to lose – the fewer pieces, the better.

Travel provides a lush breeding ground for boredom, which is why every caregiver needs a reliable selection of mobile distractions when traveling with a toddler. As a parent of two young children and a specialist in early childhood development, I have been fine-tuning my stash of travel toys over many years.

A good travel toy is quiet enough that it won’t bother other people, and simple enough that you won’t lose or need to pick up a ton of pieces. It should also be something a child can safely handle on their own. Finally, you want them to work for you for as long as possible.

Here are 20 travel toys for toddlers, with age-appropriate pro tips.

Reusable stickers that are great for window seats

Melissa & Doug Play House! Reusable Sticker Pad and Reusable Sticker Pad My Town Bundle

Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad, available at Amazon, $5.99

These reusable stickers are perfect for travel because they can go on and off any surface, and the pad is small enough to fit on your toddler’s lap. They’re especially good if your child is seated by a window and the scene outside provides a dynamic backdrop.

A toddler twist on an old classic

plastic links for toddlers

Bright Starts Lots of Links, available at Amazon, $4.99

As young kids, when my sister and I had to sit through temple during long High Holy Day services, my aunt always gave us and our cousins a handful of paper clips. It was so simple, but so effective. These plastic rings are basically the young toddler version. Plus, they can double as teethers, and you can incorporate different sets. 

A magazine just for them

magazine for traveling with a toddler

Highlights Hello Magazine, 1-year subscription, available at Amazon, $39.99

These practically indestructible booklets contain miniature stories, poems, and/or songs, plus a find-it game in every issue. The content is geared toward 0- to 2-year-olds, but they’re also great for when your big kid wants to practice reading or storytelling. You could also try Highlights High Five Magazine for 2- to 6-year-olds, which has excellent content but is considerably less indestructible.

Travel-themed magnets that are easy to carry

travel toys

Magnetic Fun Cars, Planes, and Trains, available at Deseret Book, $9.99 

This breaks my small pieces rule, but it gets a pass because the magnets are contained in a compact tin. Most importantly, the magnets offer many variations on a theme, and because it mirrors the toddler’s travel experience, it’s easier for them to stay engaged longer.

A stuffy that comes with distractions

buckle blu whale

Buckle Toys Blu Whale, available at Amazon, $19.99

The Buckle Blu Whale is bright, soft, lightweight, and engaging. It keeps hands busy and provides lots of number and color learning opportunities. 

A soft busy board with carry strap

montessori busy board for toddlers

Kenley The Original Toddler Busy Board, available at Amazon, $28.99

Traveling with more than one toddler? Try this wool sensory activity board. It is similarly engaging to the Buckle whale but includes more variety in the fine-motor activities and has space for at least four tiny hands. It comes with a carry strap but could also fit into a small backpack or carry-on

A busy bag they can customize

stephen joseph llama purse

Stephen Joseph Crossbody Purse, available at Amazon, $14

Encourage your toddler to make their own busy bag to bring on the go. These purses are adorable and durable. The zipper is easy for little hands to maneuver, and little kids love carrying around small domestic items (think: pretend keys). This one also breaks the few-pieces rule, but it’s perfect for car rides with a toddler since everything will remain in your car.

A travel-themed coloring roll

coloring roll mini

Mudpuppy By Air, By Land, By Sea Mini Coloring Roll, available at Barnes & Noble and Target, $6.99

These roll-up coloring sheets from Mudpuppy are each a whopping 10-feet long but still convenient for travel. Older toddlers, especially, will appreciate all the different items to color. Unroll a small bit at a time while you’re on the go and unravel to display it all at your final destination.

A mess-free paint pad and pen

water coloring book

Melissa & Doug Water Wow!, available at Amazon, $5.93

Fill the pen-brush with water and watch as your toddler intently “paints” the pages over and over again with almost no muss, and certainly no fuss. These work everywhere and are available in multiple designs as well as single or multi-packs.

A very fun activity for older toddlers

lacing cards for toddlers

The World of Eric Carle “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” Lacing Cards, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from $14.08

From Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” come these 10 lacing cards, perfect for older toddlers. Not only are they a beautiful way to travel with illustrations from the classic story, but they are perfect for keeping hands busy while fine-tuning those fine motor skills

Books that distract without disturbing

crinkle books for toddler travel

Coolplay Baby’s First Non-Toxic Soft Cloth Crinkle Book, set of 8, available at Amazon, $13.99

We got these four years ago when my daughter was an infant, and she still enjoys them and can share the excitement with her baby brother. The books make a crinkling sound, and the set features themes such as color, number, and animal. They are small, light, and fall easily to the bottom of our backpack, making them the perfect clutch surprise when we’ve run through the rest of our options.

Durable headphones for toddlers

kids headphones

LilGadgets Connect+ Wired Headphones, available at Amazon and Walmart, $16.95

Plugging your kid in for the trip? LilGadgets Headphones are light and flexible but can handle a little rough play. The cord is encased in nylon, and the audio volume maxes out at 93 db, which is safe for limited use. Perhaps the most attractive quality of these headphones is that they have a port on each side, so you can link more than one pair together to watch and listen on a shared device.

Sensory sticks to settle tiny hands

sensory toys

Bunmo Stretchy Things, 6-pack, available at Amazon, $9.49

These discreet sensory sticks are designed for restless hands. My kids love using one or more of them at a time, and I also appreciate the stress relief they can provide. Even better, they are designed with neuroatypical people in mind, so if your child has autism, ADD, or ADHD and benefits from sensory stimulation, give these a try. 

Familiar travel buddies

sesame street figures

“Sesame Street” Playskool Collector Figures, 5-pack, available at Amazon, from $9.84

It feels almost foolish to try to pitch the benefits of keeping a “Sesame Street” character or two in your travel bag, so my only advice is this: occasionally rotate the characters.

Letters and words, delightfully bound

flash cards for toddlers

Mudpuppy Alphabet My ABCs Ring Flash Cards, available at Amazon, $12.99 

R is for ring! I like playing cards as a toy in general, and these have the added benefit of being attached to a ring for easy use while traveling. These flash cards are brightly designed, and toddlers of all ages can engage with the illustrated animals, letters, and words.

Easy-to-hold sketch pads

up up mini notebooks

Up & Up Spiral Memo Pads, 3-pack, available at Target, $2.19

I cannot recommend mini notebooks enough if your child can be even marginally entrusted with crayons or pens. They can be used for scribbling, tracing, learning, taking pretend food orders, and so on. Suggest prompts that align with your current travel and watch their imaginations take off. Pro tip: Carry one in each bag you’re traveling with. They’ll all get used.

A long-lasting memory game

memory game for traveling with a toddler

Melissa & Doug Flip-to-Win Memory Game, available at Amazon and Target, $9.99

Great for older toddlers, this memory game comes with 14 themes for repeated rounds of play. The cards slide into the back, and most importantly, the memory pieces aren’t detachable.

Slow and steady wins the ride

magnatab travel toy

Kid O Free Play Magnatab, available at Amazon, $20.61

The Magnatab’s strength as a travel toy is how slow it is. Creating on it requires deliberate action and occasionally correcting errors. It also works surprisingly well as a group toy because each child’s level of concentration is practically contagious — I once watched four pre-kindergarteners patiently take turns.

A 2-in-1 learning toy

mickey mouse board book for car rides

Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Learning Board Book, available at Amazo, $8.99

Older and younger toddlers alike will appreciate this two-in-one toy. At top, there is an erasable drawing pad with a conveniently attached pen. On the bottom is a board book with simple corresponding games.

A classic set for pretend play

battat play phone keys

Battat Cell Phone and Key Toy Set, available at Amazon, $14.94

Pretend phones are an old standby in my house, and this combo set has the added bonus of pretend keys so you don’t accidentally lose yours. They are chunky but light — great for tiny hands — and make just enough sounds to keep toddlers interested without bugging your seat neighbor with aggressive songs. Throw them in your purse, or theirs!

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My daughter loves playing with these toy kits that encourage brain development in babies and toddlers

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Lovevery play kits review: best subscription for childrens' toys
Starting at $36 a month, Lovevery’s curated play kits for babies and toddlers help foster child development in fun ways.

  • Lovevery offers curated play kits with age-appropriate toys sorted into 2-to-3-month age groups.
  • The toy are designed by early childhood development experts to entertain and support a child’s learning.
  • You can subscribe to a plan or buy kits separately; subscriptions start at $36 a month and solo kits start at $80.

Finding the best toys for babies and toddlers can be a serious challenge. My wife and I wanted to make sure our daughter had great toys that would make playtime both fun and meaningful in terms of cognitive and motor development. In the past year, we found that trusting toy curation to the team of experts Lovevery works out quite well.

The experts at Lovevery come from the fields of psychology, development, occupational therapy, and education. When these folks set out to create a company that produces toy and activity kits that would help foster brain development, they went all in. But calling Lovevery a toy company would be like calling a forest a place with trees. Yes, there are trees, but there’s so much more going on among them.

What are Lovevery play kits?

Scarlett with Lovevery play kits
That’s my daughter Scarlett playing with the Slide and Sleek Ball Run toy from the Babbler Play Kit.

Lovevery play kits are broken out into six kits (or subscriptions, if you choose a plan) intended to be swapped out every two months for babies, and into four kits intended to be swapped every three months for the brand-new toddler kits. Each kit contains carefully selected items that will engage, entertain, and enlighten children.

Each kit contains items that are developmentally appropriate for kids of the respective age. But kids don’t simply move on from the earlier toys when they outgrow the kit’s intended age group. Instead, the way a child engages with the toys evolves as their abilities and interests expand.

There’s the Looker Play Kit intended for newborns and babies through the first eight weeks of life. It contains things like a soft silicone rattle, cards with simple high-contrast images, and mittens with geometric patterns. Most of the objects in the Looker kit use only bold black and white colors because that’s what a newborn’s eyes can see. The toys are also designed for use by a little human who’s not yet using their hands with any sense of control or is just rolling over and still acting largely by instinct.

As for the instincts that make them put toys into their mouths – each item included in these kits is made with nontoxic water-based paints or dyes, organic fabric, sustainably sourced wood, and other safe, eco-friendly materials.

For older children who are between 11 and 12 months, the Thinker Play Kit contains a colorful doll, weighted balls, books with full-color images, and multiple toys that require manipulation and basic dexterity.

What they’re like to use

My daughter Scarlett still loves many of the toys she has played with for a year, and now she carries them around while walking and talking instead of kicking at them as she lies on her back on a play mat. The lasting power of these toys makes the $40 monthly expense seem quite affordable.

As kids enter their first full year, their development continues rapidly, but each child will hit milestones at different times, so the toddler kits are spread over three months instead of six, with four kits making up the whole year.

Scarlett with a Lovevery play
Here’s Scarlett playing with the Circle of Friends Puzzle from the same Babbler Play Kit.

The toddler kits are larger and include more items in each box, allowing caregivers to consider which toys to introduce over each three-month period to meet the abilities of a growing child and coax out their best efforts at problem-solving and critical thinking. This might be hard to believe, but don’t worry, the kids will have fun in the process – they’ll just form some new neural pathways while doing it.

What makes Lovevery stand out

While the kits are great, the play guide that comes with each kit is what truly sets Lovevery apart. The guides, which include full-color images, are broken down into easily digested sections that explain when and how each toy or item should be introduced. They also advise on how an adult can help a child engage with the item.

Going beyond the toys themselves, these guides also explain what’s going on with your child (“Learning to control his arms and legs” or “Recognizes people who take care of him,” for example), what each toy is designed to help with (like sensory exploration or making connections), and even what you as a parent are likely experiencing at each stage. The guides even offer ideas for other activities beyond using the toys themselves.

The bottom line

Now, I’m not a doctor so I definitely suggest talking to yours before incorporating these toys into playtime. In my experience though, Lovevery makes wonderful toys and well-curated kits that my daughter loves playing with. But to my wife and me, they’re more than that. They’re developmental tools that greatly benefit the child and caregiver who’s also engaged in a learning process.

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24 best Valentine’s Day gift ideas for kids of all ages in 2021

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primary
Primary’s rainbow heart pajama set is a comfy and cute Valentine’s gift for kids.

  • This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget the little ones in your life. 
  • You can’t go wrong with teddy bears or sweets, but if you’re looking to get a little more creative, we rounded up great Valentine’s Day gifts kids will love. 
  • Looking for more gift ideas for everyone in your life? Check out all of Insider Reviews’ Valentine’s Day gift ideas, including our favorite gifts for him and her.

You found the perfect gift for your partner – now it’s time to find something special for the little ones you love. As adults, we show the kids in our lives we love them every day with our kindness, support, and all that good stuff, but Valentine’s Day is a unique time to show your little ones you love them with some good old-fashioned gifting. 

Whether you’re looking for a gift for a newborn, a rambunctious toddler, or a clever elementary-schooler, we’ve got you covered. We rounded up 24 Valentine’s gifts ideas that are great for all kinds of kids – think books, crafts, and lots of sugary treats. 

Keep reading for 24 Valentine’s Day gifts that any kid will love:

An adorable new stuffed animal

llama

Lulu the Llama, available at Brooklinen, $38

Brooklinen’s aptly and adorably named baby line, Brooklittles, has everything you need to make the cutest nursery ever, including this soft and cuddly stuffed animal that your little one will love snuggling with. 

The cutest little mittens

mittens

Valentine Mittens with Heart, available at Etsy, from $31.50

These adorable mittens will keep their little hands toasty on cold days, plus the red heart adds a festive touch. There are sizes to fit babies, children, and even adults, so everyone can have a pair. 

A cute pair of knit loafers

rothys

Kids Loafer, available at Rothy’s, $65

Little kids will love getting to wear the same shoes as the big kids. Rothy’s are made out of recycled water bottles and are comfortable enough (and machine-washable) for all of their adventures. There are sneakers too if that’s more their style.

A super sugary treat

truffles

B’Day Truffle Dozen Box, available at Milk Bar Store, $24

Is there anything kids love more than sugar? These dense, chewy, rainbow cake truffles are sure to satisfy their sweet tooth. 

A kinetic sand bakeshop

kinetic sand bake shoppe

Kinetic Sand Bake Shoppe Playset, available at Target, $9.59

This kinetic sand can be easily molded into all sorts of fun shapes. This set comes with some “baking tools” so they can make cookies and cupcakes to start. Sensory toys like kinetic sand are also great for soothing overstimulated kids.

A Disney+ subscription to watch their favorite movies

disney plus 4x3

Subscribe for $6.99/month or $69.99/year

Get unlimited access to movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and 20th Century Fox. Read everything there is to know about Disney+ over here. And if you need some binge-spiration, here are all the new movies available to stream.

A city they can build themselves

little architect stem toy

Arckit Play Little Architect, available at Maisonette, $69

With 130 pieces of all different shapes, kids can create the pastel-colored city of their dreams with this STEAM toy.

A festive pair of pajamas

primary
Primary’s rainbow heart pajama set is a comfy and cute Valentine’s gift for kids.

Rainbow Heart PJ Top, available at Primary, $16

Rainbow Heart PJ Pant, available at Primary, $16

Any kid will love getting these cozy pajamas with a festive twist in the form of lots and lots of colorful hearts. 

A heartfelt book you’ve filled out

love book, $10

“What I Love About You by Me” Book, available at Barnes & Noble, $9.95

Give your kid a book filled with all of the reasons you love and appreciate them. They can look back on it whenever they need a little reminder that they’re awesome. 

A fuzzy, decorative pillow

heart pillow

Heart Faux Fur & Velvet Throw Pillow, available at Target, $16.99

Show your kids you “heart” them with this heart-shaped decorative pillow that adds a warm and fuzzy touch to their bed. 

A rainbow silk streamer

sarahs silks waldorf streamer

Sarah’s Silks Rainbow Silk Streamer, available at Amazon, $12.95

Kids love using their imaginations, which makes something as simple as a rainbow silk a great gift. Whether they use it for twirling, dancing, or playing dress-up, they’ll have fun getting creative with it.

A festive and funny book

junie b jones

“Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime” by Barbara Park, available at Amazon, $4.24

Junie B. Jones is an iconic and hilarious Kindergartner that kids love. Little ones have been reading her series for over 25 years! Any tiny bookworm will love working on their reading skills with this funny story about Junie B. Jones navigating “Valentime’s Day”.

A rainbow scratch-off note pad

melissa and doug scratch pad

Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Box of Rainbow Mini Notes, available at Amazon, $8.99

A note pad doesn’t seem all that exciting, unless you give them this one. Once they scratch off the black coating, a bright rainbow pattern will be revealed. They can use it to write notes or just create fun drawings. 

Crayons that are customized with their name

crayons

Personalized Rainbow Name Crayons, available at Etsy, from $19.95

Show your love for a young artist in your life with a personalized gift. Coloring gets a lot more fun with these giant rainbow crayons that spell out their name. 

A challenging LEGO set

Legos ideas ship $61.75

LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle, available at Amazon, $85.43

This LEGO set is a challenging and fun way for kids to work on their building and problem-solving skills. 

An inspiring poster

heros

Heroic Girls in Books Poster, available at Uncommon Goods, $29

Inspire your kids, no matter their gender, with this cute poster, featuring 100 inspiring women characters from great books. 

A heart-shaped teether

chewbeads heart shaped teether

Chewbeads Brooklyn Teether, available at Amazon, $14.50

On theme for Valentine’s Day, this teether — which features silicone and wood parts — can be attached to strollers and car seats so babies are distracted from the discomfort of teething.

A snuggly teddy that turns into a hoodie

cubcoats

Cubcoats hoodies, available at Cubcoats, from $35

What looks like an adorable stuffed animal at first glance can be rolled out into a full-sized, fuzzy hoodie. Kids will be so excited when they realize they can take their favorite snuggly toy with them everywhere they go. 

Read our full review here.

A singing pillow inspired by a viral song

baby shark

WowWee Baby Shark Official Song Cube, available at Amazon, $12.99

Kids are constantly singing a song about baby sharks — we don’t know why, but it seems like they’re really into it. Give them this plush cube that sings four different versions of “Baby Shark” so they can listen to the viral song all the time.

A playset for an aspiring baker

melissa doug slice bake cookie set

Melissa and Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set, available at Target and Walmart, from $15.79

Start little bakers off with a wooden slice and bake cookie set. They can use the knife to slice through the cookie “tube” and mix and match the icing toppings. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A craft kit for making sweet cards

Valentines Day Craft Kit Amazon

Kid Made Modern Valentines Craft Kit, available at Amazon and Maisonette, from $16.99

Make home decorations or little love notes with these art supplies, from gel pens to metallic paper and more. The popsicle sticks and felt hearts are perfect for handmade valentines, but the crafting can continue long after February 14.

Recommended ages: 6 years and up

A tee to spell out how you feel

alphabet_heart herwholeheart etsy

ABC I Love You Shirt, available at Etsy, $21.94

This love-themed baseball tee is sweet and neutral enough to wear year round. Stick with red and white, or choose from a variety of color combinations.

Available sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

A colorful slime pack

Elmer_s_Glue_20_Count_Slime Amazon

Elmer’s 20 Count Mini Premade Slime Party Pack, available at Amazon, Target, and Walmart, from $14.99

For a slime super-fan, nothing says love like 20 jars of premade slime. Each slime comes with a set of mix-ins for even more gooey fun. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A toy full of surprises

Two Pack_Mini Brands_Surprise_Balls Amazon

Zuru Mini Brands Double Pack, available at Amazon, $13.99

Surprise them with Mini Brands and let the unboxing joy begin. Plus, in this two-pack, collectors have double the chances to find a rare gold or glow-in-the-dark Mini Brand.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

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