20 fun travel toys to keep toddlers busy on long road trips

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Travel toys for toddlers: 20 fun 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 this summer, 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. Since many families will be hitting the road this summer, 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.

Sensory sticks to settle tiny hands

sensory toys

Bunmo Stretchy Things, 6-pack, available at Amazon, $8.24

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. 

A toddler twist on an old classic

toddler playing with bright starts links

Bright Starts Lots of Links, available at Buy Buy Baby and 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. 

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.

Letters and words, delightfully bound

my abcs ring flash cards

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.

A magazine just for them

highlights hello magazine for toddlers

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.

A soft busy board with carry strap

child playing with montessori busy board in car seat

Kenley The Original Toddler Busy Board, available at Amazon, $25.99

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

Travel-themed magnets that are easy to carry

travel toys

Magnetic Fun Cars, Planes, and Trains, available at The Red Balloon Toy Store, $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, $21.99

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

A 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

child coloring on mudpuppy air land sea coloring roll

Mudpuppy By Air, By Land, By Sea Mini Coloring Roll, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, $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, $5.99

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, $14.95

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.

Familiar travel buddies

child playing with sesame street playskool figures

“Sesame Street” Playskool Collector Figures, 5-pack, available at Amazon and Walmart, $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.

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, $19.99

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 Amazon, $12.99

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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24 fun gift ideas for toddlers in 2021

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LeapFrog Count Along Cash Register

  • Finding gifts that toddlers will love more than the boxes they come in can be a challenge.
  • I’ve already gone through that process with my toddler and have rounded up 24 of the best toddler gifts.
  • You can check out all of Insider Reviews gift guides to shop for everyone on your list.

Toddlers can be picky little humans. You know this if you’ve ever seen how long they’re entertained by a cardboard box or bubbles, only to leave a pricey toy sitting by the wayside day after day.

I would know – my 2-year-old has a big personality. But I’ve become a pro at buying gifts that she plays with longer than the packages they come in. That’s why I’ve rounded up 24 gifts that will be a hit with any toddler. Many of the gifts on this list have also been tried, tested, and well-loved by my own child.

Check out 24 of the best gifts for toddlers below:

Their first toolbox

child playing with hape wooden toolbox

Hape Fix It Kid’s Wooden Tool Box and Accessory Play Set, available at Amazon, $19.59

Toddlers can fix things up around the house with this 17-piece toolbox. The small set is just the right size for toddler hands and includes a hammer, nails, screwdriver, screws, and more.  

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Educational place mats

little tikes educational placemats

Little Likes Kids Educational Two-Sided Place mat Variety Pack, available at Amazon, $14.99

Even as they refine their eating skills, toddlers still often make a mess. Keep your table clean and your toddlers entertained with these three double-sided place mats.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Books to build their library

baby goes to market

“Baby Goes to Market,” available at Amazon, $14.56

“The Rainbow Fish,” available at Amazon, $9.99

“The Snowy Day,” available at Amazon, $4.95

“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” available at Amazon, $4.59

“I Like It When . . . /Me gusta cuando . . .” available at Amazon, $7.41

There’s nothing quite like cuddling up with a good book at bedtime. From simple board books to narratives that encourage kindness, toddlers will ask to read these books again and again.

Animal-themed bingo

banana panda bingo

Banana Panda Let’s Play Animal Bingo, available at Amazon, $17.92

Toddlers can get in on the action with this simplified version of bingo. Each bingo card features animals in a different habitat, and the boards and tokens are made of thick cardboard that will hold up to rough play.

Recommended ages: 2 years and up

A World of Eric Carle puzzle

mudpuppy eric carle puzzles for toddlers

Mudpuppy World of Eric Carle Brown Bear 4-in-A-Box Puzzles, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, $14.99

Four-piece puzzles are a step up from peg puzzles, another toddler favorite. This set of four puzzles is inspired by the popular book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” As a former English teacher, I can’t resist a toy that encourages reading. Even if you don’t have the book at home, these puzzles will still be engaging and challenging while simultaneously exposing toddlers to color matching.  

Recommended ages: 2 years and up

The ultimate racetrack

Go! Go! Smart Wheels Ultimate Corkscrew Tower

Go! Go! Smart Wheels Ultimate Corkscrew Tower, available at Walmart and Target, from $29.82

This quickly became our family’s favorite Go! Go! Smart Wheels track after the company sent us a review sample a few months ago. It can be configured into one tall spiral or two smaller spirals for racing. You’ll get one race car, and the track includes a switch track, hazards, and a trap door. Five different locations along the track prompt the car to play various sounds, songs, and phrases. If you already have other Go! Go! Smart Wheels tracks, you can connect them to the tower.

Recommended ages: 1 to 5 years

An interactive thinking chair

blues clues chair

Blues Clues and You! Play and Learn Thinking Chair, available at Walmart, $49.44

If you have a Blues Clues fan, this real-life thinking chair will be a big hit. It comes with a mailbox, letters, and an interactive handy dandy notebook. The chair can detect when kids sit down or get up, and there is even a storage space under the seat. We’ve been testing it for a few months, and my daughter hasn’t let it leave our living room since. 

Recommended ages: 2 to 5 years

A color-changing bath book

Color Me: Who's in the Water? (Wee Gallery Bath Books)

“Color Me: Who’s in the Water?” available at Amazon, $12.95

Toddlers will think this book is magic when it changes color in their bathwater. The illustrations are the central focus with just a few words on each page. This creates an ideal environment for reluctant readers to pick up a book. Use it for some water painting fun out of the bath, too. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 3 years

A dump truck made of recycled plastic

Green Toys Dump Truck

Green Toys Dump Truck, available at Amazon and Walmart, from $18.86

Whether you have a sandbox, a dirt pile in the backyard, or a bunch of toys that need to be moved around the house, toddlers will enjoy loading this truck and dumping things out. The brightly colored toy is made of 100% recycled plastic. An added bonus: After this truck spends a long day hauling materials for your child, you can throw it in the dishwasher. 

Recommended ages: 12 months and up

Reusable mess-free coloring pads

Water Wow! 3 Pack - Dinosaurs, Adventure and Space

Melissa & Doug Water Wow! 3-Pack, available at Amazon, Target, and Kohl’s, from $10.99

If you have a toddler living in your house and you haven’t yet discovered the magic that is Water Wow, you’re missing out. Each pad comes with four reusable boards that change color when they make contact with the water pen. They make absolutely no mess and are some of our favorite travel toys for toddlers. We keep one in the car and always bring them along to places like the doctor’s office and restaurants. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A picnic play set and shape sorter all in one

LeapFrog Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket

Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket, available at Walmart, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon, from $20.99

 This picnic play set is one of our favorite toys for 1-year-olds. It teaches toddlers concepts like shapes, colors, manners, and sharing. The basket includes a shape sorter, two cups, two forks, two plates, six food items, and a picnic blanket. 

Recommended ages: 6 months to 3 years

A doll to love and care for

wee baby stella

Manhattan Toy Wee Baby Stella, available at Buy Buy Baby, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Amazon, from $16.99

This doll can grow with children as they move through different developmental stages. Toddlers can practice caring skills and strengthen their fine motor skills by removing and replacing the doll’s binky as well as changing its clothes. At 12 inches tall, Wee Baby Stella is also a great size for toddlers. 

Recommended ages: 1 year and up

A starter dollhouse

child playing with melissa and doug wooden dollhouse

Melissa & Doug Fold and Go Wooden Dollhouse, available at Amazon and Walmart, $50.14

Dollhouses can keep toddlers entertained for hours as they imagine new scenarios and practice everyday skills. The set comes with 11 pieces of wooden furniture and two dolls, which is a big plus as many dollhouses don’t come with dolls. 

Recommended ages: 3 to 6 years

Toddler-size crayons and coloring books

My First Toddler Coloring Book

My First Toddler Coloring Book, available at Amazon, $4.10

Crayola Jumbo Crayons, available at Walmart, $2.97

Crayola Multicultural Large Crayons, available at Amazon, $4.19

This is a simple yet exciting gift for young toddlers who are just learning how to color and develop their fine motor skills. The large pictures, numbers, letters, and shapes have thick lines, and the pages are durable. These are all characteristics that make coloring easier for toddlers. Thicker jumbo and large crayons are designed for toddlers to have success coloring. This book was one of the first coloring books I bought my toddler over a year ago, and it’s still going strong. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 3 years (coloring book); 3 years and up (crayons)

A push car with all the bells and whistles

step 2 whisper ride on car

Step2 Whisper Ride II Ride-On Push Car, available at Buy Buy Baby and Amazon, $74.99

My neighbors can’t help but smile when they see my toddler roll by in this push car. Step2 sent a review sample that we’ve been testing since the beginning of the summer. It’s still in great shape and handles hills and bumpy roads well. Some standout features include a storage trunk, a working horn, cup holders (for you and your toddler!), and a seat belt. 

Recommended ages: 18 months to 4 years

A cuddly version of everyone’s favorite Star Wars character

Star Wars Mandalorian The Child

Star Wars The Mandalorian The Child aka Baby Yoda Plush, available at Target and Kohl’s, from $19.89

Toddlers can cuddle up with quite possibly the cutest Star Wars character ever. Toys based on characters like this one give kids just enough inspiration for imaginative play scenarios without doing all the work for them. Even if you haven’t seen “The Mandalorian,” it’s hard to resist this endearing little creature.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A cleaning set so they can ‘help’ around the house

Melissa & Doug Let's Play House! Dust, Sweep & Mop Set

Melissa & Doug Let’s Play House! Dust, Sweep & Mop Set, available at Buy Buy Baby, Kohl’s, and Amazon, from $26.99

My daughter loves to “help” me clean around the house and this set is the perfect size for her. It comes with a pint-sized broom, mop, duster, brush, dustpan, and even a storage rack. My toddler has consistently used it for more than a year, and it’s still in excellent shape. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A doctor’s play set

B. Dr. Doctor Toy

B. Toys Toy Doctor Kit, available at Target and Amazon, from $19.99

Doctor visits can be scary, but role-playing with a play doctor kit makes them more approachable and even fun. This 10-piece kit comes with a stethoscope, otoscope, blood pressure cuff, syringe, scissors, thermometer, mirror, a pair of tweezers, a beeper, and a carry case to keep it all organized. The pager beeps and lights up, and the stethoscope makes a heartbeat sound. 

Recommended ages: 18 months and up

A Lego set for learning the alphabet

lego duplo alphabet truck

Lego Duplo My First Alphabet Truck, available at Amazon and Target, from $15.99

This Lego Duplo set encourages hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as toddlers stack blocks and move the truck around. It comes with 36 Duplo pieces, including 26 letter bricks, a truck, and 10 other bricks and figures. 

Recommended ages: 18 months and up

A customized tricycle

Radio Flyer Trike

Radio Flyer Custom Build-A-Trike, available at Radio Flyer, from $55

There’s nothing quite like a classic red tricycle. Radio Flyer sent this tricycle for me to test, and I’m impressed by its quality. Depending on how you customize it, this tricycle can grow with your child from 9 months to 5 years old. Available customization options include a classic bell, a canopy, and a footrest. What I appreciate most about it is the push handle — I use it to help my daughter learn to steer and make sure she is safe while learning to ride. 

Recommended ages: 9 months to 5 years

A set of musical instruments

B. Toys Drumroll Please Instrument Set

B. Toys Drumroll Please Instrument Set, available at Amazon, $35.99

This musical set inspires imagination and creativity. It includes a drum, two drumsticks, castanets, a whistle, a tambourine, and a shaker egg. All of the instruments fit neatly inside the drum so toddlers can take it anywhere.

Recommended ages: 18 to 36 months

A cash register with play food and money

LeapFrog Count Along Cash Register

LeapFrog Count Along Cash Register, available at Target, $19.99

My daughter and I have played many hours of “grocery store” with this set. It comes with a working cash register, eight pieces of play food, 10 coins, and a credit card. Prompts encourage kids to count coins, and buttons on the display correspond with the play food.  

Recommended ages: 2 to 4 years

A stylish play mixer for the budding chef

KidKraft Baking Set Modern Metallics

KidKraft Modern Metallics Baking Set, available at Kohl’s, $19.99

This stylish mixer can be an addition to an existing play kitchen, but it’s also ideal if you have limited space. The set comes with a mixer, a bowl, eggs, flour, sugar, milk, a baking sheet, cookies, and a working rolling pin. Toddlers can’t help but imitate daily life, and this set let my daughter “make” cookies without making a mess. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Everything they need to complete rescue missions

Paw Patrol Rescue Rev Up Vehicle with Mystery Dinosaur Figure

Paw Patrol Dino Rescue Rev Up Vehicle with Mystery Dinosaur Figure, available at Amazon, $10.29

For less than $15, this toy comes with a figurine, a vehicle, and a surprise dinosaur egg. Choose from six different Paw Patrol characters: Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble, Skye, and Zuma. Each vehicle has a rev-up motor and a working tool.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

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A fast-food toy collector explains how he managed to amass a stockpile of 20,000 items – the largest in the world – which he stores in his ‘Happy Meal house’

IMG_9096
Percival R. Lugue posing with his Guinness World Record title for the most number of fast-food toys won in 2014.

  • Percival R. Lugue, holds the world record for owning the biggest collection of fast-food toys.
  • To accommodate them he bought a home that resembled a familiar shape: a McDonald’s Happy Meal box.
  • Insider spoke to Lugue about his toy collection and the drawbacks he faced as a result of COVID-19.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2014, Percival R. Lugue became the first person to receive a Guinness World Record title for having the largest collection of fast-food restaurant toys, having amassed a mammoth 10,000 items.

Nearly seven years later, Lugue, who is based in the Philippines, told Insider his collection has likely doubled: “My rough estimate of the total fast food toys at hand would be more than 20,000.”

178096920_880291459183888_4376354484681269634_n
Some of the fast-food restaurant toys collected by Percival R. Lugue.

Collecting toys, for Lugue, is nothing new, since his profound interest dates to when he was five years old.

During the 80s, various fast-food restaurants started popping up all over the Philippines, including in his home province.

Lugue explained: “This paved the opportunity for me to continue with my toy collection without putting a strain in my pocket.” Being a college student at the time, Lugue said he had a very limited budget “but when I saw the set Popeye toys from Jollibee, I took a plunge, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Since then, Lugue has “religiously collected” all the fast-food toys that come out from fast-food chains including but not limited to Jollibee, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King.

When asked how he stores 20,000 toys while living with his parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, Lugue said he took a joint decision with his family to build another house. I

It became increasingly difficult for Lugue and his family to tread a path around the house because “every nook and cranny of [his ancestral home] was packed with fast food toys.”

But now, all the toys are strategically displayed on the walls of Lugue and his family’s new home, so as to not hinder traffic in the household.

178145870_452612282487725_8057404785870227534_n
A photo displaying Percival R. Lugue’s toys hanging on the walls of his new home.

Commenting on the outer appearance of the new house, Lugue said he saw a familiar silhouette in its architecture. “Although it was never intentional, the house turned out to look like a gigantic Happy Meal Box except for the Golden arches on top, when it was finished.” Since then, Lugue said he always endearingly refers to that house as a “Happy Meal house.”

“I said to myself, ‘what a perfect receptacle for these fast food toys,'” he added.

IMG20210503162559
The ‘Happy Meal house.’

As for why he collects toys, Lugue explained that each piece would represent a vivid story in his life.

“They are like mementos of very special meals I shared with people who are very important to me.” One such toy is the Hetty Spaghetti, which Lugue bought with his mother way back in the 80s. “My mother passed on a couple of years ago and seeing and touching this same Hetty toy transported me to the place and time where both my mom and I shared a special happy moment.”

For Lugue, his collectibles are an “awesome tapestry” of his life, where each toy has a happy story to tell. And now, acquiring a toy from every visit to a fast-food restaurant has become “non-negotiable” for Lugue. “I have to buy a toy just so I may be able to encapsulate or immortalize that fun rendezvous in a fast food restaurant with friends and family,” he added.

Over the years, Lugue developed a methodical way to obtain toys that is not only easy on his wallet but also his diet. First, he would go with his family to Jollibee once a month to complete the set of toys that were on offer. This would be followed by a monthly visit to McDonald’s by Lugue and his friends, where they would collect toys to complete the set of Happy Meal Toys.

“Basically, it’s just two visits to fast-food restaurants per month. With a little help from my friends and family, we get to enjoy a meal together which is in no way detrimental to our health and I get to keep all the toys from all the Happy Meals and Jolly Meals.”

When asked whether the COVID-19 pandemic affected the growth of his toy collection, Lugue said he wasn’t stopped from acquiring more pieces. In fact, his immense love for toys allowed him to work around a global pandemic to add to his stash.

He made the best out of the situation by ordering food deliveries to his office and getting his colleagues into buying meals with toys on offer. “I was able to convince my colleagues into buying Happy Meals in one of our dinners. In just one delivery, I was able to complete the set of Doraemon toys, which are currently being offered here in McDonald’s,” he said.

“It was a most unusual set-up but a happy one nonetheless.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

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 Buy Buy Baby and 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, $21.99

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 Amazon and Barnes & Noble, $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!

Read the original article on Business Insider

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!

Read the original article on Business Insider

Hasbro is dropping the ‘Mr.’ from its Potato Head toys because ‘culture has evolved,’ and it’s angering critics who say ‘woke imbeciles are destroying the world’

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head
Life-size versions of the toys formerly known as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.

  • Hasbro announced it was dropping the “Mr.” from its line of Potato Head toys.
  • The decision stirred strong feelings online, with critics blaming the choice on “woke” activism. 
  • But the rebranding is part of a broader modernization movement in the toy industry.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

America’s favorite anthropomorphized spuds are getting a rebrand.

Toymaker Hasbro announced on Thursday that it’s dropping the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from its Potato Head toys beginning this fall. According to Fast Company’s Elizabeth Segran, the decision was based on the way toddlers play with the toys: Young children often make families with the Potato Heads, and not all families look the same.

“Culture has evolved,” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice president and general manager at Hasbro, told Fast Company. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists – with the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ – is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”

Dropping the titles will allow kids to adding whatever type of clothing and accessories they want to the potatoes, allowing for more varied expressions of gender and sexuality, Fast Company reports. 

Hasbro noted in a tweet Thursday afternoon that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys it currently sells aren’t being discontinued, but will be part of the broader Potato Head product line. 

But the decision to modernize the spuds seems to have stirred some strong feelings, particularly among conservative critics, who are calling the decision silly and over-reactive. 

TV host Piers Morgan has tweeted multiple times about the move, saying it was made in order not to “upset a few wokies.” 

Rep. Lauren Boebert, who represents Colorado’s 3rd congressional district, also implied that the rebranding goes too far in a tweet posted Thursday. 

Political commentator Ben Shapiro has also tweeted about the name change several times, making multiple tongue-in-cheek remarks about the effects of the decision. 

Others have posted comments such as “It’s time for Republican states to secede” and “I’m ready for the apocalypse now.” 

While much of the social media uproar surrounding the potatoes and their genders appears to be at least partly joking, the decision to drop their titles does point to a broader trend in the toy industry: modernization.

As Insider’s Tanya Dua reported this week, other legacy toy brands including Mattel are thinking of ways to reposition their decades-old brands. Barbie, for instance, has transitioned from a plastic supermodel with impossible proportions and a fixation on dating to a role model for young girls – these days, Barbie is speaking out about racial equality and pursuing a career that has nothing to do with Ken.

And she’s no longer just a thin, white, blonde woman: Barbie now comes in 175 different skin tones, ethnicities, eye and hair colors, body types, and abilities. As a result of these changes, sales have increased 19% year-over-year, according to Insider. 

Hasbro, for its part, has also seen sales rise, even amid the pandemic. But as CNBC reports, its success is driven in part by its relationship with Disney: Hasbro holds the master toy license for Marvel and Star Wars content, and it also makes companion toys for wildly popular franchises like “Frozen.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The last 2 Toys ‘R’ Us stores in the US have closed down after the COVID-19 pandemic hit sales

tru kids
A rendering of a redesigned Toys ‘R’ Us store, from owner Tru Kids.

The last two Toys ‘R’ Us stores in the US have reportedly closed, bringing to an end a two-year effort to re-establish the onetime behemoth’s retail footprint. 

The Toys ‘R’ Us brand, purchased in 2019 by Tru Kids, will reportedly continue as an online retailer. The brand is active on Twitter, YouTube, and other social channels, but its retail effort was hindered by the rise of COVID-19, according to CNBC

“Consumer demand in the toy category and for Toys ‘R’ Us remains strong and we will continue to invest in the channels where the customer wants to experience our brand,” a Tru Kids spokesperson told CNBC.

The final stores were in Texas and New Jersey, Bloomberg reported on Friday. 

toys r us founder
Toys ‘R’ Us founder Charles Lazarus.

After its first store opened in 1957, Toys ‘R’ Us grew into a national chain of more than 700 US locations. In the 1980s and 1990s, the company’s ads saturated children’s TV, saying, “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid.” 

 

It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2017.

At the time, the company placed some blame on Amazon, Walmart, and Target, saying online retailers had created a “perfect storm” that drove Toys ‘R’ Us into bankruptcy. 

The following March, it told employees it would be closing all retail locations in the US. Its UK arm also announced plans to liquidate its business, closing about 100 stores. 

Read more: A ‘tsunami’ of retail bankruptcies is about to sweep the US and drown courts in Chapter 11 filings, lawyer says

In February 2019, newly formed Tru Kids said it planned to revive the brand. In July 2019, the company opened new locations in Houston, Texas, and Paramus, New Jersey. 

The Houston store closed on January 15, and the New Jersey store closed on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

In 2020, the renewed company relaunched its website in partnership with Amazon.

Tru Kids didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. 

Read the original article on Business Insider