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I’ve always said that it seems almost as dangerous to drive with screaming kids as it is to drive drunk. It becomes almost impossible to focus and you can forget about enjoying yourself. Even your spouse’s breathing starts to add to the noise. We’ve all been there, right?

While I am not a parent against the use of an iPhone or iPad to bring relief from the insanity… I like being able to give the kids something to play with that will keep their brains busy and avoid them falling victim to the “Screenslaver”.

I’ve put together a list of toys and activities for toddler and Elementary aged kids that I have found extremely helpful in keeping my little ones occupied while traveling. I hope you find it helpful, too!


  1. Finger Puppets

With younger toddlers they may be satisfied to just chew on them, however my kiddo uses them as props for songs and characters in countless stories. A bonus with these plastic ones is that they also make great bath toys!

2. Wikki Stix

Wikki Stix are one of my favorites. They are malleable wax sticks and can stick to all sorts of smooth surfaces like windows, walls and trays so they are perfect for cars and planes. They can be manipulated and bent into all different shapes and designs. Maybe not great for young toddlers who will just stick them in their mouths but they are extremely entertaining for most ages. In fact, you can find me playing with them whenever we buy them for my son so… Just trust me #worthit

3. Threading Toys

Any threading toys are an awesome way to entertain your kiddos while also helping them develop motor skills.

4. Buckle Buster

The Buckle “Buster” is another great motor skills toy that takes concentration for young ones so it is a good one for keeping minds and hands busy for a while.

5. Baby Beads

Baby Beads are fantastic. It is basically a jumble of beads that are strung together and can be moved around and played with. This is another toy that I find myself absent-mindedly playing with on the reg. Bonus: They are awesome for teething little ones!

6. Dimpl

Who likes popping the “button” tabs in on the lids of soft drinks?! As kids my siblings and I would fight over who got to do it… the important things, you know? Dimple is essentially just a giant soft drink lid toy, only you can push the tabs back and forth over and over again. It is the perfect sensory toy and great for super young toddlers!

7. My Quiet Book

The “My Quiet Book” Activity book is yet another wonderful sensory/motor skills toy. It has buttons and snaps, tie-able “shoes” and zippers. This is a favorite car toy but it is also great for quiet/nap time at home and in hotel rooms!

8. Dot Labels

For older toddlers a package of dot labels are one of the simplest forms of entertainment! My son will spend hours peeling and sticking… I like to hand him a little journal/notebook that he can stick them in but he’ll also stick them to himself and his car seat. They can take a second to clean up but its mostly off of fabric so its pretty easy and WELL worth the quiet car time with a busy child!

9. Doodle Boards

Doodle boards are always a good idea and this one is super easy for the really young ones who are just learning how to “color”

10. Binoculars

These Melissa and Doug Binoculars are super inexpensive and awesome for keeping little ones busy and learning. We love playing I-Spy and talking about what we see out the windows. They are a great toy for destinations and at home, as well.

Elementary Age

  1. Wikki Stix!

This is how much I love Wikki Stix… I’m giving you a second link, here! They are basically the perfect travel toy and awesome for almost any age. I love to whip them out while we wait for food in restaurants and in pretty much any public sitting, as well. Keeping in mind that I am not sponsored by them in any way… You should get them. Go ahead. You know you want to.

2. Mini Etch-A-Sketch

They are the perfect size for traveling and a classic in entertaining kids and teenagers, alike.

3. Fidget Snake Cube

The sensory Snake Cube is basically a rubber cube for little ones. You can twist it into different shapes that are suggested or make creations of your own.

4. Mini Magnet Drawing Board

Magnet Drawing boards are popular toys because they can be “drawn” on and erased again and again. A mini drawing board is perfect for cars and planes.

5. Scratch-Art Pads

Classic, Super cheap, and incredibly addicting. They are like scratch cards for kids… always so fun to scrape something away and see what lies underneath!

6. Glow Sticks

Glow Sticks are super fun for night drives. My son loves to make bracelets for everyone in the car and wave them around to music. He also falls asleep in their glow. As long as they are not a distraction to the driver they are great for when restlessness and exhaustion mingle and bring on the bedtime car meltdowns.

7. Magnet Boards

Magnet boards are no mess and so much fun. Kids love magnets and the boards are flat so they are easily stored in the back of pocket of a car seat.

8. Squigz

Squigz are awesome little suction cup toys. You can build them on themselves, stick them to windows, tray-tables and car activity trays. A bonus is that these, too make great bath toys when you’re not traveling.

9. Coggy

Another super addicting rub cube style brain buster toy that can be twisted into different shapes, used as a fidget toy and is great for brain development.

10. Pipe Cleaners

Pipe cleaners have been used in crafts and to engage little minds basically since the early 1900s. They are cheap, fun and easy to clean up and reuse.

Obviously I wouldn’t recommend bringing all of these things on a trip because it would be incredibly impractical space-wise and add a ton of stress in the form of clutter. However, a couple or even a few of these toys are sure to help keep kids happy and entertained while keeping them from turning into iPad zombies!

Happy Trails, mama! And Godspeed 😉

6 comments on “20 Toys and Activities to Keep Kids Busy While Traveling

  1. ronca2013 says:

    How on earth did you find time to put this together?? Great tips! Jessica- listen up!! You are amazing Izzy!!


    1. thecarryonmama says:

      Thank you so much!! I’ve had to make time! Hah… But I’m loving it!


  2. Love all of these! We’ve had a few ourselves! 🙂


    1. thecarryonmama says:

      Yes! They are great, aren’t they? I can imagine y’all would need them with all of your moving around, these days!


  3. Westi Jo says:

    Is, this is an amazing list! I think so many of these suggestions would be useful for a certain grandson with ADHD! I’m always trying to think of things he can do on his own without reading to screen time! Thank you!!!
    Also, I feel like there are some good ideas here for another little traveling family I know and love! 😉


    1. thecarryonmama says:

      Thanks so much, Westi! They have been amazing toys for us and I hope they are helpful for your grandson! I still throw the iPad at them now and then but I love having some real toys that keep them busy, too!


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