It’s almost time to hit the road and you’re double-checking your many mental lists. Contacted the dog sitter? Check. Turned off all the appliances? Check. Confirmed reservations and printed out tickets? Check. Packed the family suitcases? Check. Gathered the travel toys? Uh oh.
Long trips can be tedious for little ones. With so much energy to expend and an abundance of wonder for the world around them, it can feel like a full-time job just keeping them occupied while you sail down the interstate or corral everyone through the airport. Travelling in public becomes extra tricky as you avoid all of the sid-eye looks and muttering that accompanies grumpy travelers who don’t seem to understand that children don’t always do exactly as you’d like them to. The right travel toys and games can keep the family focused, quiet, and happy along their journey. And the perfect combination is ideally compact, easy to carry, and diversified enough that it will hold children’s attention for long periods of time, without being so difficult as to frustrate them or make them lose interest. Luckily, there are plenty of toys and games out there that do just that. We’ve gathered a list of our favorites below; take a look and make room for just a few more items in your bag!
Our Top 3 Picks
- BUCKLE TOY Mini Buster
- Fine Motor Skills Development
- Set of 3! Tangle Jr. Original
- Boosts Focus & Creativity
- Spot It!™ On The Road Game
- Fun for the Whole Family
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Top Travel Toys
When choosing toys, safety, of course is uppermost in our minds as we research the toys for our list. Not every incident can be foreseen, though, so parents have to be vigilant while their kids are playing, and we know you are. So for us, safety means, among other things, rounded corners, nothing that will pinch fingers, softness, and strength. If the company has certificates or an award, that is a plus.
We do our best to match toys with the intended age groups and the safety factor that goes with the age group. While the travel toys list is meant for fun and relaxation on a road trip, we want them to have at least some benefit to a child’s physical and mental development.
Child development is accomplished through play, which is a child’s job. This is how children learn and explore the world. Kids use their five senses to make sense of the world around them, so it’s good to have bright, attractive colors, different materials and textures, sounds and buttons to push or buckles to put together. Basically, when we give our children toys, we are saying to them, “Go learn things.”
Children can still work on developing their physical skills while traveling, so we focused on fine-motor skills with toys like drawing kits, and those that have buckles and zippers. Toys that are manipulated with the fingers build those tiny muscles and increase their strength, so they can manipulate small objects with ease. Such play also increases hand-eye coordination.
Kids grow up and mature mentally at the same time as they do physically. The two go hand-in-hand. So while the fingers and hands learn to manipulate objects, the mind is learning about cause and effect, problem-solving, math, communication, vocabulary, numbers, shapes, and more.
These different little “jobs” we give kids are what helps them learn. So buckles are good, sounds are good, buttons and blocks are good. But in the car, sounds are not so good, as they can drive a parent nuts. So we focused on toys that are easy to pack, don’t make a mess, and have their own container so they are easily carried and unwrapped. The markers in the drawing kits make no mess. And they don’t make noise!
We want manufacturers to have really good reputations in customer service, toy safety, and an eye on how their toys support child development. There are many wonderful toys out there, so the personality of the toy makers is important. We are looking to choose toys by companies that have good reviews and few valid complaints.
We wanted all of the toys on the list to be attractive and fun. So we chose toys with bolder colors, interesting shapes, and appropriate complexity to keep kids engaged in their play. If it’s not attractive and fun, children will tire of it easily and want to move on to something else, and there is a limit to the number and types of toys you can take travelling with you. And, of course, the toys have to be small enough to easily pack and retrieve in the car. The carrying cases with handles are also good options.
What Determined the Top Travel Toys and Games for Kids on Our List
Travel toys are not inherently difficult to choose. As long as it can keep a child’s attention and focus to let the passing of time breeze through without much incident, then it should be perfectly alright. Unfortunately, doing is definitely different from merely saying it as we were literally bombarded with many potential candidates to our shortlist. We had to cut the number of these prospects down to a more manageable size so we included only those that have at least 4.3 stars in their customer satisfaction scores. Of course, we balanced this with both the positive and negative feedback or comments for each product to come up with a more realistic assessment of the overall usefulness of these play things especially in keeping children preoccupied during long travels or even unusual transport delays and stopovers.
Equally important was the product’s appropriateness to the developmental level of its target audience or users. For instance, if the product calls for some form of holding something, then it was imperative that the child’s gross-motor skills are already well-established. Otherwise, we will only be wasting our effort in coming up with a list that’s grossly disproportionate to the developmental skill level of its intended user. So, the product’s developmental appropriateness was indeed a very crucial factor in our selection. The product’s safety profile was also important. It pays to choose only products that will not bring harm to our children, especially the young ones who may not yet have an idea of what safety is all about. As long as certifications exist as to the safety of a certain product, we made sure to include it in the shortlist.
Tips to Make Travel Fun for Kids
Going on a trip with kids in tow can be a very interesting prospect for many parents as it gives them the opportunity to treat their kids to people, places, food, and events that may not be the same as what they have at home. While traveling with kids can be a nightmare for some, it is pure joy for most. Technically, the major concern of parents is how to survive a dull and boring road trip especially that young kids are not known for their patience. Here are some tips to minimize boredom and make travels for kids more fun.
- Plan, plan, plan. – You don’t need a foolproof plan to make kiddie travels fun. At least have an idea of what you need to do, see, stay, and experience. Do allow for some spontaneity though.
- Observe only one pace-–your kids’. – Young children, especially toddlers, require time to really explore new surroundings as well as adjust to each circumstance or situation. If you think going to a park will take you two hours to appreciate everything, double or even triple that time for your tots.
- Be prepared for any weather. – This is part of contingency planning. The point is you don’t want to spoil your kid’s fun simply because of unforeseen weather disturbance. So, you must be ready for everything and anything.
- Let them choose the travel toys they would like to bring. – Be mindful that the toys in this case are primarily intended to break the monotony of long drives and long waits. As such, one or two of your kid’s favorite toys to keep him or her company should be enough.
(You May Also Like: The Ultimate Guide To Baby Camping Gear)
Traveling with kids can be a very fun experience not only for the children themselves but also for parents. Just make sure that if you do intend to travel with your children, you will have their safety and comfort as your priority. Of course, you can rely on these 10 best travel toys and games for kids in 2018 to help you prevent boredom and keep the spirit of fun during these travels. Make sure you are fully prepared for your trip with our helpful guides on the top sunscreens, luggage sets and car seats for kids.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know my child will like the toys I choose for our trip?
A: No one can tell the future, but the first thing you can do is ask your child. Kids do better if they are part of the solution. Let him pick a few and you pick a few. Remember to follow the guidelines of: keep it small, keep it interesting, keep it no mess. And no small pieces as they can be swallowed or lost in the vehicle.
Q: What if my 7 year old loses interest in the toys we have brought on our trip?
A: In that case, they may fall asleep. But if they don’t, you could play “I see it”-type games by looking out the window. Use this time to get your child interested in something else. Use it as bonding time. Talk about the fun things you will be doing on your vacation. If you have a drawing kit along, ask him to draw a picture of what you will be doing or something you did together in the past. The possibilities are endless.
Q: My son can be a nightmare in a car. He drives his dad nuts with all of his moving around. What can we do to calm him?
A: There could be many answers to that question, but our first suggestion is to seek out a therapist. The therapist can help if there is any diagnosis to be made. Failing that, try a fidget toy. Some say it can help people to focus on what they should be doing and help with boredom.
Q: I can only afford one travel toy for my kids. What are some other ideas for playing calmly in the car?
A: First, it’s ok. You don’t have to go buy a whole bunch of games to take with you. Choose some from home. There are lots of window games you can play. Play I Spy….count cows and horses or trucks. License plate games can help your kids recognize states, numbers, and letters.
Take crayons and paper or a coloring book from home. These are just as good as a toy to keep young minds busy. You can pass the paper around and play a game like hangman or print games from the computer. Or maybe they can just read a book if they are old enough and don’t get car sick. The list of activities is endless.
Q: Why are there no electronic devices on your list?
A: Electronics have their place in travel plans for sure. Movies and games can keep your little one’s attention in the car just fine. However, kids also need to play with toys and use their hands in order to learn things. And with a dvd in the back seat, parents can’t see the movie and enjoy it with their kids. We believe in sharing family time, and it’s much easier for parents to interact with their kids when they can pass a toy or drawing paper around and share ideas.
Q: What are the average ages recommended for these toys?
A: While toddlers and preschoolers tend to be the age group that could really utilize a distraction during travel time, the most we tried our best to come up with an assortment of options for this list that will be of interest to any child from infants to teens.
Q: Are there any safety hazards with these travel toys?
A: We only included items that have been safety-tested and are made with child-safe materials, however some of the games and toys are designed with older children in mind and may contain small pieces that could present a choking hazard. Use your best judgment about whether a particular toy is right for your child.
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