Recently we flew from San Francisco to Toronto. We followed up that five hour flight with a RIDICULOUSLY long 7 1/2 hour drive to Montreal. Then we made whirlwind visit to family in Ottawa and then drove back to Toronto just in time to catch our five hour flight to Aruba. There we spent a blissful week where our most pressing “problem” was – “pool or beach”? All that relaxation came crashing to an end though, when we boarded first a 4 hour flight to Charlotte and then another five hour flight from Charlotte back to San Francisco. Did I mention that we live a good hour and a half from SFO? Oh, yeah, and that we were traveling with our 16-month-old daughter? Thankfully she took all the car time and flights in stride. We invariably got off the plane to a chorus of “your daughter really travels well!”
Want to have this mini-miracle happen on your travels with your little one? Here are some great toddler travel toys that can help! Many of them can be “linked” on to your stroller, car seat, purse or belt loop, so they stay safely with you and don’t get left behind unintentionally. It was much easier to find toys that attached in this manner when our daughter was younger, but it seems just as important now! (Anything you buy on Amazon after following one of these links helps to support our site – thank you!)
1. Stroller Books. These great little books in the Maisy series come with a “leash” and a link to attach them to your stroller, car seat or even belt loop! There are four different titles, so they don’t get boring too quickly. The books are fairly small, so they’re easy for little hands to hold and lighter for mom and dad to carry. The only down side is that the “leash” is only attached to the book with Velcro. Most little ones old enough to enjoy books on their own also know how to open Velcro…but it’s nothing that some hot glue/crazy glue can’t fix! The link itself is also too easy to get off. Still working on a fix for that – let us know if you figure it out!
2. Eric Carle Stroller Cards. Like the Maisy stroller books, but these are individual (cardboard) “pages” that are on a great plastic link that’s actually completely closed. It comes with a fabric tether with a loop that actually snaps closed around your stroller, etc. Yes, we did initially choke at the price, but our daughter LOVES these things! They each feature a different texture and a beautiful Eric Carle drawing that keeps her entranced. That, combined with how well made they are, has us sold on stroller cards.
3. Dover Little Activity Books. These come in TONS of different themes, and despite the suggested age range, our 16-month-old had no trouble delightedly sticking the stickers all over the place – again and again! (Wendy used to teach kindergarten and can EASILY see a 5-year-old enjoying these as well). The books are really small – about the size of a post card. You get a scene that unfolds (so it’s twice the size of a postcard) and 3 or 4 sheets of stickers that can be re-used. Now, these are just regular stickers, not vinyl ones like Colorforms (which we’ll talk about in a minute, and which we also love). So, yes, they do tear and won’t last forever. But, for the price, you can easily afford to buy more! Also, because they’re regular stickers, your child can have hours of fun sticking them on you, and themselves! When we got them, we pulled out the staples that attach the sheets with the stickers to the background scene and then put it all back in a sandwich sized Ziploc bag. (Those of you who have read our post on Top 10 Items to make Travel with Baby Easy and Fun already know about our obsession with Ziplocs!) Since it’s SUPER light-weight, and very small, it’s also very easy to slip in your purse/diaper bag and bring to dinner. Given the price, you won’t be crying if it accidentally gets left behind.
4. Lamaze My Friend Emily and Lamaze Princess Sophie Play and Grow Toy. Our daughter is no longer interested in the different textures and sounds these toys make, but she does enjoy playing with dolls. These are perfect toys for travel since they can be linked on (unless you enjoy spending your flight desperately trying to retrieve items tossed under the seat/in the aisle, this is a GOOD thing).
5. Magnetic Sketcher. Draw over and over again and never make a mess! We loved that this one has a handle, which means that it can be attached with links to your stroller, etc. This is another toy that will definitely grow with your child.
6. Iplay Peek-A-Boo Bag Everything A To Z . We are SO happy with this toy! We actually went ahead and bought a second one, their Iplay Peek-A-Boo Bag – Sugar `N Spice (they also have a Iplay Peek-A-Boo Bag – Rough `N Tuff aimed at boys). We love that this is definitely a toy that will “grow” with your child. Right now, our toddler enjoys shaking it as a rattle, as well as searching randomly for the hidden objects. The toy comes with a fabric tag with a list of the items inside – in both words and pictures. So, when she’s a bit older, she’ll be able to search for specific items. Further on down the road she can search for the object that starts with ‘A’, etc. This is definitely a toy that we can see a 5+-year-old still enjoying, so it’s one we’re hopeful will get a lot of use! We also LOVE that it has a small fabric loop in one corner that makes it easy to attach to your stroller, etc.
7. Wonder Pets Fun Pocket by Colorforms. Colorforms makes a bunch of different themed sets, so there’s sure to be something that will catch your child’s eye. These are the super-tough vinyl “stickers” that stick to one of two background cardboard scenes that are included. (Have a window seat? They also stick to – and easily come off of – windows). These are much sturdier than the Dover Little Activity Books and will definitely last much longer. But, they’re also more expensive, and since the background scene is made from heavy cardboard – heavier and bulkier. Not as great for slipping in your purse, BUT – your child can’t decorate the seats/trays etc. with them, either.
8. Booginhead SippiGrip. Ok, so it’s not a toy. But it is fantastic at tethering not just sippy cups but also your child’s favorite teddy bear, without whom life might just stop and definitely no nap will ever happen peacefully again, to your stroller, belt loop, etc. Thanks to our SippiGrip, “Bear” made it safely through all our travels and we never had to suffer that stomach wrenching awful moment when you suddenly realize you don’t know where your child’s “loved one” is.
9. Tolo Toys Magic Shaker – It may not look like much, but its little beads that seem to change color when you tip it over keep our little one fascinated. It also makes a pleasant sound when shaken that she enjoys but that isn’t loud enough to be annoying to fellow passengers. There are “fun house” mirrors on the end that might interest other kids. Ours doesn’t seem to notice them much. It doesn’t stop her from loving this toy, though, and we love that it can easily be linked to wherever we need it!
10. Super Sticker Pack – We happen to be lucky enough to live very close to Mrs. Grossman’s factory. Despite all the “flashy stuff” we’ve bought for our daughter, nothing seems to beat the fun of lots and lots of stickers. Luckily they’re both cheap and lightweight – making them perfect for travel. We have some with us at all times, tucked away in my purse for that unexpectedly long wait for dinner, or that lovely extra time spent waiting on the tarmac before taking off. Combined with a small, lightweight sticker book they make for hours of fun on the go.
Now, lest you think that our child is simply calmer/less energetic than yours and that’s why she travels so well, let us put your fears at ease. This is the child, who, at 11:30PM at night (in the time zone we started the day in), was happily saying “buh-bye” to each and every passenger as they streamed off the plane by us while we waited for our gate-checked stroller. We are definitely lucky that she enjoys meeting new people and seeing new things. We also find that not having a fixed nap/meal schedule makes adjusting to time zone changes a lot simpler.
Of course, you can’t expect any small child to want to sit still all day long. So, before boarding any of those flights, and before a long car ride, too, we do our best to exhaust her. We’re the crazy parents you see chasing our child through the airport – on purpose! In the airport we use our stroller to transport our carry-ons – and have her push it! By the time we’re ready to board, she is usually so worn out she’s refusing to stand, much less walk. A fringe benefit is that all the exercise works up a great appetite, too. Meal/snack time – another great airplane time killer!
Have some more favorite travel toys that have kept your kids happy on long trips? Have you discovered another secret to keeping your baby / toddler / kid happy while traveling? Please share!