Earlier this summer my husband and I decided that we were going to make a road trip out of our summer vacation. We knew that we were going to New England and the original plan was to fly in and out of Providence while driving the rest of the trip. After thinking about it a bit, however, we decided to just drive the entire trip. The biggest sticking point, in my opinion, is that our one-year-old would be going with us, and I couldn’t fathom having him spend two full weeks in his travel car seat (not the most comfortable thing) and we’d need to bring so much stuff with us… namely toys to keep him entertained for the long hours we’d spend in the car.
Once we committed to driving 1800 miles, instead of the 1000 or so we had originally planned, I had to get down to business trying to find car toys for an infant. Unfortunately, all of the lists I found online were horrible. Most of the lists focused on how many snacks you should bring for your child, and while I agree that food is a must, I wanted to find things that would not only keep our son entertained while we traversed the eastern half of this country, but also during the hours we would be spending in various hotel rooms.
While I spent a lot of time researching various toys, I ultimately think I did a great job. Despite the fact that we were going on long drives nearly every day, my son didn’t have any boredom-related meltdowns. There were enough variations in toys that whenever he seemed to get bored I would pull something new out of the bag. And yes, when all else failed we did have an iPad that I pre-loaded with three episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, although we only had to pull this out on our return trip.
If you’re going on a road trip with a one-year-old anytime soon, I highly recommend checking out the following toys. They worked great for us and I hope they work for you, too!
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Ubbi Tweat Snack Container – $9.99
My son ended up loving this snack container so much that I bought him two more of them. Opening up the top was challenging for him and would take some time, and then fishing out all of the Cheerio’s could take him hours. There’s a spill guard that prevents the mess from getting too big.
Thinkbaby Thinkster Straw Bottle – $6.86
This straw bottle is more about practicality than entertainment, but the reason I’m including it on the list is because we own approximately 100 different straw cups (my son doesn’t like sippy cups) and this is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t leak, which makes it great for use in the car!
My son is so obsessed with these cups that we’ve bought him two sets. You can stack up all of the cups into towers, or they fit inside one another, and the pieces also connect together to make balls. This is the toy that has brought my son the most enjoyment thus far, and he’s been playing with them since he was about six-months-old!
So these cups are very similar to the ones above, except that at our house these are the “cups” and the ones above are the “bowls.” These cups also stack together, but the bottoms are enclosed so they are perfect for holding treats in the car, and they can also be used as sand toys at the beach.
Koosh Ball – $6.75
A Koosh Ball is supposedly for ages 3+, though I couldn’t find a reason that my son couldn’t play with it. I found it a little too big to be a choking hazard, but that’s for each parent to decide. My son loves throwing things around, and this ball is soft enough that it doesn’t hurt anything, and he also loves the feel of it in his hands. I often found him staring at it in wonder.
These little talking animals are awesome! You can press a button and the animals go through a range of different phrases, and each one also has wheels on the bottom so they can roll across the floor. I got my son the dog and cat, as well as a couple of barnyard animals. These were a VIP though and I wish I would have purchased a few more as they were the perfect combination of noise, movement, and lights that weren’t overwhelming in the car.
VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Car – $7.99
The VTech cars are very similar to the animals, although my son didn’t enjoy the cars quite as much. I think he liked that the animals make animal sounds. Still, these make car sounds, light up, and roll across the floor. It’s hard to tell scale, but these are big enough so that they can’t fit in mouths but easy enough for clumsy little hands to hold.
VTech Touch and Swipe Baby Phone – $12.99
This is one of the better baby “phones” I’ve seen, although I’m by no means an expert. This one just happens to make lots of different sounds and it lights up enough that my son loved playing with it!
We packed an assortment of my son’s favorite books, including Moo Baa. He would sometimes look through the books in the car, but these were definitely more important in the hotel. Despite being on the road, we tried to keep his bedtime and bedtime routine as normal as possible, and that included reading a couple of his favorite stories. (As I previously wrote about, we traveled with the BabyBjörn Travel Crib, which was amazing!)
Slinky Jr. – $5.19
Technically the Slinky Jr. is also for older kids and I think that’s because it could be a strangulation hazard. Whenever my son had this toy we kept a close eye on him, but like the Koosh Ball, he loved the feel of the slinky in his hands and moving it around. He also spent quite a bit of time bending the plastic this way and that, so while this was a great vacation toy, it’s the one thing that didn’t make it back with us.
While my son always had toys in his car seat, I kept the bulk of the toys on the floor of the backseat and within my arm’s reach so that anytime he started to get fussy I could reach in the bag and hand him a new toy. We had enough of a selection that he was entertained for the vast majority of the trip. If you’re planning your own road trip with a one-year-old, I highly recommend grabbing the toys above!