As you can tell from my The art of long drives with kids: my top tips post, I’ve been traveling long distances by car with the kids fairly often since my eldest was 3 months old.
24-hour drives from London to Lisbon mean a lot of hours in a car going slightly mad at times. So having the right entertainment for my kids helps me feel a little less stressed pre-trip.
I also like to make sure they have entertainment that will keep them interested and focused for as much time as possible, following their current interests, and that don’t get lost in the car every 3 seconds. well, until there’s a need for (endless) toilet stops. Or they need to run in the “wild” for 5 minutes. Or we are desperate for coffee and sweets (that we obviously hide from them or only eat when they’re asleep).
I tried to group kids together by several ages in the same group, but to be honest, they’re such different little creatures, with major different capacities and needs that I can’t. So I’ve made a top 5 list per age from 0-5 year olds. And because we’ve travelled with the kids through all those different age groups, I think that all together I’ve got a great list put together. At least for our family, they’re great options. I hope they work for you too.
Some items on almost every list I’ve created work really well for more ages, whilst others are more specific to their age abilities. So I also recommend that for your 1-year-old, you should take a look at the other lists, especially the 2-year-old and the 3-year-old list (with a special highlight on the VTech Vehicles and Hape Go-Fish-Go). The baby list will not apply to most cases as I think most 1-year-olds will have outgrown the other items. And in case you’re travelling with younger or older kids, here are the links to my other related posts:
- Best toys for long drives with babies
- Best toys for long drives with 2-year-olds
- Best toys for long drives with 3-year-olds
- Best toys for long drives with 4-year-olds
- Best toys for long drives with 5-year-olds
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I would not recommend the following item for a 12-month-old, but if your child is at least 18 months it might be worth buying one of these Car Trays. We didn’t travel with our kids at that age, but from what I remember about their development (and from their videos at that age) they were likely able to use the trays at least for play. These trays are brilliant even for adults to be honest, but kids can play on them, can draw on them and (at least later on, 18 months will probably be too soon for this) they can eat on them. They can also hold tablets on them if your kid doesn’t get nauseous in the car (mine do). It helps contain spillages and keeps play (and loose items) a little more contained.
As for storage, you can use other storage solutions to contain the kid’s toys in the car (like bags or fabric baskets), but with 1 or 2 kids (if you have more kids, it only works if you have a minivan), I find that this Car Organiser does a brilliant job at containing the toys and books, keeping everything accessible for both kids and (very importantly) it can be attached to the middle seatbelt for safety. A backpack that kids can open easily is the second best option I would say, as it can also be attached to the seatbelt for safety.
Another essential is getting these Mesh Wallets to contain the items per theme or group of things. They can fit pens, paper, little cars, magnetic blocks, LEGO sets, games, etc. It gives things a place to go back to, they’re easy to open and close, and they fit in the car organiser. At home, I transfer most of the puzzles and board games into them as they take much less space inside these wallets.
A little extra
Another couple of essentials for me are:
- a couple of Story Books (kid’s favourites at the time and maybe a new one for novelty)
- their favourite soft toys
- their sound machines that help them fall asleep
- a blanket
- current favourite toys that they play with constantly
Most 1-year-olds sleep a lot during long trips and hopefully that is the case for you! I find that for kids this age one needs options that don’t have many loose parts as they all end up in the gap between the door and the car seat #SoFrustrating.
Here are some options that my kids loved at that age:
1. Pop-it toys
Toddlers love sensory things and things they can chew. We have this Dimpl pop it toy which is great for their little hands (there are some cheaper dupes, but the ones I looked into don’t have good reviews. Ours – from this brand – is really good quality). My kid also loved these ones and having a couple of different ones and definitely get one for each kid #IfYouKnowWhatIMean
2. Pop Tubes
Still in the sensory vibe, both my kids love these Pop Tubes. I confess, they can be slightly loud (and annoying) but they’re more versatile than they look. My kids play with them in a quite creative way and I confess that I love putting them back into the original shape #OddMuch. If you like softer colours, these are quite lovely.
Both standard and cloth books are brilliant travel items to bring. Regarding cloth books, this My London Bus Cloth Book was a solid favourite for both kids and e also love this Black and White one. When it comes to standard books, they need to be quite sturdy, so the “Where’s Mrs/Mr” are great options. We love Where’s Mr Owl, Where’s Mr Train and Where’s Mr Astronaut.
4. Multi-Sensory Toy
Any of your favourite kid’s sensory toys will do. Ideally the one he always comes back to. We have this Click Clack Lama that was a success and this spaceship would be another one I would buy for future trips.
5. Stacking cups
You will most likely find this item on other lists you might look at. And that’s because it’s definitely a winner. We added a small spoon to the mix as my youngest loved playing with a spoon and cup. The ones you might already are great, but in case you don’t, these colourful cups look super cute and colourful and these softer coloured cups include stacking rings which is also fun. Oh, and these animal-themed ones remind me so much of my childhood that I have to include them on the list.
I hope these options are useful to you.