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 a 4-year-old, you should take a look at the other lists, especially the 3-year-old and the 5-year-old list (especially the Janod Magneti’Books and the LCD writing tablets). And in case you’re traveling 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 1-year-olds
- Best toys for long drives with 2-year-olds
- Best toys for long drives with 3-year-olds
- Best toys for long drives with 5-year-olds
(This post contains affiliate links. Thank you so much for supporting my work)
For toddlers and older kids, these Car Trays are essential. They can play on them, they can draw on them and 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 everything 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.
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
- a colouring set (book/blank paper + pens/pencils)
Here are 5 of the top favourite toys that both my kids enjoyed on their travels at 4-years-old. One of them will look a bit odd. But honestly, it works for this age.
I have not included iPads with games or TV shows, because my kid gets nauseous in the car. I’ve also not included Super Heroes or Princesses because that is very specific to each kid. I think I kept the items sort of generic so that it applies to virtually any kid.
Pillow with buckles
This buckles and zipper pillow was a surprisingly popular 4-year-old success. We have a fox instead of this owl I’m suggesting but it’s not available. I really like this bag option too. I know that you would probably choose this for a 3-year-old and not for a four 4-year-old. But some of these buckles are actually quite challenging to put back on.
This is a winner in the car. Because they’re magnetic they’re something easy to play with. I have different brands but I really prefer the square non-hollow ones. They really feel like the most versatile. Magna-tiles are a great brand and I do feel they are higher quality, but we bought this cheaper version on Amazon Spain and they really surprised me. Kids love these since they’re little, but they start getting most of the potential of it from 3 or 4 years.
Pre-school learning books
Wipe-clean books are a great option to carry around during road trips. They become part of play, especially if there is no pressure around them and they are just present. There are plenty of options, but if you need a quick option, the following on Amazon look good: Starting School, Lower Case Letters, Number 0-20. There’s also an option with several books as a pack.
LEGO Classic Creative Suitcase
I really love this case as it helps keep LEGO quite self-contained. My eldest started getting into LEGO at 4 years old so he has had it for a year. The Suitcase is a very easy-to-grab option and a great first option. Using the mesh wallets I mentioned above, more LEGO sets can be added to the trip. The novelty helps to get them focused.
This was a really fun find. You have to buy the Starter set, which is the Nature Trail (it’s great for Nature walks), but then we bought the Car Journey add-on. It just becomes a really fun and challenging game for everyone to play in the car.
I hope these options are useful to you.