As you can tell from my The art of long drives with kids: my top tips post, I have been travelling 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 5-year-old, you should take a look at the other lists, especially the 3-year-old and the 4-year-old list (especially the LEGO Classic Creative Suitcase and the Magnetic Puzzles). And in case you’re traveling with younger 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 4-year-olds
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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 (my kids 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 5-years-old. 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.
LCD writing tablets
These LCD tablets were an absolute hit with both my 2 and 5-year-olds. I really recommend it. It’s great for road trips and restaurants.
Paint by stickers
I’ve found a few of these sticker books from different brands, but have been finding that these are the right level for 4 and a half/5-year-olds. They have different themes: Dinosaurs, Pets, Rainbows, Unicorns and Magic, Under the sea, and Mermaids and Magic. I was gifted an adult on one of the last Christmases and I absolutely love it: the theme is Masterpieces.
A dots and maze game/book
I bought this maze book and even though it’s good and will be used over time, I’m a little sad I didn’t find this wipe & clean version before our trip. I will probably buy it for my next trip though, as my son is very interested in these.
Magnetic family game
This Mudpuppy Let’s take a swim game was a great success with my kid. We played this endlessly with all the family members throughout the holidays and in the car. The same brand has this Space Bingo that looks brilliant and hopefully the price of this Unicorn Magic 4-in-a-Row will go down because it also looks like fun.
My eldest has been really into challenging games lately. So I got him this Car Puzzler game and this Genius Square game and they were fun even for me. The Car Puzzler is played alone and the Genius Square can be played either alone or in pairs. I personally love both and my kid too. Because they are unfortunately not magnetic, some pieces might get lost in the car though. Just bear that in mind.
I hope these options are useful to you.