As you can tell from my The art of long drives with kids: my top tips post, I’ve 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 traveled with the kids through all those different age groups, I think that all together I’ve got a great list put together. Well, they are great for us, so I hope they can be great for you too. If you have other kids in the following age groups, you can find the other lists here:
- 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
- Best toys for long drives with 5-year-olds
Some items on almost every list from 1-5 years work really well for more age groups so it’s worth looking at the other lists, especially the ones right above or below your kid’s age. I would recommend having a look at the 1-year-old and 2-year-old list as there’s a couple of things that might work for your baby on those lists (I’d like to highlight the Dimpl Pop It Toy and the Treasure Bag).
Some items though, are more specific to their age abilities, which is the case of 0-1 year-olds. Even though they evolve a lot in that first year, they do sleep quite a bit during long car trips (hopefully!). But for when they are awake, here are my entertainment tips.
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For babies, the essentials are slightly different from the essentials I have written for older kids. For older kids, I suggest Car Trays, a Car Organiser and Mesh Wallets to contain the toys. A Car organiser and the Mesh Wallets can be useful for you at this stage but only reach their full potential once the kids grow up.
My essentials for traveling with babies are more related to their basic necessities but I think that belongs to a separate post that I will do soon.
That being said, Pacifier Straps are a really handy item not only for pacifiers but for baby toys! It helps give the babies some independence if you’re riding in the front or it helps you reach for toys that are thrown on the gap between the car seat and the door. This fabric strap version looks lovely and these silicone strap version too.
The trips we did with our kids as babies was when my eldest was 3 month old (wrote about it on this post London to Lisbon with a 3-month-old baby) and then when my youngest was 6 months old. If I were to have another kid (and be crazy enough to drive for so long with the 3 of them), these would be the items that I would pack with me.
A Rainmaker is my number one item. IT IS A LIFE SAVER. We literally never traveled without it. Babies calm down and fall asleep to it. I swear! It might take a little time for us to figure out the right rhythm that each baby likes (my eldest would like it soft and slow, but my youngest needed a certain quicker rhythm and stronger sound), but it honestly works. If it’s a present, this wooden rainmaker looks super cute. These Hape blue rainmaker and Hape red rainmaker versions have great reviews and are gorgeous too.
2. Stroller Toy
My eldest loved this item. We used it both on the car seat and on his stroller. This Lion stroller Toy is the one he had and he really enjoyed the music on the star, but my warning is that once the music is on it cannot be turned off until the end (and once the sound is over, it’s over as batteries cannot be replaced – they do last for ages though). My car-hater six-month-old daughter really loved this Tiny Love Sunny Stroll Activity Arch and it entertained her highly during car journeys. It did not fit our car seat perfectly, but it would fit for long enough to entertain her. This Bright Starts Toy Bar seems quite cool too but has no music. Which is not a bad thing.
3. Cloth Books
For smaller kids, cloth books are always a great idea. It is an introduction to actual books and they’re always entertaining. This Fabric Book selection is actually really cool, with a variety of items on the pack and the themes will go further than the age advertised for (in my opinion). My kids also liked these sensory Cloth Books as it’s a fun item to explore and I also love this Soft Photobook where pictures can be inserted into. I included a couple more suggestions on the 1-year-old list.
4. Lots of Links Rings
The Bright Starts Lots of Links Rings Toys is a very versatile toy. They can pull them, put them together, they’re great for teething, learning to grasp, can be worn (as if it was a necklace), it can be a dog leash. It’s also a toy that grows with them. I also used them to create a “strap” so that some toys are attached to the car seat (or stroller). Which then becomes a fishing rod to get the toys back in sight! These Geometric Link Rings are also quite cute.
5. Plush Toy with Music
This Fisher Price Dog is a great hit and it’s another really toy that grows with them. Both my 2 and 5-year-olds still pick it up once in a while and it’s been great company on our trips. There’s a blue and a pink version.
I hope these options are useful to you.