It is every parent’s dream to travel to a beach destination with their children and experience little to no melt downs. Though it might not be entirely possible to control kiddie behavior in this regard, it is possible to help keep your kids (especially toddlers!) from going stir crazy by bringing along some tried and tested travel toys.
It can sometimes be tricky to select the right travel toys for your family vacation. For one thing, toddlers are more likely than older kids to be temperamental in terms of what piques their interest in the moment. One day it could be coloring kits, and the next, a versatile doll or block set.
Though choosing travel toys for toddlers can take some real consideration, it’s totally possible to find just the right ones to keep your toddler content throughout your trip: from the traveling itself, to the accommodation and on the beach. Read on for some of our top picks and some expert feedback!
Picture: Caribbean Adventures with Sesame Street, available at all Beaches all-inclusive resorts. A great beach vacation destination to bring your toddler(s)!
It goes without saying, when choosing travel toys to bring along when traveling with toddlers, it’s best to bring options that are lightweight. You’ll be able to decide which items are best based on the interests of your child, with consideration for how safe and easy to pack the items are.
Go for toys that are quiet enough that they won’t disturb others nearby. Opt for toys that aren’t too complicated, with many small parts that can get lost. It’s best to choose options that your toddler can play with independently, with little or no help from you. Travel toys at best should be versatile, and also durable. It’s also a good idea to ensure that whatever you choose to bring along isn’t messy, and can easily fit into your carry-on if you’re flying.
The options are endless when it comes to blow up toys that toddlers just won’t be able to get enough of. Travel friendly options include inflatable bounce toys, floaties, and inflatable boats.
Mandisa from Happy Toddler Playtime loves inflatable boats for her kids, which she says are a “must have” for the beach. “Not only can you use it as a fun and safe way to get your toddler in the water, but it’s also a great way to keep them in one place while on the beach! Add some water, a bucket and a shovel for a great beach day,” she says.
John & Caroline from Swaddles n’ Bottles had a tip for beach vacationers headed to sunny destinations: “With smaller children who can sit on their own but are not yet walking, we always recommend taking a small blow up pool to the beach. It takes just a few minutes to blow up but provides them with a fun area to play safely. We would add in a bit of sand for our little one and add her favorite toys as well.”
Floaties can be super fun for kids who want to explore the ocean and feel a sense of independence while they’re swimming around in the shallows. There are various kinds you can pick up which will be perfect for a beach vacation including arm-band floaties, life jackets, kick boards, and so much more.
As for floaties, well, Chelsea from Life With My Littles says, “we've used the same ones for years and they've been awesome… toys at the beach don't have to be particularly complex or expensive, because the most exciting part of the trip is going to be the beach itself!”
Beach digging toys are a must if you’re heading on a vacation where there’ll be lots of sun, sea and sand.
As a mom to three boys, Ana from the Mommy's Bundle blog knows that preparation is crucial when heading out to the beach with small children. To keep toddlers happy, she recommends “the classic bucket and shovel” as “one of my all-time favorite beach toys. She adds that “the fun goes beyond just the traditional sand castle building (one of our favorite activities).”
“My kids love collecting treasure on the beach, whether it’s the array of seashells and rocks the ocean floor has to offer or exploring sea creatures like hermit crabs. Having a bucket and shovel toy handy, helps them get creative and use their imagination when it comes to play,” she says.
“They can scoop up new life to learn about (and then dump back into the ocean). They can dig and pour to create mini pools for pretend play. Or they can even go on a scavenger hunt with everyone collecting beach treasure. You can really never go wrong with a bucket and shovel at the beach — it’s a simple toy that can bring the whole family together!”
Picture: Beachfront waterpark with lazy river at all-inclusive resort Beaches Negril in Jamaica. Jamaica is less than a two hour flight from Miami!
Pro tip: Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean are only a short flight away from the United States and are all located on a gorgeous tropical beach. On and near this beach, your toddler can partake in various toddler friendly activities during the day. Let them go on an adventure: sea shell collecting, face painting, treasure hunts, puppets, costume time, magic shows, sand castle building and more. It’s all part of your all-inclusive family vacation package.
All activities are supervised by certified nannies. Your toddler will be sure to come back with a smile and make new friends in the same age group! See activities for all age groups.
Animal molds that can be used in the sand are sure to keep your toddler fascinated on a beach day. These are easy to pack and bring along with you on vacation. Tanya also recommends a “durable animal and beach bucket set (preferably the kind with small holes)” as a toddler must have.
“They can make sea creatures in the sand while learning the names for these animals (eg. turtle, crocodile, crab, whale). The bucket can be used for making sandcastles and a small shovel is great for scooping. The small water animals with holes can also be used to watch water pour through them!”
Your toddler will love the idea of bringing a few construction toys along with them to a new location, especially if that means testing them out in the sand. Kim from The Best Ideas for Kids highly recommends mini construction toys for the beach because, according to her, “kids can build their own construction site in the sand and dig and excavate with the mini construction toys.”
Michelle from Confessions of Parenting agrees that construction truck beach sand toys are worth considering taking along,, adding: “... your toddler can imagine he is building his very own city right at the beach.”
Tanya from Seeme & Liz adds, “toddlers can also have fun building roads in the sand with a beach vehicle set. Make a road with the rake and shovel while using the dump trucks to drive away extra sand. Once the road is complete vehicles can drive on it. Little ones can also use the bucket to make sand castles along the road!”
Your toddler is likely to be very fascinated with the whole process of getting a kite to take off with the wind once you arrive at your sunny getaway location. Kites come in all shapes and sizes, and ahead of your trip you may even be able to design or customize your own as a creative art project with your toddler which will help build the excitement.
Jodi Durr from Meaningful Mama shared, “as the winds pick up along the beach, kites are a wonderful way to keep kids entertained and engaged as they watch the aerodynamics of flight. There are simple kites that kids can operate on their own for independent play. There are also larger kites that parents can help kids manipulate. The larger kites provide more opportunities to do tricks and enjoy the beauty of flight.
Building things up and breaking them down, that’s all part of the fun for growing toddlers! In the case of stackable pegs, you toddler will be able to test the limits of their creativity during a long flight or car ride by stacking to their heart’s content. Parents can join in on the fun, and you and your toddler can see how much or how little your carefully stacked pieces are affected by the occasional turbulence, which will likely keep your determined tot in giggles as they start again, and again, and again!
There’s no going wrong with Play-Doh if you’re looking for something that will keep your toddler fascinated. With younger kids you’ll need to monitor as they play around with it and squish it into all different shapes. You can store the Play-Doh in multiple small containers - that way you can let your child have a bit here and there when they’re in need of a distraction. Having multiple bits ready for use means you can also give your toddler a new, clean one every time.
Memory games are a good option if you’re looking for something that’s challenging, and also fun. These are best for older toddlers who love to learn and explore. Games in this category usually have multiple themes, and are good for repeated rounds. The great thing about this option is that many of these games contain pieces that do not detach from the memory board or game, which lessens the chances of anything getting lost.
There are so many benefits to stringy/rubber band balls, including that they’re great for anxiety relief, therapy, and stress relief as well. Your kids won’t be concerned about any of that, but they’ll certainly feel the benefits as they enjoy playing with these exciting toys which are perfect for little hands to toss around, or just squish and enjoy!
Pro tip: You don’t have to worry about keeping your toddler busy at your beach destination, when you opt in for a toddler-friendly all-inclusive vacation! Beaches Resorts comes with toddler friendly water parks, activities and amenities. With Beaches certified nannies, parents can get some time off for the evening as well.
Speaking of no mess, coloring kits are a great way to keep your kids entertained while away from home. Not only can these occupy their time, there’ll be room for them to get in touch with their creative side and get more familiar with colors. As most parents would prefer to keep things as neat as possible while traveling, no-mess coloring kits are the perfect option as they include no-mess coloring pads and markers. These special pens won’t work on anything else, so you don’t have to worry about your toddler adding accidental ‘artwork’ to anything in the vicinity. The best part about these is that kids can continue to use them past the ‘no-electronics’ take off and landing points of a flight, unlike electronics and other gadgets they’ll have to put away.
Magnetic puzzles will be super fun for your toddler. All you’ll need to do is set them up, and they can try to match the puzzle pieces to the corresponding pictures. After a bit of practice, your toddler will get really good at this. This is a great choice for a travel toy for toddlers to take on vacation with you as they’re incredibly engaging, fun, and educational.
There’s hardly anything more fun than pull-back cars, and you’ll have a thrill watching your toddler learn how to master these. Soft/fabric pull-back cars of the larger variety are good for younger kids who are still developing their fine motor skills, which are necessary for them to be able to handle the smaller cars. The best thing about these is that there’s no danger if they’re thrown because they’re soft. Some of the covers are also removable, which means you’ll be able to wash them between uses (and definitely after your flight).
Mandisa from Happy Toddler Playtime shared some mommy insight: “All of my little ones love little cars, trains or trucks! They can drive and play with them at every step of the trip — from the airport; to the plane; to the hotel and straight on to the beach!”
Books are a definite go when it comes to finding the right travel toys for toddlers and other things to keep them occupied during a trip. There are lots of popular book collections for children that you can choose from, but a sure favorite is the DR. Seuss Beginner Book Collection which you and the kids can enjoy during take off and landing if you’re flying, or even during airport wait times. If you’re taking a road trip, you kids will also enjoy flipping through the pages and taking in the neat illustrations which will help them visualize the story as you tell it when you read to them. Toddler books are a great option when traveling, as they can easily be tucked into a carry-on.
Toddlers and kids in general love placing stickers just about anywhere, but these spots aren’t always the most convenient especially when it comes to peeling off non-reusable stickers. Reusable stickers are a good work around that still let toddlers have fun and some brands even include sticker books to go along with these. So let them put their stickers on the plane windows, on the arm rest, or wherever seems safe… and then peel it off easily when it’s time to go. Some packs have as many as 400 stickers, so the chances they’ll run out mid-trip are slim to none. Aside from reusable stickers, you can also just get regular stickers and get kids to focus on sticking them in their sticker book, or just on paper.
The only thing better than a simple doll your child will love and want to carry around everywhere they go, is one that includes interactive aspects that your toddler won’t be able to get enough of. Age 2 is the time when children begin to develop more advanced fine motor skills, as well as hand-eye coordination, and what better way for them to practice than with a doll that needs their attention? Watch as your toddler fiddles around with shoelaces, buttons, snaps, and other interactive and fun aspects of dolls in this category. You’ll realize in no time that this is one travel companion you don’t want to leave home without!
Toddlers love putting things together, just as much as they enjoy dismantling them. Help them develop their hand-eye coordination even more by picking up a magnetic maze puzzle or two ahead of your trip which requires nothing more than them just dragging the pieces around using a magnet wand. This might be a little more challenging than just putting together a regular puzzle, but it sure will keep your toddler fascinated.
Toddlers love cars, trucks, and basically anything with wheels that moves. In that light, you can introduce them to a wooden board puzzle which has the wheel element down pat, and allows kids to keep things in motion while completing a puzzle. As the pieces are generally pushed around on the board, you won’t have to worry about misplacing anything. Kids can also easily hold this item and play on their laps, which makes things easier for everyone.
Whether or not you’re a frequent family traveler, it’s worth investing in a travel lap tray that your kids can play and eat on during their trip. This is a great option for parents with toddlers as it really lets you control the cleanliness of the surface your tot will be using the most. Travel lap trays can be used for any kind of travel, and they’ll come in handy for any of the toddler travel toys you decide to bring along. The sidewalls are the best feature of this tray, and they keep things from sliding off onto the floor.
What can’t you do with these colorful plastic rings? You likely already have some at home, so you probably won’t even need to go to the store. These can double as teethers for younger kids, and they can also be attached from toddler bags or other gear to various toddler travel toys that you want to keep close. These links are easy to wipe clean, and you’ll be surprised at the kinds of things they come in handy for. You can mix the various sets of these depending on what you want to use them for.
What better than a kiddie magazine to let your kid feel all grown up while going through the motions of travel? These are a lot more durable than regular magazines, and include stories, poems, songs, and sometimes puzzles. The age range varies from a few months to 2 years old, and these are ideal for helping your tot appreciate story telling - they’ll even be able to test out their reading skills!
You can’t go wrong with stuffed animals, especially one or two of the ones your toddler they just can’t seem to put down. Even better are options that are engaging, including straps, buckles, zips, and the like. These usually come in a variety of colors, and include a wide range of lovable animals. Some of these include educational aspects that help kids get more familiar with numbers, colors, and more.
Tanya from See Me and Liz told us that: “Buckle toys such as the Blu Whale [stuffed zipper toy] are great for keeping young children occupied at the airport and on the plane. Plus it is great for the development of fine motor, cognitive, problem solving and language skills! Your child will be busy buckling and zipping!”
Toddler soft busy boards are a great option, and can be compared in terms of engagement factor to some of the more interactive stuffed toys on the market that also focus on developmental areas. This is a good option if you have more than one toddler, as these busy boards include fine-motor activities and are big enough to share. Some versions of this toy include a carry strap, but it can also easily be tucked into a carry-on.
Coloring rolls are exciting, particularly as you don’t get to see the finished product until the whole roll is completed. If it’s their first time, your toddler won’t have any idea of how amazing it’ll be in the end to roll out their finished artwork, but if they’re tried it at home once or twice, this will build the interest and anticipation which is needed to keep their interest during travel. Either way, they’ll love coloring on a travel-themed roll, and then unfolding the 10 ft long roll later to see the final product. Older toddlers will appreciate this most.
Every bit of weight counts when going on a trip, so why not opt for lightweight soft cloth books instead of the regular? These are available in many different patterns, and your toddler will love the crinkling sound they make when the pages are turned. The various themes include colors, numbers, and animals. These books are not only fun to read, but they also help with sensory development with younger kids. Try carrying these in your hand luggage, and saving them for last if all else fails to keep your toddler occupied!
Headphones will be your kid’s best friend for a trip that’s a little longer than the average car ride. Opt for toddler friendly headphones which are safer because of the fact that they usually max out at 93 db. If you search hard enough you might even find a pair with cool features that allow it to be linked to multiple headsets through the use of additional ports so parents can get in on the fun too.
Sensory sticks are good fun for just about any kid, but most are designed for neurotypical people. This means that if your child has ADD, ADHD, or autism, this will work well to keep them engaged throughout your trip. Sensory sticks are great for kids who do well with sensory stimulation, and in general, they are the perfect way to keep your kids from getting restless while traveling.
Figurines are great for encouraging imaginative play, and brands like Sesame Street® offer great options which combine fun with a bit of nostalgia. These classic items include characters like Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, Grover, and Elmo. Your kids will be able to spend just as much time as they’d like making up their own stories as their characters head out on adventures. This option is best for kids 18 months and up.
Insider tip: Let the Sesame Street® adventures continue at Beaches Resorts in Jamaica and the Turks & Caicos Islands as these all-inclusive resorts give kids the opportunity to meet and interact with life-sized versions of these amazing friends via the Caribbean Adventures with Sesame Street®.
Not only are flash cards super fun for kids, they’re also easy to carry around. There are so many variations you can choose from for kids of all ages, and they’re great learning tools that keep children engaged. Your toddler may even be surprised at how quickly they’re able to keep up with the varying letters, words, and illustrated animals, to the point that they may learn a new thing or two (or ten!) by the time they arrive at their destination!
Does your kid love to draw, or just scribble? If yes, bring along a sketch pad or mini notebook. Your toddler’s imagination will run wild as they get creative in a new environment that may inspire their inner Picasso. You can bring multiple sketch pads along with crayons or pencils (if your kids are capable of using them safely) which your young ones can use to keep occupied.
Audio books are a win when travelling, as they’re a great way to have someone else tell the same story over and over (if needed), as you navigate your way to a new destination. It’s unlikely that your kids will say no to story time, and with the help of audio books you’ll really get a chance to relax, or keep your attention on the road if driving.
There are just so many things you can do with pipe cleaners that your toddler will really be able to bring their creativity to life while on the go. Most kids though seem to enjoy just waving these around, or wearing them as bracelets. Whatever their vision, the fact remains that this simple item which is often incorporated in craft projects can be a time consuming and effective travel toy/distraction.
Toddlers love the idea of doing things themselves, and your little one will love putting together their own ‘busy bag’ to take along with them on a trip. You can give them a limit on items they’re allowed to put in, and let them count each piece as they go along. Throw in things like pretend keys, a favorite small toy, and other interesting bits. Be careful not to put too many small items in there, just so that you don’t break the no small pieces travel ‘rule’. If you’re travelling in a car though, you won’t have to worry about anything getting lost.
Picture: Your toddler will have a blast participating in activities with Cookie Monster at all-inclusive resort Beaches Ocho Rios in Jamaica.
Keeping your toddler happy and content during your beach vacation means a more relaxing vacation for the parents, and choosing the right travel toys to bring along is key.