11 toddler activities and toys for road trips and restaurants

  I’ve said it a hundred times, and I’ll say it again: Luca is a...


I’ve said it a hundred times, and I’ll say it again: Luca is a very active toddler. I mean, we took him on a weekend trip to Lake George and he spent 75 minutes one morning running up and down a full-length soccer field (dribbling a soccer ball) and he STILL skipped his nap that afternoon. His energy is unending! He literally bounces off walls and it’s nearly impossible to have him sit still for things like mealtimes at restaurants. He is just so interested in the world around him and wants to experience everything. As much as we want to foster his curiosity, there are times when we need him (for his own safety/the convenience of other people around us) to sit still. I’ve been told this is very normal for toddler boys, haha – hopefully Roma will be a bit more chill?!

So what’s a mom to do? Strategically pack a toddler backpack full of toys and activities to keep them occupied in a “sit still” manner (aka I’m not packing a ball for him to throw or kick around!) I keep this backpack with me whenever I’m going on a car trip longer than 10-20 minutes, we bring it on airplanes, and we bring it to restaurants. I switch up the items in there, so he doesn’t become bored and each time he’s excited to see what’s in the backpack! It has been so helpful and has made restaurants and road trips much less stressful.

11 Toddler Activities and Toys

1 – Crayons and paper – I keep a piece of printer paper and a handful of crayons in the bag. Luca’s not a big colorer, but sometimes it’s a nice distraction if he’s into it.

2 – Buckle Toy – I’m always so impressed by how hard he concentrates on this. Sometimes he’ll ask for my help, but in general, it keeps him occupied for 5-10 minutes.

3 – Quiet book – this is a great interactive book!

4 – Magnetic book – this is a really fun magnet book/board. He likes magnets right now and he’s very into transportation. However, there are a bunch of tiny little magnets, so when he’s feeling sassy, he’ll sometimes throw them.

5 – Words book – this doesn’t fit in the backpack, but it lives in our car, because it’s so great for car trips. He loves this book and always finds a new way to play with it.

6 – Beautiful oops book – this is a more “sophisticated” flap book and there’s one part at the end that he gets really excited for, we lift it up together and say “WOA!”

7 – Rounded stickers – these are 3D stickers that feel nice, so he likes these a lot, I usually keep a strip in the bag.

8 – Sesame Street stickers – he is Elmo obsessed, so these are always a hit.

9 – Water color book – I love no mess toys and this is exactly it! He hasn’t gotten super into coloring (as I said before), but he usually likes to try this for a bit.

10 – Toy cars – I keep a couple of his favorite toy cars in the bag and he goes “Vroom vroom!” and plays on the table or on his legs.

11 – Elmo figurines – we line these up and he’ll talk to them and play with them for a long time (great at restaurant table!)

I’d love to know – what are your favorite tactics/tips/toys/activities for your little ones to help them with mealtimes and long car trips?

with love, Ali

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  • A magnetic sketch pad is another easy no clean drawing activity!
  • Both of my girls really love Plus-Plus blocks. They come in a tube - the toddler-sized come 15 to a tube and the smaller blocks for kids age 5+ come in a tube with 70 tiny blocks. My girls are 3 and 7 so we have one toddler tube and one big kid tube. We take them with us when we go out to eat and they entertain them while we wait for our food! You can buy them online but I happened to find them at Target before Easter so they went into their Easter baskets this year. Super affordable and a really great "restaurant" activity!
    • Thank you so much for sharing, Anne!