As a parent of a 14 month old taking an 11 hour flight to France for 2 weeks, I googled “best toys for traveling with a 1 year old” expecting a litany of posts giving suggestions for what I needed to get by. I was wrong. Instead, I received a bunch of shopping suggestions telling me what the best toys were for 1 year olds, period. But I am not bringing a shape sorter or a xylophone on the plane, my daughter is too young to focus on an iPad, and a boatload of books is not smart to lug around France for 2 weeks.
So, I did a little thinking and experimenting on my own child and came up with a list of best toys for traveling with a 1 year old that are engaging, lightweight, inexpensive, and varied; meaning a combination of motor skill and sit still items that ensure she doesn’t get bored.
I used all 5 of these items on our recent 2 week trip to France, and I was so proud of this revelation that I had to write this post as the first post when I got back home. Everything worked better than I had even hoped, which meant I could use them throughout the trip for playtime, downtime and dinnertime, to get me a 5-10 minute break here and there to pack and enjoy a glass of wine (priorities). Without further ado, here they are:
5 Best Toys For Traveling with a 1 Year Old
Balloon Pop Phone Game
I don’t want to hear about how screen time is bad for my child; I get it. But sometimes having a child watch or learn something on a screen is the only way to keep them calm and get a break, which is exactly what you need on a long flight. This simple game is free, colorful, and helps with motor skills. The balloons fly up, and you have to tap them to pop them. Simple. It’s not incredibly educational, but there are more educational versions in the app store if you type in ‘Balloon pop’ that I’m sure will work as well. Marina is not great at the game, hitting the screen pretty hard and rarely hitting balloons, but it kept her occupied nonetheless, cost me nothing, and meant I didn’t have to carry anything extra. Win win win in my book!
Magnet Drawing Board
This board summarizes the most important fact about toys when you are traveling with kids- they have to be endless. That means something that can be used again and again and again and always be new. A magnetic, wipe away drawing board was fantastic for this because Marina is too young for traditional drawing tools (she will eat them), but still likes the revelation of seeing what she can draw by holding the magnet pen to the board. And then I wipe it clean, and she tries it again… endless. Although a little bigger than I would want (around the size of a laptop) the magnet board is extremely lightweight and packed into her diaper bag easily!
Highlights Hello Books
This was a gift from a friend, and will now be my go-to gift for 1 year old babies. Marina likes books for sure, but as they can be heavy and big for her to hold on her own, these little coated paper books are just PERFECT for travel. With a subscription they come every month, so I brought about 6 of them with me everywhere for her to play with and read on her own. They are durable and coated, so if they get spilled on they can easily be wiped off, and they have little games and poems inside for me to read to her as well. Again, I can’t reiterate the importance that they are small and lightweight- I could bring them everywhere for her! I also find that Marina spends more time engaging with things she has already engaged with previously, meaning that the more she reads and plays with them, the more she likes them, instead of getting bored.
Subscribe to Highlights Hello here
Neon Label Stickers
Stickers are certainly a revelation for 1 year old babies, as they are fun to stick and unstick on mama’s face, the tray table, or squish between their fingers. I stayed away from the ones that are actually shaped like things (fruit, trucks, whatever) since she will have years to come to enjoy those, and just grabbed my cheap-o stash of Avery neon label stickers for her for play with. The bright color is engaging, and the size resembles buttons, which I’m pretty sure every 1 year old is obsessed with. Again, lightweight and costs less than $5… genius!
3-5 Favorite Engaging Books
So… even though I said books are a pain to carry, I think it’s always good to have a few with you to encourage reading and play throughout the trip. I had a few of her favorites packed away and a few available in my carryon, and narrowed down the list to the most engaging, most favorite ones. I prefer ones that have things to open, pull, push or touch on every page, which means that every page you are bringing on that plane does double or triple duty. I’ve linked a few of Marina’s favorite books below, and the MOO and ZOO ones are the best with flaps inside every page that Marina opens over and over again (taking up as much time as possible!). The books that I brought that aren’t as functional include her favorite nursery rhymes and stories, which encouraged us to read them over and over again knowing she was not getting bored.
What you see above it literally ALL that I brought and used on my 2 week trip to France, with 11 hour flights each way, with her on my lap. We didn’t even use the stickers that much because we just didn’t need to. Of course we walked the airplane aisles a few times and bounced in my lap as well, but what I brought was as engaging as I needed to get her from one nap to the next without a breakdown. Of course, once Marina gets to be 2 years old, I’m sure the list of toys will change dramatically, but for now, we’ve found that these work the best!