As nice as it would have been to be able to avoid the 17 hours in the car, it just wasn’t going to happen. Knowing the trip was going to be long, we spent a little up-front money to make our trip more enjoyable, and it could not have been more worth it. We bought three toys for this trip and could not be more pleased with how well each of them worked in entertaining our toddler.
The list below is ranked with price and entertainment factored (number 1 being the most worthwhile investment).
B is all of a sudden all about buckling buckles, closing clasps, and opening/closing EVERYTHING. Though an at-home annoyance, it gave me a great idea for a travel toy. There are a lot of travel toys that have all different closures and buckling mechanisms on them, but most of the basic buckle toys were $20.00 or more. For just a few bucks more (we paid $26 for ours) we got a buckle backpack that worked as a great toy organizer and board-book keeper. This backpack has all different colors and types of buckles to keep a toddler entertained while also having something that we could spot easily in public. This came in super handy at the zoo, as most toddlers love to run. He enjoyed playing with different closures and had fun filling his backpack with books, snacks, and cars for his journeys. The only drawback to this toy was the frustration that came from not being able to re-open the buckles, so this toy required frequent intervening for B to actually enjoy it. There were many occasions where screaming was a result of the frustration derived from not being able to re-open the buckles. It makes a great toy and backpack, but may have been more age-appropriate had he been more skilled at buckles.
Here’s the link to the one we bought, but most magnetic drawing boards are very similar. We bought this one because it was inexpensive, had an attached magnetic pen, and had quadrants with different colors. I wasn’t sure if B was going to like this one, as he had never played with something like this before this trip. Sure, he’s drawn with colored pencils on paper, but his interest always seemed to be more aligned with chucking pencils across the room and watching the tips break. When it came to the magnetic drawing board, we scored big time. Not only is it $10.00 cheaper than the buckle backpack, but the action of being able to color, erase, and color again really interested B. I loved that the pen was attached so there was never a concern of whether or not we had to dig between seats to find the tool to make this toy work. It was self-contained and kept B pretty happy. There were no big drawbacks to this product for us. The one we bought is not terribly robust, but if it’s used only for trips, it really doesn’t need to be.
The third toy we got was not something we thought of beforehand, but rather a souvenir from our trip to the Miller Park Zoo. It was, by far, the best toy for the car. It seriously entertained B about three times longer than the other toys we brought with us. It’s a little puzzle with a magnetic fishing rod that allowed him to fish for the puzzle pieces. It was adorable watching him figure out how to get the magnet on the rod attached to pieces and was not complicated enough to frustrate him. It was entertaining to B, and allowed my husband and me to talk candidly without juggling snacks, books, or games. It also was very reasonably priced for a toy bought in a gift shop. We paid $13.00 at the gift shop for this game, but you can find it for cheaper online. Still, I would have gladly paid the couple of dollars more to have him entertained and help support this awesome zoo we visited. The only drawback to the magnetic fishing game was the loss of pieces. As you can tell from the picture above, we magically are still missing one of the ten pieces (Oops!). We seriously have not seen it since he initially started playing with the game. With that said, the game is still more than usable with the one missing piece, and it was well worth the price for its entertainment value.
With a trip as long as the one we were on, it was a given that extra money be invested in keeping B occupied. I prefer not to use electronics to entertain (just a personal preference) and the combination of these three, toy cars, and books did a great job keeping B happy. I hope for your next trip, you will keep these in mind, as they were HUGE life-savers for our sanity.