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Anyone who has ever traveled with a toddler knows that Meltdowns. Are. Real.
And they often happen at the most inopportune times, like when you're trying to board a plane or you're stuck in unexpected traffic.
To help prevent (or at least minimize) these meltdowns, it's important to have a few go-to activities that will help your little one calm down and de-stress.
Here are 20 travel-friendly calming activities for toddlers you can try the next time you're on the go.
Traveling with Toddlers
If you're a parent, then you know that toddler tantrums can be pretty common – especially when you're on the go.
Although we have plenty of calming activities for toddlers to help soothe these meltdowns, let's start with a few ways you can avoid them altogether on vacation.
Try to stick to your regular routine even if things are chaotic. This will help your toddler feel more secure and in control.
Bring their favorite snacks and comfort items from home. Familiar smells and tastes can be comforting during times of stress.
If you're planning your itinerary be sure to include downtime. Taking breaks often to run around and release energy is especially important on travel days.
Finally, don't forget to pack your patience! Traveling with toddlers is tough and you'll definitely need it during those challenging moments.
Just remember, you have a little person trying to figure out the world and you are guiding them – and showing them so much more through travel!
Packing a Toddler Travel Kit
While you might think a diaper bag and a few toys are enough to keep your vacationing toddler happy, you'll likely find that's not always the case.
To help prevent meltdowns (for both you and your kiddo), try packing a travel-friendly toddler kit specifically for tough times.
These may be items that are new to your toddler and are great distractions to an impending meltdown.
They may also be some of their favorite toys that you save for the most opportune times.
Below we have listed several calming activities and what to pack for each of them.
Most items are travel-sized and can easily be thrown in a separate zipper pouch you can grab when things are headed south.
Calming Activities for Toddlers
Read on to see 20 calming activities for toddlers that can save the day on your next family vacation.
1. Interactive Books
What to Pack: Fabric Books
Not only are books a great ways to relax your child, but they frequently have sensory play built in!
Find a lightweight or fabric book that's easy to pack and age-appropriate for your toddler.
2. Kinetic Sand
What to Pack: a small pack of kinetic sand
More than just a calming activity, sand play provides children with important sensory input that can have many benefits.
Choose kinetic sand for a less messy option.
They offer small containers of colored sand you can easily toss in your bag.
3. Pop Its
What to Pack: Pop Its of any kind – balls, bracelets, purses, etc!
Pop its are popular because they resemble bubble wrap which toddlers love!
Let your child pop some bubbles and feel the tension melt away.
These are super lightweight and you can get a variety of shapes and colors to keep your toddler busy.
What to Pack: stickers or labels
There are so many ways toddlers can come up with to use stickers.
Half the fun and distraction is in the peeling while the other half is in the sticking!
Choose a sticker that peels away easily so they don't stick to anything permanently.
5. Blowing Bubbles
What to Pack: a very small tube of bubbles – like wedding favor size!
Your toddler can chase, pop, and blow their own bubbles for a simple calm down activity.
Grab an extra small tube of bubbles to pack in your bag for a quick and easy activity you can do almost anywhere.
6. Craft Supplies
With a few craft supplies, you can keep your child entertained for hours on end.
All you need are some pom-poms and wiki sticks to get started.
Just sit back and watch as their imaginations run wild with all the possibilities!
7. Building Blocks
What to Pack: Lego Duplo blocks or similar
Creating something with blocks or legos can be very calming and it keeps their minds busy.
Be sure to pack a small kit of blocks of your choice so that your toddler can create to their heart's content!
Lego Duplo blocks are always with us when traveling as they are excellent road trip activities for toddlers.
8. Painting with Water
What to Pack: small paintbrush and water bottle
Toddlers will love painting their surroundings and all you need is a paintbrush and a bottle of water.
If they are outside, they can paint walls, sidewalks, and pretty much anything they see!
This activity will keep your children occupied for a while so that you can take a breather!
What to Pack: Crayola coloring kit
Coloring is a great way for toddlers to express their creativity while also helping them to focus and calm down.
Crayola makes some great travel-friendly coloring kits that come with everything you need (i.e., coloring book, crayons, etc.) all in one convenient package.
What to Pack: 1-2 small play-doh containers
This is perfect for those times when you're touched out and you need to keep your toddler's hands busy.
Bring multiple colors that your child can mix together – even if it drives you crazy!
Pay-doh makes tiny travel-size tubs perfect for bringing on your trip.
11. Hot Wheels Car Track
What to Pack: a couple of hot wheels cars and a roll of painter's tape
A Hot Wheels race track is one of the best calming activities for toddlers.
Using painter's tape, create a race car track on the floor so your child can play with their cars all around the house.
This activity is easy to clean up and can be played almost anywhere.
12. Color Match Game
What to Pack: colored flashcards or pieces of paper
If your child needs a task to calm down, this activity is perfect.
Give a colored flash card to your child and have them look for objects around them that match the colors.
This activity can be as difficult or easy as you make it!
13. Meditation for Kids
What to Pack: phone or other streaming devices
If your toddler is old enough to understand, guided meditation is an invaluable calm-down activity.
Even if you're not familiar with meditation, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started together.
There are many YouTube videos with kid-focused meditations, as well as apps like Calm that can make the process more fun for your little ones.
14. Glitter Bottle
What to Pack: glitter tubes
Glitter bottles are soothing to watch and can also be used as a timer.
Although you can make your own, it's easier to travel with pre-made options to avoid leaks.
Have your little one try to be quiet or sit still until the bottle is completely still.
What to Pack: treats like Suckers and a few healthy options like granola bars
Last but not least, snacks are always a good idea when traveling with toddlers.
Not only will they help keep your little one's energy up, but their favorite snacks can help ward off meltdowns when hunger strikes unexpectedly.
Just be sure to pack plenty of travel-friendly snacks as well as some treats for the ultimate distraction.
16. YouTube Yoga
What to Pack: phone or other streaming devices
Yoga is an excellent way to calm your toddler down while moving their body.
There are many YouTube channels – we love Cosmic Kids – that can teach kid-friendly yoga flows.
Have the channel bookmarked for quick access when you feel a meltdown brewing.
17. White Noise Machine
What to Pack: travel white noise machine
Sometimes it's just too loud and overstimulating for toddlers.
Airports or tourist attractions can be a whole new sensory experience.
While white noise is great for sleep, it helps drown out any unwanted noise during the day and can provide a much-needed sense of calm for little ones.
18. Nature Walk
What to Pack: nothing
If you're able to be outside, enjoy spending time in nature together with your child on a walk.
The act of being in nature is calming and will help to ground your child.
Look for different things in your environment to show them, and ask them to point out things they see.
What to Pack: blanket
Best done in your hotel, you can build a fort almost anywhere your toddler can imagine – the car, the airport, etc.
Blankets, pillows, and even luggage make excellent fort-building materials.
Not only will they feel calmer afterward, but it will also become a safe space for them.
What to Pack: essential oils, a tube of epsom salts
Water play is not only fun, but soothing to most people – including toddlers!
If you'll have access to a bathtub, this is the one of the greatest calming activities for toddlers.
Perfect for the end of the day, you can add some essential oils or epsom salt to the bath for a calming experience.
Travel-Friendly Calm Down Activities for Toddlers
Dealing with tantrums can be challenging for any parent, but it's especially difficult when you're traveling.
These are just a few of the many calming activities for toddlers that can help keep your day on track.
With a little creativity, you can come up with even more ideas that will work well for your family!
By being prepared and packing some travel-friendly calm down activities, you can help prevent toddler meltdowns and make the travel experience enjoyable for everyone.