The one question I get asked more than any other when traveling with kids is how to keep them entertained on the plane, especially toddlers. The 2-3 age group seems to be the hardest to fly with in my experience; they’re active enough that they want to be up and moving around, but too young to really understand why they have to stay seated.
The ideal toddler plane activity will be quiet, will be mess free and require no clean up, and will keep a toddler busy for more than just a few minutes. I have had a few years worth of experience flying with a toddler and I’ve narrowed down a few of our favorite toddler plane activities that will keep your little one busy and occupied throughout the flight.
One of my biggest recommendations when looking for toddler plane activities such as the ones listed below is to buy them as you see them over the course of a few weeks or months leading up to your trip; this way you’re not panic shopping at the last minute trying to find things for them to do.
The Bullseye’s Playground section at Target is a great place to pick up some of these recommended items for just a few dollars so I always check by there when I buy groceries.
I also stop in at the Dollar Store every now and then to stock up on things, and when I buy things from Amazon I’ll usually add one of these activities to my basket as well. All of the activities recommended are reasonably priced and just cost a few dollars, so buying them as you have the chance means it all works out to be pretty inexpensive.
Once I have a selection of toys, I’ll let my toddler pick a few of them out himself (trying to encourage varying activities and not just endless coloring books) and then I’ll take them aside and pack them in his little backpack.
Once on the plane, I’ll give him one activity at a time and I don’t let him have another one until he’s completed the first (or gotten bored with it). When he was a little younger, I would actually wrap the activities individually so that he got to open “presents” on the plane to unwrap. This was a big hit, but remember to pick up all of that paper that will inevitably end up on the floor in tiny pieces!
Here is the list of tried and tested toddler plane activities that we’ve come to love over the last few years flying with a toddler.
There are no words for how much I love Wikki Stix! They are so cheap, you get multiple sticks in a pack and they keep kids occupied for hours! For those not familiar with them, they’re made of a non-toxic wax so they’re easy to bend and turn into different creations. They take up very little space and they’re also zero mess, which is a huge win for a toddler plane activity since there’s no clean up involved!
Again, hurray for no mess! Water Wow books are fantastic because they just use water. There are different versions of these books, including ones that come with a pre-filled pen and paper pages, and those that need to be filled with water with cardboard pages; we prefer the latter since the’re reusable (once the water dries, the color disappears off the page and you can color again) and it’s easy to refill the pen with water.
Similar to Water Wow books, these just use water and require no clean up or extra markers. They’re not reusable the way some Water Wow books are but they do have many more pages and so will probably keep kids occupied for longer.
Sticker books are cheap and easy toddler plane activities, and we always have multiple sticker books in our carry on bags. I always try to get sticker books with puffy stickers since my toddler can grab them himself with minimal help from me.
Again, coloring books and crayons are so cheap and so easy to pack when flying with a toddler! We always bring more than one since sometimes my toddler will plough through these books super quickly, and I try for different themes so he’s not coloring the same pictures over and over. I also bring multiple packets of crayons and my favorite are the triangle crayons (that my son’s preschool teacher turned me on to since they use them with the toddlers!) since they’re less likely to roll off the tray table and land on the (disgusting) plane floor.
These are mentioned in my post on Dollar Store items for flying with kids but they’re worth mentioning again since they’re so great for toddlers! Since most toddlers will probably still be flying in a car seat and those need to go by the window, toddlers will have that canvas right in front of them to decorate! Make sure the window clings you choose leave no residue behind and I probably wouldn’t use these if I had someone else in my row who wasn’t in my traveling party (even sitting on the aisle, they might like to look out the window every now and then and see the view rather than a bunch of stickers!)
We only discovered this recently and it has absolutely changed the game when flying with a toddler! For those who have never used Play Foam, the consistency is almost like Play-Doh without the weird smell and little bits falling off all over the place. You can turn the foam into just about anything and my toddler loves the different colors to make different things. There is virtually no mess with this (I just wipe my son’s hands afterwards since it leaves a little bit of residue) and it’s easy to pack up and reuse.
We always have multiple Play Packs on hand for everything from plane trips, road trips, or even just a trip where my toddler might have to wait and might get restless. They typically come with a small coloring book, crayons, and maybe some stickers, all in a pouch that can be securely closed again so everything can be reused. You can buy them in bulk from Amazon or my local Target always has them in Bullseye’s Playground for $1 each.
My oldest son is a huge Lego fan and always brings a small travel Lego kit on plane trips, but for my toddler – who is much more likely to drop and lose the little Lego pieces – we bring a small Duplo kit instead. There are simple kits that are just made up of multi-colored blocks, or you can buy sets that make cars, little farms, etc. The boxes they come in can be pretty bulky for a diaper bag for plane travel or even in a kids’s carry on bag so I usually take the blocks out of the box before the trip and put them into a large Ziploc bag instead.
Touch and feel books, as well as quiet books, are such an easy (and quiet!) way to keep toddlers occupied on a plane. Quiet books are amazing because they include things for toddlers to do and keep them busy (the book listed above is one we own and it includes things like buckles, zippers, and felt pieces to match shapes and colors – it’s also machine washable which is everything when you have a sticky-fingered toddler!) Touch and feel books are great for younger toddlers who are still exploring how things feel and different textures. I do try to stick with soft felt or material books since they’re not as heavy and take up less space.
Because if I could only bring one thing on board when flying with a toddler, it would be a big bag of snacks! Nothing ends a toddler tantrum quicker than a snack, and I always bring way more than I know will be necessary. One thing to keep in mind: don’t overdo it because if you do, you might need an outfit change sooner than you had thought! Read through this post for more tips on potty training while traveling.
Healthy snack ideas for toddlers:
– Organic crackers and cookies (we love Annie’s Organic brand)
– Fruit and veggie pouches (we have always used Ella’s Kitchen and GogoSqueeze)
– Yogurt covered dried blueberries
– Apple chips
– Fruit leather
– Granola or breakfast bars
– Cheese straws