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Worried about your toddler’s first flight? Unsure of what airplane games for toddlers to pack for the trip? No parent wants to be unprepared for a meltdown up in the air. If you can’t count on the kids sleeping through the flight, we recommend you have some toddler travel toys ready to go.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. There are plenty of ways to keep the kids entertained during the flight. Most airplane activities for toddlers are relatively quiet, mess-free, and can be used time and time again.
Still, it’s important you pack enough activities and toys that they can cycle through without completing every activity or getting bored. Remember, watching shows or playing on apps doesn’t usually keep a toddler’s attention for very long.
Listed below are the best travel toys and some great tips to keep your toddler happy during the flight. Now, get ready for take off!
Toddler Airplane Activities for 12- 18-Month-Olds
At 12-18 months, your child is more likely to spend more time awake than they will asleep or eating. Here are some travel games and activities that will keep them entertained during the flight:
Window Gel Clings
Window clings are great to pack for your flight because they are inexpensive and easy to clean up. You can have your child decorate the window near their seat at the beginning of your flight.
Window clings are especially fun when flying during the holidays. You can buy themed window clings for different seasons as well.
The window clings are easy to take down and throw away towards the end of your flight when the stewardess comes around with the trash bag. Although they aren’t ideal to use more than once, so you may want to buy a few packs for your trip.
Play foam is similar to playdough. Your child can mold the foam to create anything they want or simply remain occupied by mushing the foam around in their little hands.
Unlike play dough, play foam doesn’t break apart into small, crumbly pieces and create a mess. Even better, it doesn’t give off that strange stench playdough often emits. We can all agree; no one wants to be surrounded by unpleasant odors when stuck in a confined space.
Play foam can be a bit messy and leave some residue on your child’s hands and play surface. Fortunately, you can easily remove the residue with some baby wipes or other accessories moms often carry.
Themed Play Packs
Play packs include different activities that can keep your toddler occupied for hours on end. They have themed coloring books, sticker books, and a bunch of other games. It also comes with a storage pack to keep everything organized.
These packs are ideal for travel activities for younger children because they provide so many different activities compactly and neatly put together. As a result, they hardly take up any space in your carry-on, and you can usually purchase them in bulk.
I Spy is a great game to play with toddlers because they are curious about everything around them. This game keeps them busy and interested without having to pack anything at all. It will also help them to practice their colors and learn basic words.
If your child is too young to understand this game and play with you, you can use this time to explain different things on the plane and the people who work on the plane. They’ll be excited to learn about all the new things around them.
Toddler Plane Activities for 18- 24-Month-Olds
As your child gets a bit older, you won’t be able to count on them sleeping through the flight. Things get even more challenging once they start walking and refuse to sit still in their chair throughout the flight. With that, we’re bringing you some creative ways to keep them entertained:
Non-Toxic Wax Sticks
Non-toxic wax sticks are inexpensive and easy to pack in your carry-on. Your child can bend them to create different art pieces or use them to decorate your tray table. They can also be reused throughout your flight or even at your destination.
They are mess-free and require no clean-up. Wax sticks also come in a variety pack, full of different colors, to keep your child entertained for a while.
It’s best to have an abundance of sticks in a pack if the kids lose one during the flight. That way, if one goes missing, you’ll have plenty more to replace it!
Coloring books are lightweight and easy to pack. You can find them almost anywhere, even the dollar store!
You will want to pack more than one because kids tend to color through them pretty fast. Bring a couple of packs of crayons or colored pencils as well.
Pro Tip: The triangle-shaped crayons work great for this age group when traveling. They are easier for your toddler to hold, and they won’t roll off the tray table.
Finger puppets provide tons of different games or activities to play on the plane with your toddler. You can act out a story or book you brought with you on your flight, use them to teach new words, or even leave them to entertain themselves!
There are a variety of different choices of finger puppets you can purchase. We suggest buying multiple packs to prevent your child from getting bored of playing with the same item. You can find everything from animals, foods, movie characters, and more.
Finger puppets are small and lightweight, making them perfect for travel. They also require no cleanup and are reusable for your next trip or when back at home.
Animal erasers are another great “toy” you can use to keep your child entertained on the plane ride. They are small and lightweight, making them easier to pack than full-size animal toys from home that take up tons of weight and space. You don’t have to stick to animals, either.
You can find these small erasers in multiple different themes that may interest your child. Just make sure they are not too small to where they become a choking hazard. Remember, kids this age just love putting things in their mouths!
Sticker Books or Pads
Sticker books or pads are inexpensive and super easy to throw in your carry-on.
Some are structured similarly to a storybook, so you can read through with your child while they decorate the pages. The kids can navigate others on their own while you enjoy some quiet time or a movie.
Pro Tip: Books that come with puffy stickers are ideal for toddlers, especially if you are looking for some alone time. They can peel off the puffy stickers by themselves, unlike standard stickers that are more difficult to peel off the page.
This age group is the most challenging to fly with. They are old enough to walk but not old enough to understand why they need to stay seated.
Fortunately, this is also the age where a movie or a few episodes of their favorite show might actually hold their attention. Still, kids are unpredictable, so we’ve provided a few screen-free plane activities for toddlers between two and four years old.
Portable Lego Sets
If your child is interested in Legos, you should invest in a travel set for the plane ride. However, they aren’t the easiest accessory to pack, so if you don’t think it’s going to keep your child’s attention for very long, then it may not be worth bringing.
You can find these lego-compatible storage containers online, usually on Amazon. They include a drawer to store a ton of lego pieces and a base where your child can build from.
They also include a handle that makes them easy for your child to carry. You can also throw it in your backpack or carry-on.
These are a great way to keep entertained on their own. All you need is a little guidance from older children or parents, and they’ll be good to go. There are even some toddler workbooks that focus on educational activities exclusively.
Activity books are inexpensive, small, and easy to throw in your backpack or carry-on. Don’t forget to pack pencils, crayons, or markers for them to use!
Boogie Board Writing Tablet
Boogie board writing tablets are reusable writing tablets you can bring on the airplane to entertain your toddler. Kids can write and draw over and over again on the same tablet instead of on multiple pieces of paper with crayons.
Glitter Dot Craft Activity
Glitter dot craft activity books are similar to sticker books, except the stickers contain different colored glitter dots. Your child can use the dots to decorate picture pages that come within the pack or create their artwork on a blank piece of paper.
You can buy different sets that will give them multiple activity sheets to decorate. They are also super lightweight and easy to pack along for your trip.
Card Games for Toddlers
This activity may be better suited for older toddlers since they’ll need to be able to comprehend and understand how to play the game.
- Go fish
- Old maid
Card games can even keep the whole family entertained for a good while. They are also small and easy to pack.
If your toddler is too young to understand how to play card games, then flashcards are another excellent travel activity for toddlers.
Airplane Activities for 0- 12-Month-Olds
Infants are probably the easiest to travel with. The younger they are, the more likely they are to eat and sleep throughout the plane ride.
You don’t need to bring a ton of baby toys to keep them entertained. However, once they hit the 4-6 months range, you may want to pack a couple of toys, books, or snacks to keep them occupied during their short wake windows.
Below are some small toys you can throw in your carry-on to entertain your infant during the flight.
Suction toys are great to use on your tray or on the screen in front of you. Make sure to grab one that doesn’t make noise.
Touch and Feel Books
These books are usually small and lightweight, depending on what they are made out of. You can read to your infant while keeping them engaged by allowing them to feel around and explore the book. They are also small enough for them to hold themselves.
If your infant is teething, you will want to pack a couple of teethers to help soothe their pain. They won’t sleep as much during this phase and will be a bit fussier than normal, but these toys will help.
Pro Tip: Make sure you pack teething toys that are small and easy for them to hold on their own. Attach the teething toy to a pacifier clip so they don’t drop the teething toy on the germ-ridden airplane floor.
Activity Balls or Sensory Toys
Activity balls and sensory toys are super colorful and full of different textures to keep your infant busy in between eating and sleeping during your flight. These items can also help exercise your toddler’s fine motor skills.
Decide How to Keep Your Toddler Busy Before You Leave
Some say to pack new toys because they will keep your child entertained for longer rather than a toy they are used to playing with at home. Still, we think it’s wise to pack a combination of old and new. If you only pack new toys, you run the risk of them not being interested in them at all.
- Small and lightweight: you have limited space in your carry-on bags to pack multiple toys.
- Inexpensive: toys are easy to lose while traveling, especially while boarding and unloading off the plane.
- No emotional attachment: don’t bring a toy your child is extremely attached to because if it gets lost in the chaos, you may have a fussy, grumpy toddler on your hands.
- Quiet: If you don’t like listening to noisy kids’ toys at home, you certainly won’t want to hear them on the plane. The same goes for everyone else on board. Trust us; your fellow passengers will thank you.
Other Tips for Traveling with Toddlers
Here are some other tips and tricks that you can use when traveling with toddlers or little kids to make for an easy day of travel.
Lots of Snacks
You’ll want to pack or purchase snacks at the airport for children over six months of age who have started eating solid foods. Snacks that take longer to eat and can be thrown into a spill-proof snack container are best, like cereal or puff snacks.
It’s also a good idea to pack a snack bag for your toddler, especially if you are going to fly around their mealtime.
- Apple slices or a tangerine
- Snack bag mix (crackers, pretzels, peanut butter bites)
- Something sweet (their favorite candy or sweet treat)
Be sure to read through TSA’s guidelines for flying with food so you don’t end up having to throw away food at the security checkpoint.
Go For Walks
Remember, you’re allowed to walk your small children up and down the aisle throughout the flight. Toddlers are naturally curious, so walking around checking out the cabin and the people will be fun for them.
Taking walks is especially helpful during a long-haul flight. It allows your child to get up out of their seat (even if you are holding them) and enjoy a change in scenery.
3+ Are Allowed a Carry-On
Children three years or older are allowed to bring a small piece of luggage on board. A small and lightweight backpack is the perfect size for a kid’s carry-on. That way, you can pack their toys and activities in their backpack and free up room in your bag.
Remember to keep it light. Your child will have to be able to carry the backpack with their activities around the airport. If they decide it’s too heavy, you’ll be the one carrying it around the airport.
Bring a Bottle or Spill-Proof Cup
Most airlines don’t have lids for the plastic cups for the drinks they serve. So you’ll want to bring your own bottle or sippy cup to fill up with the airline drink options for your little one.
As mentioned above, you’ll want to bring a spill-proof snack container to put your own snacks or the airplane’s snacks into for your little one. This will save you from having to clean up an accident mid-flight.
The choice of using electronics or screen-time to preoccupy your child during a flight is totally up to you.
It might be smart to bring an emergency electronic device (this can always be a movie or show downloaded to your phone) just in case none of your activities are keeping your child busy.
We hope you enjoyed our list of items to pack for your getaway! It’s always best to prepare for a long day of travel with snacks and activities. After all, these little humans tend to get bored, cranky, and fussy.
The best piece of advice for flying with toddlers (or children in general) is to remain calm and keep a sense of humor. The flight is only temporary. With a bit of luck, it will go by without a hitch.
Your children read and react to the energy you put out. If you are stressed out, then they are going to feel just as uneasy. So try to keep calm, light, and fun, and hopefully, your good attitude and behavior will help influence theirs.