Your bags are packed and you’re ready for that much-needed family vacation, but you’re stressing about traveling on the airplane with your kids — especially if you have a toddler. Gone are the days of having some quiet time with a book in hand. Instead, you’re trying to figure out how to keep your child entertained and in their seat for the duration of the flight.
Fortunately, though, traveling doesn’t have to be as daunting as you think. With the right airplane activities, your child can be engaged, entertained and even occupied for the duration of the flight.
I’ve traveled with two kids on numerous flights, and I’ve learned that having a travel backpack — and even a kid’s travel backpack for them to carry on their own — filled with activities helps make for a smoother travel experience. Here are our top 15 airplane activities to keep your child occupied on your next flight.
If you don’t want to carry around an iPad
, the Amazon Fire Kids tablet is a great item for kids of all ages. The kids tablet includes one year of Amazon Kids+, parental controls, a case and a two-year guarantee. With the Amazon Kids+ subscription, your kids will have access to a plethora of books, videos, apps and games — all created with kids in mind. Parents are also able to customize the tablet by setting screen time limits, setting education goals and managing web browsing.
“Even though we normally limit technology time at home, we loosen up the rules while traveling,” says Lee Huffman, family travel expert at baldthoughts.com. “We want to keep our kids happy and ensure that they don’t bother other travelers.”
A tablet — especially one where you can download shows in advance from Netflix and Disney+, among others — is a great way to make the plane ride go faster.
Not sure where to begin or don’t have time to put together all the toys and activities to bring on the plane with you? If you fall into that bucket — and we don’t blame you — we've got the perfect solution. The Mo-On-The-Go is a kid-friendly travel backpack
that comes filled with nine different reusable activities. From open-ended silicone cupcake containers and Play-Doh to a coloring mat and stickers, your child will never be bored on their next flight.
The backpack also offers enough space to include additional items for your child, such as travel snacks, a water bottle and any other personal items they might need throughout the flight. With more than 20 flights under her belt with her two sets of young twins, Rafi Nova founder Marissa Goldstein knows a thing or two about traveling with toddlers and young kids. Although she believes in the motto “less is more,” she knows the importance of being prepared with engaging activities.
Want your kids to pass the time with some coloring but also want to avoid the mess? Water Wow! coloring books from Melissa & Doug are some of our favorite airplane activities — especially for toddlers — since the books can be used over and over again. No need to bring a large bag full of crayons, markers and paper.
To use these magic pages, all you do is fill the included pen with water before boarding the plane. After brushing the pen on the page, the color appears. Once the page dries up within a few minutes, you can start coloring again. With seven different coloring book themes ranging from dinosaurs to jungle, animals and more, there’s bound to be a Water Wow! that’ll keep your child entertained while flying.
Activity books are great at keeping children of all ages occupied. This Tape activity book, which is ideal for children aged 4 to 7, includes four rolls of colored tape and 20 reusable pages to complete your own designs. As with all Melissa & Doug products, the activity book is high quality and will stay intact for many flights to come.
Crayons are a classic pastime, but they can easily break, and when you're traveling in the air without a replacement nearby, that's the last thing you want to happen. Instead, these twistable crayons ensure your coloring accessories stay in one piece for your entire trip, as they come in a plastic barrel that protects the core of the crayon. The pack features 24 different colors to create the perfect masterpiece.
I found that as my kids got older, markers were preferred more than crayons. But, because of their circular shape, the markers would always roll down the airplane's seatback trays. Welcome to the world of triangular markers. These triangle-shaped Magic Stix markers stay put on the tray and eliminate the need to go fishing around the seat for falling markers.
However, if your kids still prefer crayons, don’t worry. You can also get the same no-roll triangular-shaped crayons for easier flights ahead.
Be sure to grab a good coloring book for your kids before heading to the airport. This paperback notebook from Silly Bear has more than 17,000 5-star reviews on Amazon — and for good reason. Inside, you'll find 50 individual designs complete with unicorns, stars and rainbows. This book is sure to brighten up any flight. And at just $5, you can pick up a couple for hours of entertainment.
Classic card games are a great way to help the time go by quickly while traveling and also engage with your child. Put the tray table down and you and your child can spend hours playing classic games such as Go Fish and Old Maid. We're fans of this 6-in-1 Fun Pack from Hoyle since it allows your child to rotate through multiple card games during a long flight.
Fidgets are all the rage these days. Even though parents might not understand the appeal, they can keep your otherwise bored child occupied for hours. Additionally, if your child — or even you, the parent — has a fear of flying
, fidgets are a great distraction. From popping to pulling, this Rafi Nova Fidget Pouch includes 10 different fidgets that all come conveniently packed in a mini pouch that's easy to bring along in your carry-on bag
When I was traveling with my toddler on a plane, reusable sticker pads were one of the best distractions. These sticker pads from Melissa & Doug offer many different scenes to inspire creativity for your child. Stickers can easily be moved from one page to another to allow for continuous engagement — and, if your child gets bored of the pad, they can even stick (and then remove) the stickers onto the airplane window to make their own creative story. More than 14,000 5-star reviewers on Amazon agree that this sticker pad is a great activity to keep kids entertained.
There’s no sugarcoating it: It’s extremely easy to lose items on a plane, especially when in the hands of a small child. That’s where magnetic travel games
come in handy, as they’ll significantly reduce the chance of the game pieces falling all over the place.
“Small games like tic-tac-toe that use magnets have been some of my children’s favorite activities for airplanes when they need a break from screen time,” says Leslie Harvey, mom of two and founder of the popular family travel site Trips With Tykes. “Magnets help keep the pieces secure from turbulence and kid clumsiness, and many of these games and playsets are inexpensive and compact to pack.”
Magnetic activities can save you — and your seat neighbors — lots of hassle on a plane. If your kids aren't yet ready for games, this magnetic puzzle is a great option. The puzzle comes with 14 magnetic blocks that can be combined to create shapes, figures and animals of all sorts. This puzzle allows your kids — and you — to use your imagination while in flight.
If you're looking for a way to incorporate fine motor skills on the airplane, lacing boards are the perfect activity to occupy young ones for an extended period of time. With lacing, there are very few pieces to worry about, and this set takes up minimal space in your carry-on bag
— or your kid's carry-on bag
. This was always one of my go-to items, and nearly 5,000 5-star reviewers on Amazon agree that kids love this set.
Wikki Stix allows your toddler's creativity to flow while also avoiding the mess of an art project on the plane. Just open up the tray table and your child will be on their way to creating an endless number of creatures and figurines. They're sticky, allowing your child to pair them together or to stick on pages of paper — or even the airplane window. Just be sure to clean up when you get to your destination.
You don’t have to break the bank to keep your kids entertained. Simple items like sticky notes in your desk drawer can also do the trick. They can be used to make creations on the tray table, airplane window and even the seat in front of you (as long as you don’t bother other passengers).
“My husband regularly carries Post-it flags in his bag for work, and we found our son loved sticking the colored flags on his tray table to create ‘pictures’ that could be peeled off in seconds and created anew,” says Harvey.
Remember, kids don’t necessarily need something new and flashy; they just need something that works. And even the simplest items like Post-it notes allow kids of all ages to be creative.
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