Entertaining a Toddler on a Plane
Our little family recently returned from vacation to Washington and Wisconsin, where we were visiting family. Our flight path took us from Orange County, CA to Seattle, WA to Chicago, IL, and back to Orange County. During this trip, we spent a total of 12 hours on a plane (including some minor delays) with an extremely busy 16 month old boy. We brought a big bag of tricks and have several tips for entertaining a toddler on a plane! I’ll even share a few things that we wouldn’t do again!
Not every toy is appropriate or worth bringing on the plane! After many flights with our little boy, here is my criteria for deciding what to bring:
- Small. Since each item only occupied my busy toddler for a short time period, I needed to be able to pack as many tricks in my bag as possible!
- Light-weight. Obviously I’m carrying everything that’s coming with us, so I want to be weighed down as little as possible!
- Not noisy. Our goal is to annoy the other passengers as little as possible- we don’t want to bring the most obnoxious toy with us!
- Not messy. The toys with a million different little parts are a big no-go for me. I don’t want to keep track of each little piece and reaching for them when they fall between the seats is a total pain!
Suggestions for Entertaining a Toddler on a Plane
Above is a peek into my bag of tricks that we bring for plane travel. All of those items are in addition to the regular stuff that you’d bring with you anyway (diapers/ wipes, change of clothes, etc.). Below are all of the additional things that we like to bring for entertaining a toddler on a plane. Many of these items you probably have lying around your house or can easily get while at the airport!
- Snacks. Like, a lot of snacks! Think of how much your child would normally eat during that time period- and then bring 3 more!
- Sticker books. These were our biggest hit! Jackson loved putting the stickers all over the book and all over us. These sucked up the most amount of time for sure!
- Coloring book and crayons. We brought along one coloring book and three giant, egg-shaped palm grip crayons. He had as much fun coloring as he did taking the crayons in and out of the box!
- Tape. I brought a small roll of scotch tape and would put a piece or two on his hands or feet. It would take him a minute or two to get all of the pieces off and then we’d do it all over again.
- Post-it Notes. The multi-colored ones that un-peel from different directions are great!
- Bandaids. Keeping with the all-things-sticky theme, these babies can be more entertaining than you’d think.
- Fast food soda lids. Jackson could spend quite a while pushing the little buttons on the lid, flipping it over and doing all over again!
- Straws. Straws are great for blowing on each other or sticking through the soda lids.
- Cars. Or whatever your child’s favorite toy is! Cars are a favorite in our household.
- iPad with downloaded shows. We had a few episodes of Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood downloaded on our iPad. While they generally didn’t hold Jackson’s attention for too long, we did get a few peaceful minutes.
- Flipping through pictures/ videos of himself on my phone. Not sure if all kids are as fascinated with themselves as Jackson is, but this is always a hit for us!
- Along that same line- taking selfies! I’m not usually one for taking selfies, but my one year old is and loves making goofy faces at himself!
- Small, thin books. Jackson loves to read, and these little books are perfect for our carry-on.
- Ice. A small cup of ice from the fight attendant can occupy quite a bit of time. Be sure to get a few extra napkins for all of the drippy mess!
- Cups. Plastic cups are great for stacking! You can request a few empty ones from your flight attendant.
- Magnetic Doodle Board. Though this wasn’t the biggest hit for us this time around, I do think he’ll like it more when he’s a bit older. Our’s is small and super light-weight, so definitely worth bringing.
- Apps. Age-appropriate apps are great for passing the time! Jackson loves the Talking Tom app and the Alpha Baby app. He also liked “helping” play a motorcycle racing game on my husband’s phone.
- Turning the overhead light on and off. We let Jackson do this once on a flight a few months back and it was the first thing he reached for when we got on the plane! We tried to limit this game (the fight attendants didn’t always appreciate when he’d accidentally push the call button), but when you’re desperate, you’re desperate!
What I wouldn’t bring again
- Bulky books. As much as my son loves his giant pop-up books or his bulky slide-and-find Brown Bear, Brown Bear book, I’m just not sure I can justify their weight and how much space they take up in my bag!
- Wind-up toys. While these definitely entertained Jackson for quite a while, I felt like they were a bit noisy and starting to bother passengers close to us. Maybe our’s were just particularly noisy?
- Puppets: This one is more of a personal thing. I was really hoping that Jackson would be into the puppets that we brought, but he just wasn’t. I won’t let them occupy space in our carry-ons again, but they could work great for your kids!
What I’m exciting to try next time
- Gel window clings. These look like they could be a lot of fun if you have a window seat!
- Magnetic toy sets. I’ve seen little sets with planes and cars and sets with animals. Jackson is still putting things in his mouth, so I’ll probably wait until that stage is over!
- Water coloring books. These are special coloring books that come with a pen that you fill with water. You use this water pen to make colors appear on the pages!
- Pipe cleaners. Bend them up into various shapes or use them to make a Cheerio bracelet.
- Portable activity kit. I found this idea for a portable activity kit on another blog and think it’s perfect for an older toddler!
Are you well-versed in toddler travel? I’d love to hear your feedback! What suggestions do you have for entertaining a toddler on a plane? What didn’t work so well?How to entertain a busy toddler on a plane!Click To Tweet