The biggest concern a lot of parents have when flying with a toddler is how to keep their little
monster angel entertained at 30,000 feet. After a good twenty or so flights with Maggie, we’re starting to figure it out! Providing distractions and entertainment is key when flying with a toddler, so here are some of our family’s best sanity-saving activities to help you get through your next (or first) flight as painlessly as possible.
Eat it up!
Take several snacks with you aboard the plane. Goldfish, dry cereal, blueberries, and raisins are all good plane snacks. Why? Because you can hand your toddler one at a time and keep them focused on this “project” a lot longer than something they could eat in just a couple of bites. Speaking of dragging things out, try not to EVER multi-task while flying with a toddler. Don’t watch a movie or play with toys while eating your snack; instead, focus on each individual task as an activity to eat up as much time as possible.
Swallow your pride!
If you are a Supermom who never lets their child near technology (I’ve heard they exist but never seen one in the wild), work on swallowing your pride while your tiny tot is busy fisting those Cheerios into his face. Flying with a toddler is the perfect time to make an exception and let your kid play on the tablet or phone. Download a couple of their favorite movies and some age-appropriate apps before your flight and you will be
disturbed amazed at how long their attention span can be captivated by a screen. I’m fairly certain they won’t suffer irreparable rotting of the brain during one flight (no matter how long a ride it is) and they can return to their Montessori-approved activities once the landing gear is deployed.
Our top ten toys
Parents often feel like they have to drag along the entire toy box to survive flying with a toddler but that really isn’t the case. The goal is to pack things that are small, quiet, and novel. These activities are also inexpensive so if something gets dropped on the floor of the plane or left behind in an airport restroom, it isn’t a major loss. Our favorite travel “toys” can be found everywhere from Amazon to the Dollar Tree.
- Self-sticking hair rollers make great plane toys! You can stack them, roll them, nest them, compare their sizes to each other, stick them to nearby objects… lots of entertaining options with these and since they fit inside of each other, it doesn’t take a lot of room to pack them. Conair Self-Grip Rollers, Assorted, 31 Count
- A soft retractable tape measure can occupy a kid for a surprisingly long time. Let them pull it out and giggle as it retracts. Use it to measure everything in sight. Or, if you’re still feeling guilty about letting them play on the iPad, work on number recognition and counting. BUSHIBU 8 pcs150 cm 60 Inch Push Button Soft Retractable Tape Measure Handy Pocket Tape Measure Double-Sided Tailor’s Measuring Tape
- Kitchen sponges make fabulous silent blocks! Just pick up a small pack before your trip and use a sharp knife or scissors to cut them into rectangles, squares, and triangles. Store them in a Ziploc bag and use them to build flat pictures or vertical structures on the tray table mid-flight. After your trip, trash them, use them as stamps to paint with, or throw them in the dishwasher to sanitize and reuse next time you travel. Qisc iLH Colorful Multi-Purpose Durable Lightweight Kitchen Cleaning Sponges, 5x3x1-Inch, Pack of 7
- Color Wonder markers, stamps, and paper are amazing for travel, even if they are a little more pricey than normal crayons and coloring books. They don’t work on anything except the special paper so you don’t have to worry about your toddler drawing on the bulkhead or scribbling on the wall of your hotel room. Crayola Finding Dory Color Wonder Stamper & Paper Set
- Wiki Stix are somewhere between a craft and a toy. They’re bendable, shapeable, little sticks (picture a piece of yarn coated in wax) that you can use to form whatever your imagination can conjure. Talk about the colors. Use them to form shapes, numbers or letters. Make your munchkin a funny pair of glasses or form them into cups and have a tea party. Wikki Stix Party Favor Pak, Pack of 15 Molding & Sculpting Sticks
- Small cars make good travel toys because your toddler can drive them all over the place and you can make up stories about where the people inside them are going. Just don’t use favorite ones they would lose their mind over misplacing. Dazzling Toys 2″ Pull Back & Let Go Racer Cars – Pack of 12 Cars – Assorted Car Colors- Great Christmas Gift Idea
- A roll of painter’s tape can be an invaluable travel toy. Use it as a novel way to form shapes and letters on the tray table or window. Make a cool tic tac toe board and use pocket change as your game pieces. Form roads for the toy cars to drive on. Fold it and use it to make jewelry. Use it to cover the electrical outlet holes in your hotel room once you arrive or create a “do not cross” line to set boundaries in an unfamiliar place… so many options here! Duck Brand Clean Release Painter’s Tape, Single Roll, 0.94 in. x 60 yd., Blue (240193)
- Board books are always a great addition to your travel bag. Read them of course, but you can also play I Spy with them, point out colors, count things… lots of ways to keep busy with a book and then you will have it with you for bedtime once you reach your destination. This is one of our favorites! I Love You, Stinky Face
- Animal finger puppets can be another entertaining idea. Make up stories or sing songs about them. Bring along a book featuring the same animals as your puppets and use them in unison for maximum fun. Rhode Island Novelty Zoo Animal Finger Puppets 1-Dozen
- Lastly, we always take an inflatable beach ball when we travel. It can be partially inflated and used as a travel pillow on the plane in a pinch, but it’s primary purpose is providing a safe and efficient way to let off some energy before or after the flight. We’ve been known to toss ours around in an empty area of the airline terminal while waiting to board a flight. Intex Inflatable Beach Ball
Got another genius idea for keeping kiddos occupied on a plane? Tell us in the comments! And if you think we’re insane for even making an attempt at flying with a toddler, check out this post!