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Wondering how to entertain a toddler on a plane? These toddler airplane activities are sure to keep your child entertained!
Let’s be honest, flying with a toddler can be stressful. It’s a fairly unpredictable age and you never know exactly how things are going to go.
The good news is, we have been on many flights with our toddlers and have lots of helpful, engaging ideas that are sure to keep your child entertained!
Read on for tips on how to entertain a toddler on a plane and our top choices of toddler airplane activities!
How do you entertain a toddler on the plane?
If you’re flying with a toddler, there might be one question looming large on your mind: how do I keep my toddler entertained on the flight??
From our many experiences flying with young children, we’ve come to realize that variety and novelty are two of the most important factors in planning good activities.
Pulling out an activity that is new or that your toddler hasn’t played with very much is a great way to engage them when they are starting to get bored or tired.
You also want a variety of activities so you can switch it up if your child starts to lose interest.
We’re constantly trying out new plane activities and we’ve included in this list some of our very top choices!
Toddler Airplane Activities
If you’re planning on traveling with a toddler, you need some awesome activities so you can go into your flight with confidence. All of the activities listed below have been a huge hit when flying with our toddlers.
If your kid loves fastening and unfastening buckles, this is the toy for you!
This buckle toy has several different kinds of buckles in various colors for your child to fiddle with. There’s also a zippered pocket at the top for storing little treasures.
This toy was a hit on our long Southeast Asia trip. I was worried that my kids might get bored of it quickly, but that was definitely not the case.
My boys loved clipping all of the buckles together or rearranging them so that the colors were mismatched. And it was equally well-loved by both my 18-month-old and 3-year-old.
I just buckled it to the strap of my diaper bag so that it wasn’t taking up any extra space and it was super accessible whenever we wanted it!
You can’t go wrong with stickers at this age!
And this sticker book has the added benefit of helping your child to identify and match colors. It’s perfect for developing sorting and fine motor skills and the bright pictures are sure to capture your child’s attention!
A boogie board is a great mess-free option for your creative kid. The LCD screen allows them to doodle away and then erase it with the click of a button to doodle some more. And best of all, there’s no chance of getting pen on the seat or the wall or mom!
Mess-free art is possible with these Water Wow! books from Melissa and Doug. Paint over the pages with a water brush and watch as a picture magically appears before your eyes. And once it dries, it’s ready to be used again!
These are compact and reusable, making them a perfect option for flights!
Lacing cards are great for keeping little hands busy. It’s a fun, focused activity that also helps develop fine motor skills. This set by Melissa and Doug has the added bonus of helping them to recognize letters and letter sounds.
These bendable wax sticks are great for creative, open-ended play. Wiki Stix can be formed into shapes or letters, stuck to other objects, or molded together to make small creations or scenes. And once you’re done you can unbend and reuse them!
We found that if they were really squished together or if one stick was bent and straightened over and over they did tend change texture and be less ideal for making shapes. But if you aren’t too rough on them, you can get many uses out of a set of Wiki Stix. My son thought they were delightful!
I swear by these puffy sticker sets. Finding just the right place to put the multitude of tiny stickers can keep a toddler engaged for a very long time.
Each set has a glossy folder containing several background scenes for the puffy stickers. And the stickers are reusable, so your child can move them around and rearranged them to their heart’s content.
This was one of my son’s favorite activities that we brought on our trip to Southeast Asia. The one that kept him the most engaged was the chipmunk set. He loved putting all the small fixtures of the house in their proper places. And I loved how long he could sit quietly working on it!
These are the perfect look and find books for young kids. The pictures are fun and engaging without being too busy. Each page has question prompts (eg. “Find all the houses with blue doors”, or “which flower is the tallest?”) or you can make up your own questions.
This book is one of my favorite toddler airplane activities! There is always something new to spot and find, which keeps it feeling fresh no matter how many times you’ve read it.
Headphones for music
For the little music lover in your life, bringing headphones on the plane can be a great option. My kids have looooved Raffi at this age, so before our flight, we would make sure we had some songs downloaded to our phone.
Listening to music can be a great calm-down activity for a grumpy toddler. And it also can be a nice segway into a nap, especially if you can’t get your child to hold still long enough to fall asleep. Just put on some tunes and let your kiddo drift off while they listen.
Coloring is sure to be a hit at this age, and these triangular crayons are perfect for flights! You can put them on the tray table with confidence, knowing they won’t fall off and go rolling down the aisle.
If I’m limited on space, oftentimes I’ll just rip a few pages out of a coloring book, fold them up, and put them in a baggie with a few crayons. That way I have something compact to pull out if my toddler starts getting squirmy.
If you have a young artist, be sure to bring along some coloring pages to help them pass the time.
My First Big Book of Coloring is a great option for this age. It has nearly 200 pages with varied images to hold your toddler’s attention, including animals, vehicles, instruments, children, etc. The book has thick, dark lines and simple but engaging pictures.
It makes for a perfect addition to your toddler airplane activities!
These magnetic tins are a great medium for creative play. They come with several sheets of magnets and a scene built into the tin to put them on.
And I love that everything is contained within the tin for convenient packing! Arranging the scene just the way they want it can keep my kids entertained for quite a while.
I would recommend bringing a small baggie for the magnets you aren’t using. This allows your child to pick the magnets they want and prevents the scene from getting overcrowded.
These do have some small pieces, so keep a close eye on your child if they like to put things in their mouth or just remove the really little pieces.
These wipe-clean books are educational, engaging, and endlessly reusable. We have several different varieties and they have been a favorite of my boys for a while now.
Usually, I keep one in my diaper bag to whip out if we’re at a restaurant or a friend’s house and my kiddo needs something to keep him occupied.
And they worked great as a plane activity! Just make sure to bring an extra dry erase pen or two in case you misplace yours.
Window clings are a great way to keep a toddler occupied on a plane. Your child can stick the clings to the airplane window to their heart’s content while you take a breather.
And once they’re finished, you can easily feel them off and store them away for another trip (without leaving a sticky residue behind).
This was a lifesaver for me when I was flying alone with my toddler and we were stuck on the runway for over an hour before takeoff. He was so engrossed in making his window scenes that he didn’t even get fussy about how long it was taking to get into the air!
This modeling clay is a great activity for a crafty kid on a plane. Unlike play dough, this clay does not fall apart and make a huge mess when played with.
The texture is a little denser than play dough, so it’s not quite as good at making precise shapes. But let’s be honest, at this age they aren’t usually making detailed masterpieces yet.
And the trade-off is totally worth it for a mess-free experience. My son loved squishing it, twisting it, and making all sorts of fun creations.
This is a cheap activity that can lead to hours of entertainment. Give your child a calculator and set them loose pushing numbers and experimenting with what the buttons do. Or give them sequences to type in to help them practice their numbers.
I was surprised at how long this kept my son occupied. And of course, at some point, it transitioned into a phone and he was kept busy “calling” all of his relatives to tell them about our trip.
The only problem came when we misplaced the calculator later in our trip and had a very sad toddler on our hands.
Other Tips for Entertaining a Toddler on a Plane
We’ve been on lots of long flights with our children, so we understand that knowing how to entertain a toddler on a plane is not always an easy feat. But it can be done! A lot of it is in the preparation before you go. Here are some tips for a better flying experience with a 1-year-old, 2-year-old, or 3-year-old.
Bring awesome activities
Good airplane activities are essential when traveling with a toddler. You need something to grab and hold their interest, especially if they are starting to have a difficult time.
Picking activities for airplane travel is something of an art form. How do you balance the desire to bring lots of great diversions to keep your child entertained, but also pack as light as possible?
And finding the right activities really matters. Having a variety of good options allows you to pull out new, interesting activities to engage your child or distract them if they’re starting to meltdown.
Have good snacks
One of my best tips for how to entertain a toddler on a plane: snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Nothing stops my kids mid-meltdown like a good snack.
Have a variety of different options so that they don’t get bored and bring some items that they aren’t used to to add novelty to the experience. For some great toddler snack ideas, see this post.
Get up and move around
If we’re on a long-haul flight, I make sure to get my child up to walk up and down the aisle every couple of hours (or on the hour if they are having a hard time).
This acts as a bit of a reset, by helping to get the blood flowing and allowing your child a change of scenery.
It also helps to break up the experience for both of us. It often makes the time feel more manageable knowing that I only have to keep them entertained for x number of minutes until we both get a break. If you have someone with you, trade-off doing this so that you both get a break.
If you’re following all the tips on how to entertain a toddler on a plane and things still aren’t going according to plan…just know that no matter how your child acts, eventually the flight will end. And you’ll probably never see the other people on the plane again anyway.
Chalk it up to experience and try not to let it get you too frazzled.
It can be hard knowing how to entertain a toddler on a plane. Make it easier on yourself by planning ahead and picking great activities for your flight.
With the right combination of snacks, breaks, and activities, your toddler can have a fun and engaging experience and you’ll be able to relax a bit. What more could you want when traveling with a young child?
Whether you’re on a long-haul international flight or just flying for a couple of hours, make sure to plan for some good toddler airplane activities. Your child- and everyone else on the plane- will thank you.
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