family travels off the beaten path

Keeping Toddlers Busy (And Happy) on Flights

Keeping Toddlers Busy (And Happy) on Flights

Keeping Toddlers Busy on Flights – A Constant Challenge?

Gearing up for a long flight with your toddler? Are you trying to figure out what to pack in order to keep your toddler entertained while en route?  You’ve come to the right place. First, let me start by saying, our toddler has watched her fair share of in flight entertainment. She’s traveled thousands of miles in the past few years and probably has seen Moana 36 times during her travels. We’re not anti-screen time when we travel…because…well, we also like to arrive at a destination somewhat sane. But, we also are fully aware that our toddler’s attention span is not long enough to watch an entire movie without climbing the seats or getting a full on case of the giggles and wiggles. Because this is our toddler on a daily basis…

Oh wait, no…that’s her for a very small percentage of any day. It’s more like….

Yup, that is more like it. Anyone else?? This wonderfully crazy, absolutely exuberant, always on the go kid doesn’t slow down for anything…especially sitting still on an airplane.

After countless flights with our three kiddos, we’ve finally found a few of our must pack items for any long haul trip…or even short trips! Packing several screen free options means we can break up the flight by providing one item at a time to play with. Combine that with bits and pieces of a movie, snack time, nap time (hopefully!) and you’ll be on the ground ready to kick off your vacation in no time.

Our biggest tip? Pack a set of things to do for the way there and another set for the way back (we usually tuck this in our bag). That way your kiddo(s) have fresh and new things to play with and do on the way home!



Toddlers make great, tiny artists…especially on planes.

As a parent to a toddler, you are no doubt in tune with how busy they can be. Having a toddler sit still for the duration of a plane ride can be challenging to say the least. When you are at home, it is easy to switch between activities to keep their busy hands, bodies and minds active and happy. On a plane, it can sometimes feel claustrophobic – what can I do in this tiny little seat?! Our answer? Art.

When we’re traveling anywhere, whether it is near or far, we pack some super basic (and lightweight!) art supplies to keep our toddler busy. This worked like a charm for her two older sisters, so we figure we must be on to something. Or we’re just lucky that these items have kept our kids busy on flights. While this post is written with toddlers in mind, our older daughters (ages 6 and 8) also enjoy all of these items as well, so here’s to keeping everyone busy and happy! Also, while I’m gearing this write up to travel on planes – don’t be fooled, these items and tricks work just as well in a restaurant or any setting where kiddos need to sit still for periods of time.

  1. Wiki Sticks – These easy to use, glue free, mess free art sticks are fun to bend and mold into shapes and creations. They are reusable, too! As an added bonus, the seat back tray table works wonderfully for holding your creation! You can also grab these awesome cards for older kids to practice their letters/numbers.  Tip: bring a small sandwich bag to put them in after the first use as they are hard to put back into their box! 
  2. Play Doh – Seriously, this is one of the easiest things to pack. Mini-tubs of play doh are great for planes, trains and restaurants! Using coins from your purse, airplane straws, cups and forks all of a sudden mean you have a collection of tools to use with your play doh. Easy peasy! Tip: I’m a little bit of a germaphobe, so if the play doh makes its way to the floor of the airplane, I actually just toss the tub and have another one ready for the flight home. 
  3. Paint with Water Books – When the beverage service comes around, just ask for a 1/4 glass of water for your budding Picasso and get ready for some major fun and entertainment. These books are rather mess free, but I always grab a few extra napkins just in case.
  4. Color Wonder Packs – We love Crayola’s Color Wonder line, it means mess free art for our toddler (and big girls) wherever we are. While this one says ages 3,4,5 on it, our 2 year old uses these on pretty much every flight. As an added bonus, the markers last quite awhile, so you can just get new paper for your next trip.
  5. Gel Window Clings – Why not turn your window into a beautiful stained glass window with a pack of gel window clings? We have decorated countless airplane windows with window clings, keeping our toddler busy as well as people around us. You can usually find these in the Dollar Spot at Target or can easily grab them from Amazon as well. We split these up into a set for the flight there and another set for the flight back. Once they fall on the ground they get a bit grimy and gritty, so I don’t save them for future use.

We love traveling with our kids and are always up for the added challenge of traveling with a toddler. Of course we aren’t perfect — our toddler still gets fussy and impatient while traveling.  We watch plenty of movies, but we also strive for fun that doesn’t mean just sitting in front of a screen. What else would you add to our list? What are your go to items to keep your toddler busy while traveling?

For even more tips on how to entertain your kids while traveling be sure to check out even more tips from seasoned travel bloggers at Our Globetrotters and Family Off Duty.

How to Keep Toddlers Busy on Long Flights