Here are some awesome screen free airplane activities for kids that will help you keep them occupied throughout the flight.
During last year we began to consciously reduce our use of screens in all aspects of our lives, asking ourselves “Can We Go Screen Free”? On Instagram we sought advice from other parents. We got a wealth of fantastic ideas, which are included here, along with some of our own about screen free airplane activities for kids.
We’ve noticed lots of blogs and posts of late that make mention of an iPad loaded with new games as a ‘must go’ item for children’s travel. We are considering taking it off our travel list all together, but first, we need to get well prepared with different screen free airplane activities for kids!
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Plan, Plan, Plan – Screen Free Airplane Activities For Kids & Toddlers
Consider that each of these activities might occupy 15 minutes. For a 4-hour flight, you have take-off and landing (each about 15 minutes), plus a meal. The meal would occupy 30 minutes if you are lucky! So, you would need 3 hours of activities which is 12 activities. It seems like a lot, but remember that some activities can be repeated!
A Bag Of Goodies
For younger children, eg, 12-24 months, a bag of random things can keep them entertained for hours. A key-chain, a pair of old sunglasses, hair ties, or an old necklace to name a few. Make sure each item is pulled out with care, because once they have seen the item and played with it, often they aren’t interested again!
Stickers, Stickers, Stickers
Everyone agrees they are easy/light to pack and can keep kids of all ages entertained. Stickers on paper are good, but so are stickers on plastic water bottles. Take a look at Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads.. Re-usable stickers that can go on windows are fun as they can go on the airplane windows. In Australia can be found at target or ordered on Amazon. Kids need to share the window though!
Here are some of our favorites.
That’s right, playing cards are a brilliant way to spend time on an airplane. For littles think Old Maid, or GO FISH. By the time they are about 6 UNO can be played for hours. Even a standard pack of cards for full house is excellent (and great for math)!
Legos are our screen-free winner on the plane. Our kids each have a small pack and a small base plate with a sticky bottom. They build and then play with it…for hours! There are so many different sets you can purchase. Check here for some of our favorites travel sets for a Lego Juniors option check here.
Check here for some of our favorites travel sets
for a Lego Juniors option check here.
If your kids are pre-LEGO there is DUPLO. Given it’s size it’s a pretty chunky flight activity, but we have carried a bathroom bag full of DUPLO in our checked in luggage for use in the hotel room.
Beadead Bracelets or Necklaces
We make them for the entire crew and gift it to them at end of flight. My little is 3-year-old so beading takes a really long time for her. For older ones, take a look at the Lanlan Colorful Acrylic Beads. For younger ones, a fantastic set is the Skoolzy Lacing Beads for Kids.
They stimulate creative thinking. We were on a live-a-board boat in Palau, and it entertained 3 toddlers for few hours a day for the whole week.
If you are able to find a portable magnet set, they are light and easy to carry and you don’t lose bits. We have something like the Lewo Wooden Kids Educational Toys Magnetic Easel Set.. This set looks like it would be good for older children, Magnetic Blocks Building Set.
Medibag 117 Piece Kid Friendly First Aid Kit is complete with a box of band-aids, cotton balls, tape, and cotton buds and bandages for your toddler to fix-up her doll or stuffed animal. Wrapping legs or arms in bandages is good for their fine motor skills. Alternatively, you can buy a real ready-mademedical kit.
Ones that are captivating but not too heavy or bulky are winners for airplane activities for kids. We have to limit the books to 2 or 3 light ones for the flight and another couple in the suitcase.
Create a small album of photographs to look at and bring it out for the first time on the flight. Kids love looking at themselves at different ages, doing different things. This also works well if you are going to be away for a while, to remember grandparents, pets, etc.
These are really fun for creative play, telling stories etc. We bought ours in markets in Peru but you can get some similar ones here.
You can also get really great ones on Amazon. Here are some of our favorites.
Colouring / Drawing/ Writing
- Look for small clipboards & systems for keeping crayon’s and pencils in one place.
- Journals are a vital part of recording your trip. Even our 4-year-old has a place he can keep memories and draw pictures, while an older child begins to use words etc. A glue stick is handy so you can glue in entries, postcards and other paraphernalia that you collect along the way.
This is for early school aged children; and helps tremendously with their early knowledge of currency. We count, add up, and subtract – either in your own currency or of the country that you are going to.
Part of keeping the kids busy on flights, for us, is giving back to the cabin crew and pilots. We sometimes create artworks/notes on the airplane and a treat sometimes is brought with us to give it to them as a thanks for getting us to our destination safely. We also do the walk down to the back of the plane and say thank you to the cabin crew. It breaks the trip up on the plane, and my children are learning about being grateful and giving back
My mother first did this when we were heading off on a 36-hour long distance marathon with a 2-year-old. It sounds consumer- oriented but, in fact, it doesn’t have to be about buying new things.
Op-shops have so much cheap stuff, often good quality, that you can buy ‘new’ like cars/toys/dolls for just a few dollars. Wrap them up and instant interest! Given they are cheap you don’t feel bad should you leave them at your destination. You can also encourage your child to give them to another child. Many of the activities listed here can also be wrapped up to add to the excitement
Take turns by naming an animal starting with A, then B, and so on until you finish the alphabet. You can do the same with cities and countries.
This can go on for a long time. Particularly good once the children have learned their letters.
Count The Number Of Passengers On The Plane
How many in your row, how many rows, etc. This great screen free airplane activities for kids is not only educational, but can keep kids busy for while.
Teach A New Language
If you are going to a place where they speak a different language, teach “hello”, “thank you”, and “goodbye”. You will make instant friends when you get off the plane and break down barriers from the moment you arrive.
Come up with some starter lines to have up your sleeve.
- I turned on the tap in the bathroom and chocolate milk came out? Then what had happened?
- If the kettle had legs, what would happen?
- What if the flowers can talk? What language would they speak? Do they have names?
There is a wealth of great ideas in the book, and completely inspiring book on the topic is Getting Children Writing Story Ideas For Children Aged 3-11 by Simon Brownhill. I was really inspired by how he explained the “art” of storytelling and how to teach it to children. Such great inspiration when brain storming screen free airplane activities for kids.
When children start school a pre-writing phase is the ability to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Teach this structure during your travel storytelling and it will be a bonus.
These can be anything from education workbooks or handwriting workbooks, to crossword puzzles. They are lightweight and easy to carry on to the plane.
Here are some we suggest.
Finally, Think Of Airplane Time With Kids As Quality Time
Also consider that time on an airplane is quality time with kids, and what kids want more than anything is loving time with their parents. Eileen of Families Go explains it beautifully Make Flying Time Quality Time With Kids
Inflight Entertainment – A Final Word
Note, when you are flying with budget airlines often there will be no in-flight entertainment making it easier to stay away from screens. If there is in-flight entertainment we are 100% fine to use that once we have worked through some of the games, especially if there are new release movies etc so that there is a sense of special-ness about the flight. In-flight entertainment is the go-to airplane activities for kids in many cases, but consider your other options first.
How Did We Come To Create This List Of Airplane Activities For Kids?
We realized that screens were becoming a really solid part of our daily life. So, we challenged ourselves, and wrote Can we go Screen Free on a 3 hour flight?
We have been really influenced by Sue Palmer’s book, Toxic Childhood. We highly recommend this book if you are looking for a different perspective on how to raise children in the modern world!
So there you have it – our tried and tested airplane activities for kids!
Check out some of the books that inspired us!
We always travel with insurance, it has saved us numerous times. World Nomads have specially designed travel insurance for families! Take a look at their Family Travel Insurance here.
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