Last Updated on October 22, 2020 by Travels with Kids
If you are looking for the best toddler plane activities then you have come to the right place. I’ve got 3 children, and have done a LOT of long haul flights with them. In fact, every year we would cross the Pacific and travel from Australia to the Americas to visit family in Nicaragua or our friends in Peru. As we live in Western Australia this, at best, is a 20-hour flight or as much as 36 hours, depending on the route and connections! That is a lot of activities for toddler on plane!
In case you are interested, we’ve written a dedicated post on how to deal with Jet Lag in Toddlers: How To Deal With It.
This post may contain affiliate links, from which we would earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. More info in my disclaimer.
Toddler Plane Activities – How Do You Define A Toddler
How do you define a toddler? Technically it’s when they ‘toddle’, that absolutely gorgeous unsteady walk like they are walking on the deck of a ship, or if they have had too much to drink. Alternatively, it is also the age from 12 months to 36 months, which loosely is from when they are 1 year to 3 years old.
If you have a baby or one year old then check out our post about the best travel toys for 1 year old (also packed with hints about how to travel with a baby!)
Flying With Toddler Tips
So, if you have found us, chances are you have a toddler of about 18 months to 3 years old and you are doing some flying.
Are you a bit worried about flying with a toddler? Or even terrified? Don’t worry, you are not alone. We have been there, done that, and know how you feel! Let us help you with these activities for toddler on plane!
As our little ones leave babyhood behind and become toddlers, they are no longer so sweet and gentle. In fact, they become small balls of fierce emotion and independence, and so very wilful in their behavior! In fact, even the most placid and content of toddlers definitely have their moments, my third child was chilled and yet she put on a performance from about 20 months when she didn’t like something (that’s why they call it the terrible ‘twos’).
Travel Tips With A Toddler
So why fly with a two-year-old/toddler? Before they turn 2, you don’t have to pay for a seat, and they are considered an infant. You have to pay for the flight taxes, but not the seat and that means significant savings. Children generally pay for 80% of adult rates on flights, but infants costs are about 25% (these are ballpark figures, each airline and situation is different) I am just giving you the idea – the reason to fly with a toddler is that it is MUCH cheaper than after their 2nd birthday and that is very attractive for most families. In short traveling with a toddler is hard, but usually much cheaper!
An Essential Thing To Do Know About Flying With Toddler
Change your expectations! Don’t expect to get much “me” time during the flight. When your toddler sleeps remember the adage ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. Don’t watch a movie; try to get some shut-eye. Don’t worry I’ve done a 36-hour marathon trip with a 20-month-old clinger and trust me; you need every bit of energy.
A Successful Flight – How To Entertain A Toddler On A Plane
So you’ve made the decision that you are taking your (ahem!) spirited and feisty toddler on a flight – quite possibly a long haul flight. And you are asking me how to entertain toddler on plane!
There are three key elements to how to approach the flight!
Be Prepared Mentally
Don’t worry, but do expect that there could be moments when you wish that you hadn’t decided to take your toddler on a plane! Patience and love will be needed! Also, accept “what will be, will be” – and whatever happens is OK. (See our final point, a flight with a toddler is quality time!)
Be Prepared Logistically
Toddler snacks, changes of clothes, and the right pram or carrier are all important
Have Plenty Of Toddler Plane Activities On Hand
Read on to find out what are the best toys to travel with for a toddler
The key to a successful flight with a toddler is taking time to plan. Consider that each of these toddler plane 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 are 12 activities. It seems like a lot, but remember that some activities can be repeated!
Know what you have in your arsenal. (oh, I meant carry on kids backpack) and plan to pace it out.
Plan Eating Time (more about that below)
Plan Sleeping Time
Creating Toddler Busy Bags For Airplane
Also known as 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!
You could also take an old purse and put old cards in it – they love playing with wallets and credit cards!
Wrapping Gifts And Putting Them In The Toddler Busy Bags
I’m not an advocate of buying lots of new, unnecessary things for toddlers, but my mother first did this when we were heading off on a 36-hour long-distance marathon with a 2-year-old. And it worked! 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 travel toys for toddlers on airplanes listed here can also be wrapped up to add to the excitement.
So What Are The Best Toys To Travel With For A Toddler
With hundreds of hours of flying under our belt with two toddlers, this is our collection of tried and tested toddler plane activities.
If you are looking for airplane activities for slightly older children, please check out our post 21 Awesome Screen Free Airplane Activities For Kids. Otherwise, these toddler airplane activities are targeted at toddlers, eg from 12 months to 36 months but are very suitable plane activities for a 3-year-old or 4 years old.
Things To Buy – Toddler Plane Activities
Stickers, Stickers, Stickers
Everyone agrees that stickers 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. These are some of our favorite travel toys for toddlers on airplanes.
Here are some of our favorites:
Window Stickers (AKA Window Clings)
Re-usable stickers that can go on windows are fun as they can go on the airplane windows. Kids need to share the window though! We have had ones like these Under The Sea Stickers before because they are unisex and both kids like marine life!
Other ideas of window clings for your toddler are found here:
Duplo is one of our travel toddler airplane activities, which later burgeoned into an obsession with Lego for our son.
Take a look at these easy options DUPLO. Given its 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.
For children aged 4 to 7 Lego Juniors is a bit easier, and these are a great suitcase option:
Beads! Bracelets Or Necklaces
Take some beads and make beaded bracelets or necklaces. For little ones, you need some chunky beads and thicker yarn! One of our top toddler plane activities is the Skoolzy Lacing Beads For Kids. Another option for Travel toys for toddlers on airplanes 50 Jumbo Lacing Beads For Toddlers And Kids. That one comes with a useful bag for travel.
Pipe Cleaners (Wikki Stix)
Pipe cleaners are easy, light, and awesome airplane activities for toddlers. Not only do they stimulate thinking, but they can also be reused many times over. If you can’t buy simple pipe cleaners they are also known as Wikki Stix and sold in a handy traveler kit Wikki Stix Traveller Kit.
Especially for toddlers, if you are able to find a portable magnet set, they are light, easy to carry, and especially you don’t lose pieces. Magnetic sets make great toys for toddlers on airplanes. We have something like the Lewo Wooden Kids Educational Toys Magnetic Easel Set.
This set looks like it would be good fitting in the hand luggage, 8 Piece Tegu Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block 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-made Medical Kit.
Best Toddler Snacks For Airplane
When you think of a toddler I think fierce independence and experimentation. So when it comes to food, most toddlers like to feed themselves, which results in … mess! When taking food on the plane consider how much mess it will make!
Easy fruit to eat, like blueberries or apples. Bananas and watermelon are disasters – don’t do it. Also, remember that many countries have restrictions on bringing fruit into their country. Don’t take too much as it’s awful to have to throw fruit out.
Yogurt Or Fruit Purees
These are OK as long as they are in those no-mess pouches.
Pop boxes or plastic drinks bottles usually contain high sugar content ‘fruit juice.’ I personally don’t give my kids these on the plane as it’s a recipe for a disaster. Water all the way – in a reusable bottle. If they still have a milk bottle at rest time make sure you have 1-2 bottles prepared.
Ones that are not crumbly and that can easily be stored in containers or zip pouches.
Other than that, for when you are leaving home, plain pasta doesn’t make a mess and a cheese sandwich is plain but not too messy either!
Mealtimes On The Plane With A Toddler
A word of advice: when the hostess comes around with the food, ask to have one meal at a time. That way, you can help your toddler eat his meal first. Then focus on your own later when hopefully they are relaxed after a meal. Mealtimes on the plane with a toddler can be hazardous so do yourself a favor and try to reduce the risk of spilled drinks etc.
Think Of Toddler Airplane Time As Quality Time
Having a positive attitude can also make Toddler Plane time go more quickly! Consider that time on an airplane is quality time with your toddler, and often what Toddlers want more than anything is loving time with their parents. Eileen of Families Go explains it beautifully Make Flying Time Quality Time With Kids.
Why Did We Create This List Of Toddler Airplane Activities
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 toddlers in the modern world!
So there you have it – our tried and tested toddler plane activities. Please drop other suggestions in the comments, as we are always open to new toddler airplane activities.
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.
The Verdict – Best Ways To Entertain Toddler On Plane
So, you are taking your toddler on a flight and have come to me looking for flying with toddler tips, and the best ways to entertain toddler on plane.
Good luck! With some planning, lots of the best toys to travel with for a toddler, and a good attitude you will have a great flight. Also, the good thing about parenting is that we forget the awful moments. So the flight isn’t so great, you won’t remember it in a couple of years!
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