20 Airplane Activities for Toddlers

At some point during the flight, the inevitable happens…my girls get bored and fidgety! The toys have lost their edge, snacks get refused, and walking up and down the aisle just isn’t cutting it. A look of, "Get me off the plane!" settles over their faces (and mine!), and I am left scrambling for something to vie for their attention for just a bit longer. This is where a little bit of ingenuity and creativity comes into play.

This is my second post about airplane travel with toddlers. While the first post was all about the essential gear, this is all about the activities to engage, entertain, and distract while you soar among the clouds.

1.  Aquadoddle Travel Doddle $15Great for budding artists and little creative minds. Toddlers and preschoolers can doodle, write, or draw to keep their hands busy and mind engaged.  Color only shows up on the pad.

2.  “Airport” by Bryon Barton $10Easy read and not too many words on each page, so even little ones can stay focused. It’s a fabulous way to put into words what is going on all around them on travel days.

3.  “A Day at the Airport” by Richard Scarry $5:  Busytown! Did anyone else read about Busytown and the adventures there when they were kids? These great books by the famous children’s author, Richard Scarry, are still amazing and still entertaining for little ones. This one might be a fun flashback for you to read, too, as you likely had books by him when you were a child as well.


4.  Audio books $12Audio books can easily captivate non-readers; I mean, who doesn’t enjoy being read to?? Winnie the Pooh Vol. 1 (unabridged) is a treasure to be savored for my two. The narrator, Peter Dennis, does a magnificent job dramatizing the story. It’s a collection of short stories of the original Winnie-the-Pooh and is easy to follow because of the different voices Dennis uses. Since they are short stories, if your toddler loses track, its no biggie; they can start listening and become engaged in the next story.

5.  Magnetic Trains $3:  The force of the magnets attracting and repealing, driving over the seat, and racing on the tray tables offers a little entertainment and an escape from the tediousness of the airplane.

6.  Inflatable microphones $12: These are a HUGE hit with my two, and it spices everything up. A simple conversation is much more fun when you talk into a microphone, not to mention while conducting a game of “I Spy.” Inevitably, the microphones become hammers and amuse the kiddos for just a bit longer…and another five minutes of peace for me!


7.  I Spy Bag $10: I love supporting small business owners by purchasing through Etsy, and that’s exactly what you’ll do by purchasing this fun little 5” x 5” pouch filled with tiny objects that will keep little ones busy for ages while on the go.

8.  Crayola Color Wonder $10:  Markers are a favorite around our house, but they are a hassle for flights, so these offer the marvel of the marker but they ONLY show color on the pages, which are pretty durable, in fact.

9.  Finger Puppets $5:  Sing Old Mac Donald or retell a classic tale like the Little Red Hen. Your kids can also find oodles of ways to self entertain with just a little prop.

10.  Book with flaps $9: Let’s Go to the Zoo! by Fisher-Price is one example. This is my go-to when my 1 year old is “all done” sitting down. She is engrossed by all the flaps, and she enjoys the new way to play peek-a-boo with her animal friends. When she gets tired of looking at it, we play “Spot the…” and she has to find the animal I choose on the page; for variation, I may spot the cub, and she has to find the Momma bear.

11.  Magnetic Paper Dolls $7 : These are a revamped version of the classic paper dolls with Disney characters, and they are perfect for traveling. The “dolls” come in a magnetic tin and have accessories for dressing up or retelling a classic tale.

12.  Reusable Airplane Sticker Tote $10: What a great way for your little one to reenact what he or she is experiencing at the airport. This little tote packs lots of reusable “stickers” that adhere to the background scene included, and they offer a pleather of fun in many sizes.  For the little ones, I recommend taking out the smaller stickers or help placing them on the scene. This also offers an easy opportunity to enrich the vocabulary of your young one as you discuss the stickers and the scene.


13.  Toddler Card Game $8: This is an alphabet version of the classic Go Fish game and great for toddlers and preschoolers. My toddler can play using the animal names, and my preschoolers can use both the animal name and beginning letter. The cards are larger than a regular deck, but they are sturdy, withstanding the roughness my girls put them through. They takes up minimal space, and with a little creativity, they can be used multiple ways.


14.  Lacing Cards $10: Eric Carle fans will adore these vibrantly-colored cards from his most famous book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Toddlers and preschoolers alike can lace along the holes of the sturdy cards. I was amazed at how long my daughter’s attention span was captivated by this simple skill.


Below are listed a few more activities that require minimal, if any, supplies but help alleviate that "Are we there yet?" point of monotony.

15.  Learn a new song: No supplies needed for this one, and you always have songs with you. They calm down a bad case of fussiness, add pizazz to the ordinary, and can be whispered or repeated. Fun songs to take with you for toddlers are:

·      Johnny Bangs with Two Hammers

·      I’m a Little Teapot

·      Where is Thumpkin?


16.  Play with Pipe Cleaners: These pack up small, and with a little creativity, can entertain for a while. You can:

  • Make a bouquet of flowers with them
  • Construct a headband with a bow, bunny ears, or crown
  • Create a rainbow or rainbow tree where they thread matching color beads
  • Engage fine motor skills by fitting the small pieces pipe cleaners in old spice containers to make sprinkles
  • Thread cheerios on the pipe cleaners


17.  Make shadow puppets: This only works with the long flights where they dim the lights, but those are the flights where you are running out of things to do, right??

18.  Band-Aids, stickers, and Post-it notes:  All of these serve the same purpose and preoccupy curious minds with a slew of stickiness. My little girls get tickled covering each other’s freckles with Band-Aids. Post-it notes can be sorted by color, used to spell their name (must draw letters on each Post-it), place numbers in order, or cover up body parts that you name. Stickers are endless in what you can create with them; you might decorate borders, match colors, build patterns, or enhance their drawing. (images via Here Comes the Girls)


Sadly, I couldn’t find a picture of kids playing the below games on an airplane, but I think you get the idea!

19.  Play I Spy in the airplane magazine: The kids get to play a game, and you get to shop. It’s a win-win.

20.  Delight them with Simon Says:  The kids can take turns being “Simon,” too.


21. SAND $15: From Brookstone, "98% sand. 2% polymer. 100% FUN. Special properties make it soft and stretchy. Won't make a mess (sticks to itself but not to you). Never dries out. Non-toxic." Need we say more? This stuff is so fun I want to play with it myself! 


I learned the importance of planning activities for a flight the hard way, as I incorrectly assumed that my 13-month-old would sleep for the majority of a 16-hour flight. Instead of sleeping for 10 hours, she cried loudly the entire time. There is NOTHING louder than YOUR baby screaming inconsolably as your travel ALONE on a flight for that many hours. Needless to say, I have more activities than I have time to do on flights now!!

Share with us your go-to activities with your little ones to pass the in-flight time?? Join the conversation on our Facebook page!