Electronics-Free Ways To Entertain Toddlers On The Airplane

Electronics-free plane activities for young kids

One of the hardest parts about long flights with babies and toddlers is the thought of how to entertain them on the plane.  There’s lots to do and see in the airport, but once that plane takes off, the outlook can feel pretty grim for the underprepared parent.  At the same time, for me it’s even more daunting to haul a huge bag of games through multiple airports.  In our family, we are https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-6598345/Parents-shun-gadgets-stationery-best-way-children-entertained-flight.html99% electronics-free on vacations, so here are some old school, easily packable things to do with toddlers and babies on the airplane.

  1. Cookie sheet with magnets.  When my oldest was 18 months, she would stand in front of the refrigerator for what seemed like hours (and was in reality 20 minutes) playing with farm animal magnets.  She loved it.  We were getting ready for our first toddler trip to the Dominican Republic, and I wanted to replicate the refrigerator/magnet experience on the plane.  I packed her Melissa and Doug wild animal magnets (affiliate)  into a Ziploc bag,  and headed over to the local Dollar Tree to buy a  round cookie sheet for $1.  Experience replicated, and this activity has been a staple on airplane trips in our family ever since.
  1. Finger puppets.  Kids LOVE it when their parents make inanimate objects talk.  They also love to make inanimate objects talk.  And they love to make animal sounds.  I ordered up a set of these animal finger puppets (affiliate) and threw them into a reusable sandwich bag (affiliate) so that my daughters couldn’t see the contents (surprise!).    
  1. New crayons and coloring book.  There’s just something about all of this being new that makes kids want color!  Again, the Dollar Tree is your best friend!  Add a sheet of stickers into the mix and you are golden!
Look how much fun we are already having with this in-flight magazine!

Look how much fun we are already having with this in-flight magazine!

  1. Gummy worms/bears/rings. I try not to do too much sugar in our house, but on the airplane I’ve always got a pack of Haribos.  ‘Cause they take a long time to chew.  That means quiet.  Enough said.
  1.  Cars! What kid doesn’t like vroom vrooming cars all over the airplane seats, armrests, tray tables… I bought some all-plastic, squeezable cars Walgreens because they double as pool toys when we arrive at our destination!
  1. Toddler headphones.  My kids adore listening to the free radio stations on the plane, and pushing the channel and volume buttons.  Plus, if I get desperate, they have headphones if we decide to purchase a show or a movie.  (Remember, I said that we are 99% electronics free, not 100%…)  If you decide to fly United Airlines, their free headphones are PERFECT for toddlers!

And that’s it!  What old school activities do you take on the airplane for your kids?

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  • Reply
    April 15, 2016 at 3:58 pm


    Those are some good ideas! I’ll have to try them on our next flight. So far we’ve basically tried to make our son walk and walk and walk as much as possible in the airport before getting on the plane (but don’t get me wrong–he loves this, and the only problem is eventually he has to stop walking when he wants to keep going). That way, he’s super wiped out and just sleeps almost the whole flight.

    It’s also helped that we’ve been able to coordinate mostly overnight flights. I would have thought that redeye flights would be a nightmare with kids, but at least with our particular boy, they’ve been wonderful, since he’s slept in our laps about 90% of most of our flights.

    I know that we can’t keep that up forever, though, so we’ll probably have to use some of these ideas. I guess the one thing we do that you didn’t mention was bring books. He really loves those cardboard Dr. Seuss books, and we can read them over and over to him. But again, that may just be our boy, and I’m sure the effect will eventually wear off and we’ll need more tricks in our toolbag.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Reply
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      April 21, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Hey Sitzman!
      Thanks for additional ideas! I remember wearing Big Sister out by walking in the Philadelphia Airport on our way to Santo Domingo. Not only is it fun, it’s super cute to watch them run around like crazy! I definitely always bring a few books too! It’s funny now, though, because Baby Sister is a totally different personality on the plane, and refuses to sleep. So… I might be writing an addendum to this post after the next big trip! Thanks so much for reading!