I cannot count how many flights our son has taken in the last four years of his life. He has taken at least 100 flights and spent several hundred hours in the air, so we have a lot of activities for toddlers on an airplane.
As a digital nomad family, we know how frustrating it can be when toddlers have tantrums on an airplane. It is one of our worst nightmares, but we’re here to tell you it’s okay.
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Even if this is your toddler’s first flight, do not overthink it. Prepare for what you can, and deal with the rest when (or if) it happens.
We’ve learned the easiest way to keep a toddler from freaking out during flights is to keep their developing brains engaged. Here are some of our favorite activities for toddlers on an airplane.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you aren’t a bad parent for letting your toddler watch their tablet or play on your phone throughout the flight. Travel days can be free days. Sometimes you need to do what you need to do to make it through (to stay sane), and that’s okay. Give yourself grace.Corritta
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Our Favorite Airplane Activities for Toddlers
This list includes our favorite activities for toddlers on an airplane. Based on our experience flying with a toddler, these have worked over the years with our little guy.
Remember, you do not need a lot of activities (unless you are taking a long-haul flight for 8+ hours); all you need are 3-5 activities that your toddler will enjoy.
If your little one is a builder, go for LEGOS for toddlers that like to draw, coloring books may suffice.
Either way, having a good mix of activities to keep your toddler busy while flying will make the time pass faster (even if it’s only in your mind).
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Window clings are a staple in our travel kit for toddlers. We use them when we travel and at home.
Actually, we just hung up Halloween window clings (yesterday) at our apartment in Playa Del Carmen.
We started using window clings when our little guy was 9-10 months old, and even now, four years later, he still loves them.
We typically grab a couple from the dollar area at Target and put them in his backpack for flights.
The gel clings are reusable, so keep the plastic and reuse them again and again. We’ve been using “Easter” gel clings since March, and our little guy doesn’t care; he’s still having fun.
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Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Book
I will be the first to admit I HATE stickers. They are one of the most annoying creations, but toddlers love them, which is why the Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Books are one of the best activities for toddlers on airplanes.
This is the only sticker book I will allow our preschooler to use because they are easily removable. It’s one of the best airplane activities for 3-year-olds.
The pages are double-sided backgrounds from different scenes, including the ocean, a farm, the jungle, and roads. Your toddler can use over 40 stickers to create their own story.
Unlike many other sticker books for toddlers, the stickers are reusable, so they can easily peel and stick on a different page.
Some stickers are small, so I recommend placing a few on the pages before your toddler gets their hands on them.
This book is easy to put in your little one’s backpack, so I highly recommend it for a short-haul flight.
Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow!
Our little guy loves to paint, but we all know painting with a toddler is a mess. The Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! is the perfect airplane painting activity for toddlers.
Your toddler can paint with water, although it can still be messy; luckily, it’s only water. The color disappears as the page dries, so your little one can paint again and again.
There are other water paint activity books, but I like the Melissa & Doug brand because of the hidden items on the pages.
It’s a great learning opportunity for kids, so instead of just coloring, they can interact by playing hide and seek.
Our son is almost four years old, so he doesn’t find these as much fun as he used to, but this is the perfect flying activity for two-year-olds.
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Magnetic Build-It Game
Our son loves everything about space. While in Medellin, he went to the planetarium at least once a week. Magnetic Build-It Game
I ran across the Magnetic Build-It Game with rockets and purchased it for our upcoming long-haul flight from San Diego to Costa Rica.
This magnetic airplane activity for 3-year-olds is similar to a game our son like to play on his tablet. He can create his own galaxy with magnetic pieces and background illustrations.
I love these airplane activities for toddlers because they encourage imagination and storytelling.
Our little guy likes to tell us about the aliens crashing on Mercury (his favorite planet) and something about space rocks. I don’t follow 100% of what he’s saying, but he’s excited when he talks about it, so that’s all that matters.
If your little one isn’t a space fanatic like ours, there are other designs to choose from, such as monsters, superhero kids, princesses, monsters, and the very hungry caterpillar.
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Crayola Color-Wonder Activity Pads
One of my all-time favorite airplane activities for toddlers is the Crayola Color-Wonder activity pads. These travel-sized coloring books are perfect for flying with toddlers.
Honestly, I think I enjoy coloring more than our toddler. It’s a great way to bond with your toddler on an airplane.
These are the best markers for toddlers because they only work on special paper. Your little one will not draw all over the back of the airplane seat.
There is a slight delay because there needs to be a chemical reaction between the paper and the marker.
What I love about these markers is that they are the perfect size for a toddler’s hands. They are half the size of regular markers, so your toddler can easily color and play.
Our son loves to connect the markers to make a rocket or sword. It’s fun seeing their imagination take off, even with small things, like markers.
PJ Masks Matching Game
Matching games are a great way to pass the time on short flights. The PJ Masks Matching Game is a fun toddler plane activity.
Our son likes to play the memory game on his tablet, so this is a screen-free version for families. It can be a family game to help pass the time flying with a toddler or even older kids.
You can choose the difficulty level by playing with more or fewer tiles; so younger toddlers do not get frustrated. The minimum recommended age for this game is three years old.
Our son likes PJ Masks, but this game has different themes, such as Sesame Street, Harry Potter, Jurrasic Park, and DC Heros.
We recommend at least one family activity when flying with a toddler, so this could be yours.
Remember, toddlers are little human beings whose brains are still developing. They are irrational and act on impulse. It’s okay for your child to be a child. There are no perfect children, just like there are no perfect parents. Do not overthink it. Your little one might surprise you. Take a deep breath and give yourself grace.Corritta
Our Favorite Airplane Activities for Preschoolers
I can’t believe we have a preschooler. It feels like yesterday when he was just a baby.
Now that our toddler is becoming a big boy, we’ve started transitioning to different toddler plane activities.
Here are some of our favorite airplane activities for preschoolers.
Wooden Hexagon Puzzle
Puzzles are one of my favorite airplane activities for preschoolers.
Our son recently started showing interest in puzzles (and I couldn’t be more excited), so I have gone a little overboard buying puzzles for our upcoming flight to Portugal in January.
Puzzles are a fun, screen-free way to interact with your toddler during flights. They promote problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, patience, and strategy.
I recently purchased the Wooden Hexagon Puzzle to play with our toddler. There are over 50 challenging combinations to help your little one’s cognitive development.
STEM puzzles are one of the toddler airplane activities that adapt as your little one grows older.
What I like about this puzzle is that there are multiple solutions, so you get more for your money than regular puzzles. I am so excited to introduce this airplane activity to our toddler.
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My niece (5 years old) told me to include Hatchimals CollEGGtibles on our list of airplane activities for toddlers. She loves these collectible eggs.
I did not know about them until she asked for some for her birthday and wanted more for Christmas. They remind me of surprise eggs, which our son loves.
This collectible set includes two secret snack characters exclusive to this pack.
There are 50 characters to collect, so this is a fun and exciting airplane activity for preschoolers.
Every character has a mystery feature, making it the perfect surprise when flying with toddlers.
There is an all-new style egg so hatching the surprise eggs is an adventure. Your toddler can use the symbols to match their character’s features.
Honestly, this all seems confusing to me, but your little one will enjoy their new collectible characters.
Skillmatics Search and Find
If you are looking for airplane learning activities for preschoolers, then the Skillmatics Search and Find educational game is the way to go.
This game makes learning fun for little ones. Help your preschooler explore outer space, under the ocean, an amusement park, a campsite, and even a jungle to find hidden objects.
The pages are double-sided and erasable, so your toddler can easily keep busy during a flight.
This travel game helps build your little one’s vocabulary while improving their writing skills. It’s a fun, screen-free way to learn.
If your toddler has outgrown hide-and-seek books, there are other games to help them spell, draw, count, and read. You can find something fun and educational with skillmatics.
Melissa & Doug On the Go Felt Friends
Melissa & Doug On the Go Felt Friends is an arts and crafts airplane activity for toddlers. Everything your little one needs is in the activity pad.
There are 12 felt characters to create with over 140 shapes. The precut pieces are easy to remove, and no glue is needed.
The instructions are step-by-step, so little ones as young as 2-years-old can complete it with some help.
Fidget toys are one of the best plane activities for toddlers because it’s an easy way to focus their excess energy. Monkey String is a fun way to keep your toddler’s hands busy.
Our son likes to have something in his hands while watching his tablet. It’s an easy sensory toy to pack for a quick flight or road trip.
The strings stretch up to eight feet, and your little one can twist it, squeeze it, and pull it without breaking it. If you have a rough toddler like us, it’s a great way to keep him from pulling things apart.
This toy is limited, but if you need something to keep your toddler’s hands busy, this fits the bill.
As a kid, I had an etch-a-sketch and was terrible at it, but it was still fun. The writing tablet is a modern version of the old etch-a-sketch.
Your little artist can draw their hearts out and erase them with a button. It’s the perfect way for your little one to draw without having to lug around crayons and paper.
This drawing tablet is the best travel activity for toddlers because it is lightweight, easy to use, and fun. It’s a screen-free way to help your little one learn to write; without the hassle of paper.
There is a toggle to lock the screen to prevent your toddler from accidentally erasing a drawing and having a complete meltdown.
The built-in battery lasts an average of 12 months but is easily replaceable.
Polly Pocket Mini Toys
We have one son, but the good thing about having five nieces is they will tell you the toys they like/want.
We asked our youngest nieces about their favorite toys when traveling, and they told us the Polly Pocket Mini Toys are their favorite toys when they fly.
Polly Pocket has her own compact world with everything your toddler needs to keep their imagination running.
These compact environments can easily clip onto your toddler’s backpack, so it doesn’t take up much space.
This toddler airplane activity goes against my rules of avoiding small pieces, but if you have a little one that likes to play with dolls, this is one of the best travel sets for toddlers.
Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Fire HD 8 Kids Tablet
We purchased the Amazon Fire 8 Tablet over a year and a half ago when we lost our son’s last tablet. His tablet comes with us on every flight.
We haven’t had any issues with this tablet. The battery life is long, easy to use, includes a year of Amazon Kids+, and has a two-year replacement warranty.
We download his favorite movies/shows a few days before our flight to keep him occupied. Plus, it gives us a break to watch a movie or read a book.
We also recently purchased a year membership to Homer Learning, and he loves playing the games. Any previous games played work in airplane mode, so it’s one of our favorite apps when flying with toddlers.
To increase the memory, we purchased an SD card to download more games and videos for long travel days.
The battery life for this version is phenomenal. We charge his tablet once every 3-5 days, depending on his use. The switch to USB-C was a much-needed change because we had issues with a previous version that stopped charging.
Learning apps are one of our toddler’s favorite activities on an airplane. He would play with his tablet all day if we let him, but we believe screen-free fun is essential for his development.
Related Post: Best Learning Tablets for Toddlers
Tips for Choosing the Best Activities for Toddlers on an Airplane
As a full-time travel family that flies with a toddler at least once a month, we have a few tips for finding the best airplane activities for toddlers.
Here are a few tips for choosing the best activities for toddlers on airplanes.
I try to avoid messy toddler airplane activities. Our son is still working on impulse control, so we avoid bringing crayons, kinetic sand, regular markers, paint, etc.
Most toddlers love Play-doh, but it drives me crazy, so we do not give our toddler play-doh on flights, but we do use it on road trips.
These activities make a mess and easily roll on the floor, and it can get annoying trying to pick up crayons or find them under seats.
You also want toddler activities that are quick and easy to put away if you hit turbulence or your toddler needs to get up to stretch their legs or use the bathroom.
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I highly recommend avoiding travel toys with small pieces or activities with small parts.
You can bet your toddler will lose some pieces, and it’s a nightmare trying to calm them down when you can’t find a piece that fell between the seats.
We like toddler activities with chunky pieces that are easy to find if they are dropped or can’t fall into small spaces.
Trust us; this is how we’ve avoided some epic meltdowns because our preschooler will focus on the one piece he dropped instead of the 100 pieces in front of him.
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Something Old, Something New, Something Family
We like to bring a few “old” things our son loves to play with at home and a few new travel toys for long flights.
This way, he has the comforts of familiar games or toys, plus a few new stimulating puzzles or activities to keep him occupied.
You do not need to spend lots of money on travel activities for toddlers for your next flight. We find a lot of fun activities for preschoolers in the Dollar section of Target or Dollar Tree.
We always include one family activity for long-haul flights (over 4 hours).
Interacting as a family is one of the best ways to keep your toddler busy on long-haul flights. It gives them attention and it’s a lot of fun.
Related Post: 9 Tips for Flying Budget Airlines with Kids
Check out our other travel toy and activity guides:
- The 25 Best Travel Toys for Babies
- 20 Toys to Keep Toddlers Busy on an Airplane
- 25 Beach Toys for Toddlers
- Our Favorite Travel Toys for 3-Year-Olds
- 15 Travel Games for Toddlers
- 20 Fun Travel Toys for 4-Year-Olds
- Our Favorite Headphones for Toddlers
- 20 Screen-Free Road Trip Toys for Toddlers
- 50 Road Trip Activities for Toddlers
- LeapFrog Tablets for Toddlers to Promote Learning
- 20 Educational Travel Toys for 5-Year-Olds
- 15 Fun Airplane Activities for Toddlers
- The Best Learning Tablets for Toddlers
- 20 Snow Toys for Toddlers and Big Kids