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This post was updated on January 5, 2019.
Flying with a baby and entertaining a toddler on a plane are two of the most common questions when it comes to traveling with a baby or toddler. It’s really no wonder since most parents dread the idea of being those people on the plane with the screaming baby or the toddler running up and down the aisles. If you’ve come looking for suggestions on airplane activities for babies or how to keep a toddler busy on a plane, you’ve come to the right place.
This post is filled with suggestions for what to pack to keep your baby or toddler entertained for a long flight. We cover air travel with a baby at each stage of development up to flying with a toddler and preschooler.
We also have plenty more tips for surviving air travel with toddlers in this post, since we know that once your baby transitions to a toddler everything changes.
At each stage of development, you’ll need new ways to entertain your baby on a flight. Every kid is different and enjoys playing with different travel toys or books for different lengths of time (or in different ways). Since you know your baby best, use this this list of things to do on a plane with your baby or toddler as your starting point and add on any other favorite travel toys for your baby or toddler.
Before we get into all the other airplane activities, one discovery we’ve made that has changed our travel for the better is the Epic! Digital Library. We’ve always loved reading to our kids and would pack our bags with heavy books for every trip, even when they were babies. We only discovered Epic! after our kids were past the baby stage, but we’ve used it for them since they were toddlers and we love the huge selection of books available. We love that there is such a large selection for babies too. The best part about it is you can try it for free! Get it before your next trip and if you don’t love it, then just cancel it when you get back! Be prepared to love it though; we just finished renewing it for another 2 years!
Click here to see more information on the 30 day free trial.
Best Airplane Activities & Travel Toys
How to Entertain a Baby on a Plane
Baby Travel Toys (0 to 6 Months Old)
Traveling with an infant is a great time to travel since they spend most of the time eating and sleeping. Flying with an infant is likely to be one of the easiest flights you’ll take with your baby. When you fly with a baby who is between 0 to 3 months old, you really don’t need to worry about bringing any travel toys or books for your baby. Chances are good air travel with your infant will be spent cycling between feeding and watching your baby sleep on the plane.
At 3 to 6 months old, flying with your baby may still mean a lot of sleeping (hopefully), but your baby may start taking more of an interest in a few travel toys as well. Your baby will likely be entertained enough by everything around her on the plane, but here are the best baby travel toys for this age:
Teething Toy or Necklace
Colorful Texture Toys
Baby Travel Toys (6 to 12 Months Old)
We found when traveling with a baby in this age range, they were mostly interested in playing with the stuff on the plane. In all likelihood, your baby will be similar and will be most interested in their surroundings on the plane, like the safety card, the seat buckle and the window shade. Throw in a plastic cup and spoon and you’ve just found the best activities for your 9 month old on the plane without having to pack them! Other passengers can be pretty exciting too. Peeking through the seats is a great game (if you can find someone interested in engaging with your baby on the plane). Or take them for several “walks” down the aisle. Air travel with a baby doesn’t have to be complicated.
Snacks are also a great way to entertain a baby on a plane and is also one of our best tips for traveling with a baby. We always bring airplane snacks that will take a long time to eat like Cheerios or Gerber Puffs. Spill-proof toddler snack containers are a life-saver when flying with a baby!
One of the best baby toys we had for airplane travel at this age was a Bright Starts Clack and Slide Activity Ball. This baby toy was great for holding our baby’s attention for a long time and it also made a great travel toy for road trips. If you have the room, this is a great travel toy to keep your baby busy on the plane. Another good option is the Manhattan Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether or the Fat Brain Toys – Dimpl sensory toy.
Bring along a couple of fun travel themed board books or the Epic! Digital Library and you should be all set with your baby toys for the plane.
How to Entertain a Toddler on a Plane
It should come as no surprise that travelling with a toddler on a plane is completely different than travelling with a baby on a plane. The more mobile your little one gets, the more time you’ll spend entertaining your toddler on the plane. You can get all our tips for flying with a toddler here. And don’t worry, this stage doesn’t last forever.
The key will be to have enough airplane activities that your toddler can cycle through. This doesn’t mean you need to fill your bags with toys, but just make sure you are able to have the activities for your toddler on the plane easily accessible. The majority of these suggestions are also great road trip activities for toddlers.
Toddler Travel Toys (12 to 18 Months Old)
A long flight with a toddler who is between 12 to 18 months old can be the most intimidating age to fly with a toddler. At this age, the attention span is still pretty short and they are very active. This post has all our tips for flying with a toddler, including getting your toddler to sleep on the plane. There’s a great illustration from the book Happiest Toddler on the Block that shows a 7 minute time span of an 18 month old in a nursery moving from station to station This helps to explain why the travel toys for your 18 month old will only entertain your toddler for such a short time!
So how do you keep an 18 month old entertained on a plane? The plane and all the people on it are still going to be quite a novelty and will definitely entertain your toddler on the airplane. Taking trips up and down the aisle and playing with everything around will take up a lot of time.
For this age, some of the best toddler toys for the airplane are simple toys that are going to be easy to put away and take back out because you’ll be doing a lot of that. Plenty of snacks that will provide some distraction are always a winner when flying with small children. The best snacks for toddlers on the plane are ones that take longer to eat, like Cheerios served in a spill-proof snack container.
Reading to our children has always been a big part of our time together and we like to make sure it continues when we travel. Books with plenty of pictures that you can talk about are an excellent way to entertain a toddler on a long flight. We especially like the board books in the First 100 Box Set for this.
As we mentioned earlier, one of our favorite discoveries is the Epic! Digital Library. It has hundreds of books for babies and toddlers, all on your phone or tablet which means we can read as much as we want to our kids but leave all the heavy books behind. Try it for free for 30 days and if you don’t like it, simply cancel when you get home from your trip.
If you aren’t opposed to screen time, we also like to include very simple apps in our arsenal of toddler airplane activities. We introduced our toddler to a few apps between 14 and 18 months of age. Like all travel toys for toddlers, they don’t hold attention for long but it’s nice to have “easy to pack” distractions to rotate through.
The Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Books are great travel toys for a 1 year old. Not only do they work with water (i.e. very little mess) but they are reusable.
Toddler Travel Toys (18 to 24 Months Old)
Traveling with toddlers between 18 and 24 months you’ll find the attention span for watching short shows will start to appear which is good news for flying with a toddler. This means you can get a break every now and then! To keep your toddler entertained on the flight we recommend these airplane activities, which are also great road trip activities for toddlers: favorite books, snacks, a buckle toy, finger puppets, coloring books and, reusable stickers.
As your little one really starts to enjoy coloring, a great coloring book is the My First Big Book of Coloring. With 200 pages it may be a bit big to take on a short trip, so two great smaller alternatives are the Toddler Coloring Book and My Plane Trip.
Our kids LOVED Little Baby Bum at this age which could hold their attention for a very long time. For offline viewing, we always download a few episodes on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video (depending on which country you are in) onto our iPads.
We continued to add new apps to our list of airplane activities for our toddler for each flight. We would always do a test run with them at home prior to our flight to make sure our toddler was capable of playing them and enjoyed them. Again, no single app held our toddler’s attention for very long, but having several apps allowed our toddler to flip between them. Some of our favorite apps for our toddlers at this age were:
Our son especially loved these apps:
Even if you bring the traditional coloring book and crayons, don’t forget the Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Books. They are one of the best travel activities for toddlers since they are easy to pack, use water for very little mess and are a great alternative when your toddler needs a new activity that isn’t more screen time. Another great alternative to keep older toddlers entertained on the airplane are the Crayola Color Wonder mess-free books.
Plane Activities for 2 Year old+
As your little toddler begins to transition into a preschooler, they will get much easier to entertain on the plane. Flying with a 3 year old is easier than flying with a 2 year old. Their attention span grows such that they can watch a movie (or chunks of it at a time). They can also spend more time focused on a task like coloring or playing with stickers. The Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Books are still a great mess-free & screen-free airplane activity to bring along. Of course, snacks are always a good way to keep a toddler busy on the plane. For kids that love to draw, these Magic Sketch Boogie Boards are small and lightweight.
If your child loves books, bring along some favorites to (re)read. Aside from using the Epic! Digital Library for reading, we have transitioned to bringing along magazines like Chirp or High Five instead of books. They provide stories and activities that can help entertain your preschooler for the duration of your trip, plus they take up very little room.
If you are travelling with two or more children, the older siblings can be left with an iPad while you deal with your baby. If you’d like your toddler to actually learn something, instead of watching mindless movies, ABCmouse has eight educational apps (for iOS and Android) which can be used offline, making them perfect for flights. A trip is a perfect time to try their risk-free 30 day free trial! If your kids don’t love it, simply cancel it when you get back from your trip.
If you’d prefer your child read books vs. watching a movie or playing games, an excellent travel app is the Epic! Digital Library. which has over 25,000 kids books available. Epic! will even read many of the titles to your child, highlighting the words on the page as they are read. Epic! offers a free 30 day trial, so it’s another risk-free entertainment option for your trip. If you don’t love it, simply cancel it when you get home from your trip. Our kids love this app – they have collectively read over 500 books to date and counting.
Obviously at this age, our kids loved getting the iPad. They don’t get it a lot at home so it becomes our best airplane activity for our toddler and preschooler. We love these apps for flying with children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old are:
If you have any other suggestions for baby or toddler entertainment on the plane, we’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments below!