First off, we are not opposed to screen time for toddlers. We’ve always included some screen time on flights to help entertain our toddlers on the airplane. However, we always packed a bag full of travel toys for toddlers, to also use on the flight and during our time traveling at our destination.
Our best advice for how to entertain a toddler on a plane is to have a bunch of activities that you can present to your toddler throughout the flight.
In this post, you’ll find only non screen time activities for toddlers on planes and on road trips. We recommend several apps for toddlers in the post mentioned above, plus more ideas in our 1 year old travel toys and 2 year old travel toys lists.
Quiet books are full of excellent ideas to keep toddlers busy on a plane. Usually filled with fun activities and building skills, these quiet books are soft and easy to pack. Here's another option on Amazon, or this one from Melissa & Doug. For travel toys for 2 year olds, try this busy book on Etsy.
Felt toys are ideal airplane travel toys for toddlers, they are soft, small and easy to pack! Your toddler will love a magnetic fishing game, especially this one that has plenty of fun ocean creatures besides just fish!
This fabric memory game is easy to include along with all your travel toys for 3 year olds and 2 year olds! It's just one more activity for toddlers on the airplane that you can easily take out when you need something new!
One final felt travel toy! Puzzles also make good travel toys for toddlers, but this one has easy to grab pieces and won't take up any space in your toddler's carry-on! It's perfect for little dinosaur lovers.
These are one of the best travel toys for a 2 year old or a 3 year old. These make such great airplane activities for a 3 year old, because all you need is to fill the pen with water. They can scribble away as the colors come to life on the page.
Crayola Color Wonder books are great travel toys for toddlers in the car or on a plane. These markers only color on the paper, so they are an easy to way to keep your toddler from making a giant mess! If the Frozen one isn't available, you'll find plenty of other fun Crayola Color Wonder options!
We love our LCD writing tablets. Not only are these great travel toys for toddlers, but they are ideal travel toys for preschoolers and kids too. These are small enough to pack or even leave in the car for road trips.
This bigger magnetic drawing board is one of the best car travel toys for toddlers, rather than for the airplane. It's a bit on the big side and the extra pieces would likely go missing on an airplane.
While we probably wouldn't pull these out on an airplane, these reusable sticker books accompanied us on many trips! They are good travel toys for preschoolers and toddlers to play with at the hotel or in an apartment. Plus they are flat, so they pack easily in a suitcase.
We have several Highlights High Five magazines that we always pack. They allow us to read stories to our toddler without having to pack heavy books. One section our toddlers loves is the hidden pictures, which makes these hidden pictures sticker books the perfect non screen time activities for toddlers on planes.
If you have a toddler that loves watching construction trucks, then these mini construction trucks make great travel toys for toddlers. Pack along some pom poms or cheerios and get your little construction worker lifting and moving!
These pull back vehicles are another fun travel toy for toddlers. They would provide plenty of entertainment in hotel rooms or apartments as well. Other options are these matchbox cars or these ones if your toddler is into the Disney movie Cars.
Don't forget the painters tape to create roads and other creative ways to play.
Though we didn't use duplo on the airplane, these construction duplo sets are a really fun travel toy for 2 year olds (up to and including preschoolers). They can rebuild them each time you change hotels and play with them the whole time. We typically buy a new LEGO set for each trip for each of our kids and they love them.
How to Choose the Best Screen Free Toddler Travel Toys?
If you are wracking your brain trying to think of ways to entertain toddlers on a flight or on a road trip, we have plenty of ideas for you.
For airplane travel toys for toddlers, look for toys that are easy to pack and don’t have a lot of small pieces that you will be constantly picking up off the floor.
To help with this problem, we love the Flyaway Designs inflatable toddler airplane bed. It’s the perfect solution for flying with a toddler, giving your toddler a place to play and sleep. And with the design of this airplane bed for toddlers covering the seat and floor space, all your toddlers airplane travel toys won’t end up on the floor.
For car travel toys for toddlers, you can go a little bigger and heavier, since you don’t have to pack them in your carry on. We also like this travel tray to help keep everything together on a road trip with a toddler.
Why isn’t Playdough on the list? I’m not a fan of bringing Playdough as a way to entertain toddlers on airplanes. I’ve seen my floor after taking the Playdough out and I’d hate to do that to an airplane, but that’s just my opinion.
DIY Toddler Travel Toys
If you don’t have time to order new toddler travel toys before your flight or you’d rather not spend extra money on travel toys for a flight, here are some fun DIY Toddler Travel Toys:
Pipe cleaners in a spice jar
This is one of the best toys for travel that you can easily put together yourself! Clean out an empty plastic spice jar and use it with cut pieces of pipe cleaners. Your toddler will have fun trying to fit the pipe cleaners into the jar.
Cheerios strung on a piece of yarn
Another simple but fun toy to include in your DIY travel toys for toddlers is a piece of yarn that your toddler can string cheerios onto. Our toddler was such a fan of Cheerios that we always had plenty with us anyways! Don’t forget the snack cup so they don’t end up all over the floor.
Use painters tape to make roads for your matchbox cars
Painters tape is the perfect item to pack in your carryon when flying with a toddler. Imagine all the ways to keep toddlers busy on a plane with it! You can use it to make a road across the food tray, use it as stickers, or make a ball out of it…Throw a roll into your toddlers suitcase and you’re sure to make good use out of it!
Craft pom poms for sorting and counting
Our toddler LOVED pom poms! He would carry them around all the time and it became one of my favorite airplane activities for our 18 month old! You can sort them into colors, count them or use the construction toys to pick them up! So many uses for them that are all non screen time activities for toddlers on planes!
Small toys from dollar store
If you have the time and energy, run to the dollar store and grab a bunch of small toys that you can wrap individually. These should all be small and easy to pack. You can keep your toddler entertained on the flight as you give new gifts throughout the flight.