One of the more nerve-wracking parts of traveling with kids is without a doubt the flight. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to have a screaming toddler on a crowded flight with hundreds of people judging you and, worse, scowling at your little angel. I mean, they’re not always like this, right? There has also been a recent trend in countries banning electronic devices larger than a phone on certain international flights. This mostly affects flights from the Middle East to the USA, the UK, and possibly Canada in the future. However, just the thought of having to do a international flight without my son’s iPad makes me shiver. We try not to use it as much as possible, and on shorter flights I don’t even bother taking it… but it has definitely been a life saver on those long hauls so mama can get some sleep! So the question is; what the heck is your child supposed to do without electronics for 15 hours?! Well here is your answer. I created a list of 50 activities to keep you and your child busy. Some are for younger kids and some are more suitable for older kids so there is something for everyone. I have done nearly all of these with my son on flights and they work like a charm. Some of them he’s still too young for but you bet I’ll be doing them later on. Hope you enjoy!
1. You should always have a good coloring book and triangular or square crayons so they don’t roll around.
3. Fingerprint Art! All the creativity and fun of painting with less mess. This is a great activity, as long as you have a wipe to clean off their hands after. There are so many great fingerprint pads that you can get at any department or art supply store like Wal-Mart, Target, or Michael’s. I even found one in a Wal-Mart in China!
4. Small puzzles are great. I like to pick up a couple of small packs at the dollar store and pour the pieces in ziplock bags so they don’t get everywhere in our carry-ons. It’s also less bulky than the boxes they sometimes come in so you can save some space! Every inch and pound counts when traveling with a kiddo!
5. Read some books! I always take about 5 of my son’s favorite lightweight or paperback books with us. We usually end up reading these 2 or 3 times on the same flight. He’s such a bookworm.
6. Take a walk around the plane! Go, meet the attendants in the back of the plane, say hi to some folks, and stretch your legs! We try to do this at least 2 or 3 times during the flight. Kills some time, stretches both your muscles, and keeps you from getting swollen ankles and embolisms on those 4,837 hour flights.
7. Draw a road map on a piece of paper and drive little matchbox cars on it.
8. Sing some songs and have a little dance party in your seats. Not too loud of course but I would bet money that your neighbors would much rather listen to singing than crying. My son loves Wheels on the Bus, Ants Go Marching, and Dancing in the Dark by Rihanna… because ya know, he’s super cool and it’s from the Dreamwork’s movie, Home. By the way, if you haven’t seen it, it’s such a cute movie for kids.
9. Play a travel board game. Almost all of the major board games come in travel size and are magnetized so the pieces don’t fly all over.
10. Practice writing the letters of the alphabet. My son is just starting to learn hand control so these are great exercises for him. He actually enjoys doing them too. I make dotted lines of the letters and he traces it. You could do this with shapes too.
11. Draw a picture for each letter of the alphabet. You could do this after finishing number 10. Example: draw an apple for the letter A, a balloon for the letter B, and so on. Again, you could make dotted outlines and have them trace the pictures and color them in.
12. Counting! Again, great practice for little ones learning numbers. Count all the hats you can see. Count all the headphones you can see. Count all the people sleeping. If they’re really good at counting… take a walk around the plane and see how many people are on the whole plane!
13. If you’re brave and have WASHABLE markers. Let them draw on their hands, face or heck, even let them draw a mustache on you. Anything is worth it as long as they’re happy and not screaming or annoying the other passengers, right?
14. Connect the dots. You could play Connect 4 with older kids or for the younger ones you could make a picture/shape with dots and have them connect the dots and guess what the picture/shape is.
15. Mustache stickers! We use these almost every time we go anywhere. What am I saying… we use these all the time, even when we’re sick and stuck at home.
16. Draw a circle and use a ruler to make a sort of mandala.
17. If there is some sun outside your window, make some shadow puppets!
18. Bring your makeup, jewelry, and sunglasses in your carry-on. Play dress up in your seats!
19. See if you can visit the cockpit. While this is slowly becoming a thing of the past, some pilots and crew members will allow kids to visit, especially if you ask with a smile. Not always… FAA regulations are tightening on this, but hey, it’s worth a shot, right?
20. Bring some post-it notes and tape and you can make a bunch of little crafts. If you look on Google or Pinterest for Post-It crafts or origami you will find a bunch of cool stuff you can make, even on the plane!
21. Play some card games. Old Maid or Go Fish for younger kids and UNO or Crazy 8’s for the older kids. There are so many great games you can play. If you’re needing to kill a lot of time you could play War. It can go on for so long!
22. We just love to do temporary tattoos. Usually my son comes off the plane looking like he joined a biker gang. You can go to the bathroom to do this or ask for a wet washcloth from one of the flight attendants.
23. Invisible ink coloring books are great for little kids who haven’t quite mastered control over their hands. They can still make a beautiful picture, usually of one of their favorite cartoon characters, and you don’t have to worry about marker getting all over the table and seats.
24. Make little people or sculptures out of tissues, toilet paper, and tape.
25. For kids who are a little bit older, write a story! After you’re finished you can illustrate each page of it. Write about the adventure you just went on or the adventure you hope you will have when you land!
26. Bring some small binoculars and bird watch out the window, spy on people in the front of the plane, or check out the mountains as you pass over.
27. Act out scenes from your favorite movies. For us, we have to pretend to be Elsa and Anna from Frozen or the alien named Oh and girl named Tip from Home. You might look like a fool to your neighbors but they’ll appreciate sitting next to Anna and Elsa much more than they would like to sit next to a crying, bored toddler.
28. Make little animals or cars with play-doh!
29. Wrap up some of your new activity books or toys in wrapping paper. Give one to your lil guy/gal every hour or so. Whenever they start to get a little bored or restless… bam! Present time. Just unwrapping it makes it seem so much cooler than the “gift” might actually be.
30. Buy some gel window clings at the dollar store. Squish those things all over your window seat.
31. Play Tic Tac Toe!
32. Get out your markers and color little faces all over the air sickness bags to make some hand puppets! Be sure to save one or ask for a few extra just in case you actually need one!
33. When your done, put on a show with your puppets! Make a little story with the characters.
34. Make or print out some easy kids’ crossword puzzles or word searches. If you search for these on Google or Pinterest you will find a ton of options.
35. Ask the flight attendant if they have any activity packs for kids! Usually they don’t have a lot of stuff in them but it’ll keep them busy for a half-hour or so. Any little bit helps though, right?
36. Give each other mani-pedis! Get some kids peel-off nail polish and paint each others toenails and fingernails. You can always peel it off or wash it off later.
37. Bring some string and play cat’s cradle!
38. Play pictionary! Draw some pictures and have your child guess what it is and vice versa.
39. Play “I Spy”. I spy with my little eye something red. That man’s hat! Good activity to practice colors too for the younger kids.
40. Have a scavenger hunt/bingo card with things you often find on flights. Try to find all the things on your list/card before the plane lands. A man wearing headphones. A woman under a blanket. A neck pillow. A baby. A cup of juice. Someone waiting for the bathroom.
41. For the older kids, you just can’t beat a good game of Mad Libs, especially if you have more than one kiddo with you. The stuff they come up with is so funny!
42. Have a little chat! Just talk to them. You could do something more structured like an elimination story. “If you were on a deserted island and could only bring one of these five items, which one would you bring? Why?” You could also play ‘Would You Rather?’. “Would you rather eat a booger or lick a butt?” … I obviously have a boy since that’s the first one that came to mind. “Would you rather be too hot or too cold? Would you rather have Christmas or Halloween?”. You could also just talk about your destination. What are they most excited to see or do?
43. Scratch Art. I love doing these myself so we always pack a few of these.
44. If its daytime outside your window… look at the clouds and tell each other what you see in the shapes of the clouds.
45. Use a marker or pen to draw little faces on your fingers and then have a little show with your “finger puppets”.
46. Make some origami newspaper hats to wear! They always have those free newspapers before you board, grab one and make some origami!
47. If you get really desperate, read the in-flight magazines and have them describe what’s in the pictures!
48. Eat a snack of course!
49. Freshen up! Go to the bathroom. Change both of your clothes. Brush their teeth. Brush their hair. Wipe off any marker from their face. Change their diaper. Lotion up both your legs and arms so you don’t stink more than you both probably already do after an international flight.
50. Hopefully, after doing all of these your little one will TAKE A NAP! Hallelujah! Time for you to do whatever you want now. Of course, by that I mean you can also take a nap.
I know I’m personally guilty of using the iPad probably too much during our flights. As parents we, rightfully so, stress about how to entertain our kids for long periods of time in a very small space. We often rely on phones, iPads, computers, and the in-flight entertainment systems to help keep them occupied. However, recently, there has been a shift away from these things. Airlines are becoming more strict with the devices allowed on planes and budget airlines often do not have in flight entertainment. Even without these factors though, lessening the amount of screen time your young child gets is becoming more widely practiced. Believe me, though, when you’re on hour 10 of a 14 hour flight with no sign of a nap in sight, you need some solace, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty plugging him in for a bit so I can get sleep. I’m no good to my lil guy if I can’t even see or think straight. That being said, hopefully these can help you to reduce the amount of screen time for you little ones or help you to survive those long flights, dare I say, without electronic devices!