16 Engaging Activities To Keep Your Toddler Busy on a Plane

There are a variety of successful techniques for keeping toddlers entertained and involved during a flight, including:

  • Snacks
  • Mess-free coloring
  • Sticker books
  • New toys
  • Magnetic toys
  • Interactive books
  • Favorite shows and movies
  • Songs
  • Finger puppets

Fortunately for parents, flying with toddlers doesn’t have to be a nightmare. There are plenty of ways to keep them busy and entertained during the flight! 

I’ve gathered a few of my personal go-to ideas and racked the brains of a few other moms who travel frequently in order to compile this solid list of activities and toys for entertaining toddlers on a plane.

Just so you know…

Being bored for a brief time is not the worst thing in the world for your toddler. According to Dr. Stephanie Lee:

“Boredom also helps children develop planning strategies, problem-solving skills, flexibility and organizational skills. Additionally, boredom fosters creativity, self-esteem and original thinking.”

1. Toddler Plane Snacks!! 

The first thing you need to ensure you have plenty of is snacks! A hungry toddler is not a fun toddler, especially on a long flight.

Make sure your bag is stocked with their favorites and probably a few special treats to keep them extra happy. 

2. Mess-Free Coloring

My twins haven’t quite gotten the hang of crayons and coloring books yet, but they still love to “draw” with our favorite mess-free options!

My favorites are the Water Wow books and reusable drawing tablets. Toddlers find the appearing colors so magical and intriguing, and it keeps them occupied for a decent amount of time! 

Standard crayons and coloring books are also fantastic airplane activities for older toddlers. 

3. Stickers

For whatever reason, stickers can be a source of endless entertainment for young toddlers! They could peel and stick for hours!

Reusable sticker books like these are great to have in your diaper bag for the plane ride, and puffy reusable stickers are perfect for sticking on the plane window! 

4. New Toys

Before all of our flights, I always make a quick stop at the Dollar Store or Target’s dollar section or do some intentional shopping on Amazon for a few new toys to bring on the next trip.

I always search for small, travel-friendly items, like toy dinosaurs, that I can surprise my kids with on travel day.

Having a few new toys in the mix that they have never seen before keeps them from getting bored with the same toys every flight. 

5. Play-Doh

Play-Doh is one of those activities for your toddler that has the “messy” texture that little ones enjoy without actually causing a huge mess.

This makes it a great plane ride activity. Use the tray on the airplane as a table, and let your little one have fun sculpting, building, or just enjoying some sensory activity with the play dough.

A happy toddler on an airplane with bare feet and a teddy bear.

6. Magnetic Toys

Toys like Magna-Tiles, magnetic blocks, or even magnetic puzzles can be a great plane activity, especially for older toddlers.

Because they’re magnetic, there’s less of a chance of these toddler toys rolling off of the tray table and under seats.

7. Interactive Books

Busy books or books with different textures, flaps, and activities in them are perfect for keeping your child entertained throughout the flight!

My kids also LOVE Poke-a-Dot books. While they’re a bit on the heavy side and clunky to bring along, they keep my twins entertained for at least 15 minutes. 

8. Educational and Interactive Apps

Screen time and toddlers have definitely been a hot topic for debate lately; however, when used in moderation, tablets can be an excellent source of entertainment and learning for toddlers, especially on airplanes!

We have tablets for our twins that really only come out when we fly or go on long car rides. I often hang them on the seat in front of us so they won’t be dropped on the floor.

They are preloaded with educational games and sight word activities, and my kids have so much fun when they get to use them. Plus, they are learning in the process! 

There are a lot of great toddler apps out there, too, that can keep toddlers busy and pass the time in an educational way.

9. Shows or Movies 

A flight with a toddler can be challenging, so if you have an older toddler who enjoys movies or shows, it doesn’t hurt to let them watch one (or a few) during a flight to keep them entertained.

Some airlines provide free movies and headphones, but you could also download your child’s favorites on a phone or tablet prior to the flight.

If all else fails, this is usually a good option to entertain your toddler. 

10. Learning Activities/Games

Keeping a toddler entertained is not exactly easy when they are confined, but a plane ride is an excellent opportunity to have some quality, uninterrupted one-on-one time with your toddler, whether you have a 1-year-old, 2-year-old, or a 3-year-old.

Take advantage of the time to help your little one build their vocabulary and practice their speaking skills.

Great travel planning means having a few educational activities such as flashcards, I Spy books, and matching games in your carry-on to break out during the flight.

I try to do these activities early on in the flight before my toddlers get too tired or restless.

11. Puzzles

If you have an older toddler who enjoys doing puzzles, throw a new, small puzzle in your bag for the flight.

Perhaps you could find a puzzle that relates to your destination or one of their favorite characters or activities. This is one of the best airplane activities and helps to develop fine motor skills as well.

Another brilliant idea that I have seen is making your own puzzle for your little ones!

Print a picture and glue it to an index card. Cut the photo into several different pieces for your little one to put back together.

These are so fun because you can make them personal, perhaps of different family photos or memories that they enjoy. 

12. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Put the family back in family travel! My twins LOVE looking at pictures and videos of themselves and the rest of the family on my phone.

We can spend half an hour scrolling through my photos, and they have a blast looking at themselves, watching funny videos, and being reminded of fun memories.

13. Window Gazing

Once you board that plane, you’re in it for the long haul, and you should make the most of every opportunity to keep your toddler engaged and entertained.

If you are fortunate enough to have a window seat on your next flight, letting your toddler look out the window can be a great way to pass some time and teach them new things.

They love seeing the clouds, sky, and the ground below.

A toddler wearing a teddy bear backpack gazes out the window of an airplane.

14. Sing Songs To Keep Your Toddler Busy

Songs are great activities for toddlers because they engage kiddos both mentally and physically.

While this will require some effort and interaction on your part, singing songs with your little one can keep them occupied and having fun for a decent amount of time.

Teach them new songs with movements such as “Wheels on the Bus,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

They will have fun moving around (even if just a little), and singing songs is a fun and simple way to build their vocabulary. 

15. Entertain a Toddler With Finger Puppets

Finger puppets are a fun, space-saving travel toy that sparks creativity and imagination in toddlers.

You can either purchase some pre-made puppets or make your own to make it an even more special experience! 

16. Ice and Cups From Flight Attendant

Sometimes the simplest things can occupy your toddler for a significant amount of time—like ice and empty cups!

My toddlers enjoy eating ice and also taking it from one cup and putting it into another.

While it may seem like an odd request, it is a great way to keep toddlers on airplanes entertained (and hydrated!) during your flight.