My husband refuses to fly. He has a phobia of planes. Although an inconvenience for family travel, I get it.
So there have been some trips when I travel with kids by plane (yikes), and he's driven solo. I still prefer a four-hour plane ride with kiddos over a twenty-five-hour car ride any day.
Because of this, I have been on plane rides alone and have had to find things to keep kids entertained on a plane. These activities make traveling with kids less of a nightmare.
I once even flew with my oldest son from Florida to Vancouver, Canada! And I have been on many trips from Florida to Vermont with not only one, but two sons in tow.
After some trial and error, I think I've composed a list that will entertain your little rascal on those flights that seem like an eternity. So load up a Luvabub backpack and let’s fly!
Here are seven things that keep kids entertained on a plane.
1. Planes, trains, and automobiles
When I was little, I loved playing with my brothers’ planes, trains, and cars (I was a tomboy and proud of it).
Now, as a mother, I watch with glee as those same toys entertain my son without a hitch.
He can wheel those things around for a magical amount of time while on a plane! We make those cars go on jumps, race, and he even drives them on the armrest into the back seat pocket.
Cars, trains, and planes make traveling with kids easier, and they’re cheap!
2. Sticker books
I don't know what it is about kids, but I was obsessed with stickers, my brothers were obsessed with stickers, and now my kiddo is obsessed with stickers.
When he sees stickers in the store, he wants to grab them and stick them to the floor. (He's three, so it's not grand theft, and I get to him first.)
At home, he enjoys putting them all over his body. He tells me they’re Band Aids, and he loves the designs.
That's why I found that one of the best things to keep kids entertained on a plane are sticker books.
And I'm talking about the reusable ones so your kiddo can't put them on the man's bald head in front of you.
But he can put them in the book over and over again. These sticker books even come with different scenes that your child will love.
So why not let your little roadrunner stick away while stuck in a plane? You’ll buy yourself twenty minutes at least.
3. A tablet
I know, I know, we are told continuously that screen time is the devil, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
I have found that leaving my tablet as a last resort after I have exhausted all other options, is more than okay.
Sometimes a few episodes of Daniel Tiger and playing the bubble popping app is the difference between a full out meltdown and a peaceful ending to a long trip.
When my knees are cramped, and my ears hurt, I prefer the latter.
Plus, Daniel Tiger taught my kiddo to stop and use the potty when we’re out, so I do think screens can have some educational value.
And I bought a decent tablet for $30. Not only do I enjoy playing Candy Crush on it from time to time, but it functions as a treat at the end of a long flight.
4. Magnetic puzzles
Another one of our favorite things to entertain kids on a plane are magnetic puzzles.
You see, my son loves puzzles. And when I say loves, I mean it. We even have our own puzzle crates that I can hand him during quiet time.
He will put those things together for at least a half an hour. In toddler time, that's an eternity.
But on a plane, I was always nervous about losing the pieces. So when I found the magnetic puzzles, it was like the sea was opening and leading me to this aha moment.
Now my son arranges these magnetic puzzles and problem solves while I sit back, relax, and read the latest edition of Sky Mall. (I always can use another automatic foot massager.)
5. Play-Doh packs
Another favorite toy in my household is Play-Doh.
Did you know that many dollar stores offer Play-Doh packs? I know there are some things at the dollar store that you might not want to buy: their pickles and frozen steak bits scare me.
However, some toys are name brand and pretty spectacular. I came across a Play-Doh pack that was in a small package - a perfect size for my carry-on.
It included three small containers of Play-Doh and two plastic cutting utensils that I knew my little nugget would enjoy.
I didn't let him see the package until we were high in the clouds. Then I busted it out mid-flight, and he decided to make me a Play-Doh dinner of chicken and strawberries. He even cut the meal for me with his fake knife.
Not only do I get to see my three-year-old’s imagination run rampant, but I got to pretend to gobble up a Play-Doh dinner with my son.
What's better than that? Plus, it felt awesome to be waited on.
6. Animal Crackers
My three-year-old loves to eat. My four-month-old loves to eat too, but snacks are not in his repertoire yet.
However, my three-year-old will start asking for a snack as soon as we get to the airport gate.
I do my best to hold him off until we get on the plane, where I bust out some good old-fashioned Animal Crackers.
These nostalgic delights not only serve as a snack food but also act as toys. Seriously, we have our own mini safari going on - on top of our airplane table.
Eating them goes along with our play: The lion ate the zebra’s tail - Raaw! (This doesn't scare him, but mirrors do, don't ask).
Munching and playing with animal crackers could tame my son for at least thirty minutes. I’ll take it!
Both of my boys love music, so I pack up the headphones and load my phone with children's songs.
Your little one might start singing “Mama Finger” out loud (yes, this really is the name of my son's favorite song).
And strangers may look at you, but most people are usually pretty forgiving when they see a three-year-old busting out a tune, even if it's a bizarre kid’s song.
At least they’re a lot more forgiving than if I attempted to sing Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” while crammed in a window seat.
Download some music before your trip, and you might get a cute, free concert.
Keeping your kids entertained on a plane doesn't have to be a difficult task. With a little preparation and a children’s backpack full of goodies, you might just be able to put your sleep mask on and grab a wink.
Okay, probably not, but you could witness your child sing his best rendition of “Mama Finger,” while sticking Ninja Turtles to a scene, and smelling Play-Doh chicken. You get the picture.
Have a safe and tantrum-free flight!