Last Christmas we had a 5.5-hour flight. No layover, no meal service, and no escape from the screaming toddler I envisioned would be mine. So like any mother suffering from flight-induced travel terror, I over-prepared.
Why? Because after 400 bajillion hours in the security line taking off/putting on shoes/jackets/belts, folding/unfolding the stroller that refuses to fit on the conveyor belt, checking my child’s medicine for national security threats, being felt up by a TSA officer, and trying to get the Little to stop licking the moving walkway, I don’t have the energy to be nice to everyone else on the plane who is mad my child is crying and thinks maybe I didn’t notice.
How to Keep the Toddler Happy on an Airplane
All 16 items are listed at the bottom of this post*, but since I know you’re busy packing for your trip, here is what kept my children in the horrible-airplane-age-range of 12-36 months occupied for the longest amount of time:
Easter Eggs Filled with New Surprises
We used these when they were one (15 months, 21 months) two (30 months, 35 months), and even at ages 3 and 4. You can refill and close the eggs repeatedly to make the activity last longer. It’s more parent work, but it’s easier than crying.
Tip: Fill with toys that come apart. This lasted an hour, which is FOREVER in 2-year-old time.
And even better, ditch the Easter eggs and get a medicine container. Endless fun.
I find it hard to believe that I don’t have pictures of my children using these since we’ve used them on at least 10 flights in the past four years, but alas, I cannot find any. You can get these at the dollar store.
Rinse out an old seasoning container and slip toothpicks into the slots. Great for fine motor practice. Warning: they are sharp, but we’ve had zero casualties.
Beads and Other Lacing Activities
We’ve done beads on pipe cleaners, (gluten-free) macaroni necklaces on yarn, and a little homemade counting abacus (tutorial here)
Another dollar store thrill.
Nothing grand because of food allergies/intolerances, but we go out of our way to have “special water” in fun bottles. I’m sure other moms can chime in here.
Bonus tip: bring their own backpacks, preferably with wheels
This served as our primary source of entertainment in the airport.
The 16 Ideas All in One Spot
Here’s the picture one more time for reference.
- Cars. Small enough to fit comfortably in the bag, big enough to be stopped by the railing under the seat when they’re dropped.
- Coloring Supplies. New. Always.
- Pipe cleaners and beads for lacing
- Toothpicks and a sorting container.
- New-to-us books borrowed from a friend.
- Macaroni necklaces.
- Annoying sing-song toys. Passengers can’t hear them because the engine drowns them out.
- Movies. The DVDs with episodes are the best. We can watch another movie whenever they get antsy and the 20-25 minute length seems long enough. This is mostly for the older ones.
- Counting abacus
- Window decals
- Soft ball to toss back and forth.
- Felt board (cardboard with fleece over it) with extra pieces
- Pictures of the vacation. We were going to Disney World, so we looked at different rides.
- Easter eggs filled with surprises
*Disclaimer: Use your discretion as many of these are not considered age-appropriate because of small pieces, Considering the close proximity of the airplane, I felt comfortable with my ability to monitor my children. Phew, hope that gets any legal stuff out of the way.
[UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who supplied info about the take-apart erasers. And for those of you I didn’t answer in a timely manner – please accept my apologies. From experience, I would not recommend losing your password/login for a website (or the email account associated with it). Luckily, there are magic elves at WordPress, MailChimp, and BlueHost that got me squared away.]