10 Ways to Keep Kids Entertained on Airplane Trips

by FS&TS

By Senia Lee, OTR/L

Whether your Spring Break flights are already booked or you’re just dreaming of a winter get away, the thought of bringing kids on a flight can be nerve-wracking. One strategy for keeping your child a Happy Traveler is to have plenty of tricks up your sleeve to keep them entertained and to pass the time - for all of you!

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1) Stock up on small, inexpensive toys, snacks, and activities ahead of time (consider making a trip to The Dollar Store or dollar section of Michael’s or Target. Wrap the presents individually in the comics and have your periodically present your child with one of these gifts throughout the flight.

  • Stickers, small hand-held games, comic books, bookmarks or postcards they can color or design, set of miniature stamps

  • Small fidgets (give these at the start or end of flight, as this may be calming for you child during take-off and landing)

2) Bring small containers of Playdough™ - make shapes, letters, or figures

3) Play with pipe cleaners or Wikki Stix™  - make letters, numbers, shapes, braid them together, twist them around your fingers

4) Print an outline map of the United States and let your child color the states as you pass through them, or simply use the map for coloring or a mini-geography lesson (“Color Florida red” or “Color a state in the North”)

5) Bring snacks that come in small pieces or are chewy, crunchy, or hard, which will take more time to eat and be more satisfying than, say,  a granola bar that your child will devour in seconds

  • Fruit snacks

  • Dry cereal

  • Dried fruit

  • Gummy bears

  • M&Ms (have a contest to see you can suck on their M&M the longest before it melts)

  • Depending on your childs age, bring along “trainer chopsticks,” toothpicks, small tongs, or some other fun tool to use while eating their snack

6) Bring along free printable coloring sheets, word searches, dot-to-dots, or other crosswords online.

7) Bring a small dry erase board and markers

  • Play Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, etc.

  • Take turns drawing/tracing mazes

  • Take turns drawing pictures/geometric designs and having the other person copy them

8) Bring along magnetic boards, like dress up dolls or other scenes

9) Bring along lotion (less than 4 ounces if you want to make it through security!) and give each other hand massages or let your child “paint” on your hand/arm. As a bonus, a firm hand massage and be calming for your child!

10) Play categorization/naming games - take turns naming as many breakfast foods, cereals, types of candy, colors, animals, Disney movies, etc.

A few more tips:

Flights can feel long, for both grown ups and kids. Print out a circle/clock outline or blank thermometer and let your child color it in as the time passes to track how far you’ve gone and how much longer you’ll be air-bound.

Before the trip: Remember to talk to your child about what they can expect - getting to the airport, going through security, boarding the plane, take off/landing, getting off the plane...