How To Entertain A Toddler On A Plane (And Save Your Sanity)

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Are you wondering how to keep a toddler entertained on a plane? Toddler plane activities can mean the difference between a calm flight and a chaotic one! It’s no secret that toddlers can be harder than newborns when it comes to travel. So be sure to pack some of these travel toys for your flight!

Toddlers have a lot of energy and little patience for sitting still. So we share how to entertain a toddler on a plane to help save you a little sanity during your next family flight!

This busy book was a favourite plane toy for both our kids as toddlers

Toddler plane activities and toys

Our Top Picks For Toddler Plane Activities

We have put together plenty of fun activity ideas for toddlers and young kids for planes, but here are our top 3 recommendations:

How To Entertain A Toddler On a Plane

Plane travel is especially frustrating for most toddlers… Or for a baby who has started crawling and gotten a taste for being mobile!

Unlike on a family road trip where they are strapped in firmly into a car seat, seeing others move around a plane gives young children the idea that they can do the same.

And so begins your challenge of keeping them entertained in their seat, or on your lap!

The key is to have activities and toys that are suitable for travel and with enough variety to entertain them for the duration of your trip.

Especially if you are taking a long haul plane trip!

Choose travel toys and activities that aren’t noisy, messy or have a lot of fiddly pieces.

Not only will such things cause you unnecessary stress, but they will also bother anyone sitting nearby.

The Best Toddler Airplane Activities & Toys

Naturally, it becomes a challenge of epic proportions to keep a toddler entertained, when attention spans can be short-lived.

We have done many long haul flights, road trips, and train journeys with toddlers over the years and learned a thing or two about keeping these little people content!

If you are ready to learn how to keep a toddler busy during a long trip or flight, keep reading for our top tips and some super cool toddler activities.

Quiet Book

One of the best travel gifts we ever received as parents of a toddler was a quilted quiet book.

This was the best travel toy for both of our girls as toddlers, with so many activities to keep them entertained.

Quiet, or busy books, as they are sometimes called, are filled with pages of mini activities, pockets, zippers and buttons for toddlers to discover.

Best of all, they are soft and flat, making them perfectly compact for travel!

I created a DIY version once and it took days! Save yourself the effort and buy one instead. Our gifted book is still in perfect condition after years of love!

Busy Board

A Travel Busy Board is also great as everything is in one place. They have many activities for toddlers to do and make great sensory toys.

Like a quiet book, busy boards are a wonderful toddler plane toy, because they are mostly compact for travel and they have loads of different activities.

You can get noisy busy boards with buttons and sound effects, which would drive fellow plane passengers insane!

Instead opt for a busy board like this one, which has educational activities ideal for travel, minus the loud noises.

Lift-A-Flap Books

When taking lift-the-flap books, it’s best to take no more than two due to their weight, as they’re hard books.

There’s just something about a book with pockets, which open and close, that gets a toddler curious and absorbed in opening and closing those flaps.

So make sure to choose lift-flap books with lots of hidden secrets!

Here are some great Lift-A-Flap books:

  • Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell – Amazon
  • Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill – Amazon
  • Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz – Amazon

Water Wow Books

Water Wow Books are definitely wow-worthy for toddlers! They can be used over and again, allowing creative fun without the mess.

All you need to do is fill the “paintbrush” pen with water, then use it to reveal the magic on each page!

The image will appear and then disappear again once the page starts to dry. It’s great fun for toddlers.

Just be sure to have tissues on hand to pat down any excess water.

DoodlePro Slim

The DoodlePro Slim is just like the classic etch-o-sketch magnetic drawing board, in a compact travel size perfect for entertaining toddlers on a plane.

Kids can use DoodlePro for multiple purposes. As an art easel, a blackboard, for name-writing practice, or just for play.

This is an easy alternative to bringing crayons and paper, since you don’t have to worry about the crayons falling off the plane tray and rolling down the plane aisle.

Lacing Cards

Lacing cards are about the size of an adult’s hand and they are shaped with holes around the edges and a string.

This activity allows your toddler to weave the string through the holes to make a pattern, or whatever they feel like lacing!

While this simple activity may not provide hours of entertainment, it is a compact travel activity for a toddler and it can help improve fine motor skills too.

Toy Cars

Take two little cars with you during your travels. Toddlers have a way of turning anything into a roadway for their little cars, like the armrests, the tray table, even your arms and legs!

It’s a fun way to keep your toddler entertained while using their imagination.

We have always packed toddler-friendly Fisher-Price Little People Wheelies inside our travel activity kits for travel fun.

Just be careful their car doesn’t take a trip of it’s own down under the seats!

Kids Washi Tape

There are all sorts of themed Washi Tapes for young kids, like pirates, fairytales, dinosaurs, cars, and more!

These are great for creative play and can be stuck on the tray table without leaving sticky residue since it’s easily removable.

You can even get Play Tape with a road print for your toddler to add their toy cars to.

Tip: Store tape in a ziplock bag so you have somewhere to put the used tape afterwards as well.


If you don’t mind slightly messy airplane activities for toddlers, playdough is a fun option! Kids love playdough. And if it’s stored well and supervised, it can be a great activity for playing on the plane tray.

Although it might be worthwhile taking a placemat or putting a piece of paper underneath the playdough to keep the tray clean. Bring a couple of playdough tools to cut and roll and watch your toddler get creative!

And don’t forget the baby wipes to clean up any residue afterwards!

Onboard Entertainment System

toddler with headphones on plane

Make use of the of the onboard entertainment system and set your toddler up to watch and play.

The onboard entertainment system on most planes will cater to toddlers and children, with cartoons and educational programs, music and games.

Most toddlers don’t have a long attention span for watching, but it might give you a 15-minute burst of peace while they enjoy some quiet screen time during a long flight.

TIP: Bring your own toddler headphones so they can have a comfortable fit. Airline ones are typically too big and this will bother them quickly otherwise.

Airplane Activities For 3-5 Year Olds

If you have a child who isn’t quite a toddler anymore, but not quite school-aged yet, most of the mentioned travel toys are still great options to keep them entertained on an airplane.

However, there are plenty more options suited to slightly older kids as well. These toys are recommended for ages 3 years old and up as they have smaller parts.

Magnetic Play Scenes 

Magnetic play scenes open up a world of characters and accessories for your toddler to play with.

There are various scenes to choose from, such as dinosaurs, construction sites, dollhouse, fairies, trains, and various other choices for both boys and girls.

This is a fun way to allow them to explore their imagination, plus the magnetic background helps prevent play pieces from falling off the plane tray.

Wikki Stix

Wikki Stix are great for preschool children to build two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes and they make great airline activities for toddlers and older kids.

It’s an activity that the little ones love doing, and the more Wikki Stix, the better! Although on a plane, go for the Wiki Stix Traveler Playset, for an easily transportable option!

Wiki Stix incorporate the flexibility of pipe cleaners with non-toxic wax for a mess-free construction toy.

Children can create 2-D scenes or construct 3-D shapes in a rainbow of colours.

DIY Travel Activity Kits

Add some extra surprise to your toddler travel by creating your own toddler activity kit. These have always been one of our favourite family travel hacks for keeping our kids occupied during travel.

Use a case or bag and load it up with age-appropriate activities. Several of the activities mentioned above are perfect for inside a travel activity kit.

We also add a couple of snacks and often a mini colouring or activity book with crayons too.

Find out more about how to make your own travel activity kits.

Travel Insurance: Make sure you don’t leave home without travel insurance. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to skip, especially when travelling with kids. Check out SafetyWing to make sure you’re covered!

Your family travel will be made much easier with the right airplane toys for toddlers, to help keep your little person happy during the boring parts of travel.

Put together your arsenal of cool toddler plane activities and toys so you can be prepared and hopefully enjoy a relatively stress-free flight!

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