How to Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

“When I have a child, they won’t watch movies or have a tablet.” “That poor child – his parents have him on a backpack leash!” “Someone should really comfort that baby, and I bet she’d stop crying.”

All of these notions went through my mind before I had my first child. Once she arrived those ideas went completely out the door! I will be the first to tell you that I use shows or movies to keep a two year old happy, backpack leashes have started to make more sense, and sometimes a baby’s only form of communication is crying.

At home, most days everything is under control, but then we get the crazy idea to take the family on a trip across the country, which means hours of close togetherness on the flight. Now before you start to panic or look for the eject button on the plane there are ways to make the flight pleasant for you, your child, and the passengers around you.

As a mother who loves to travel, here are a few helpful tips that worked while I traveled with my toddler:

  • Tablet fun: Personally, my daughter loves watching “Daniel Tiger.” We load her tablet with a few episodes, and anxiously wait to press the “play” button. Tablets can be filled with coloring apps, easy puzzles, even alphabet games, which means less packing and one happy child. You can find children headphones with volume controls to protect their ears, as well.
  • Keep the Surprises coming: I love the idea of wrapping books or toys for the flight. Buy them a new toy or wrap a toy you already own, either way the mystery of each item will keep them occupied for a while. This same concept works for putting small toys or snacks in plastic eggs or even a pill box type container.
  • Arts & Crafts: We love the Crayola Color Wonder markers, especially when traveling. They will only work on special paper, so your neighbor and your clothes don’t run the risk of becoming your child’s canvas. This is also a good time to use the water color books where you paint with water – no paint to spill since the color is already on the paper, and very little water needed. You can save the last few drops from your inflight water, and be good to go. For older toddlers, use stickers to create a story book and let them color as you build a story. Peeling the stickers and deciding where to put them keeps them busy. There so many mess-free coloring options available now, pick what your budding artist would like the best.
  • Feed the Belly: Having plenty of snacks seems like a no brainer, but I made the mistake once of packing a new treat for a flight, which backfired quickly. My daughter didn’t like the crackers and lucky for me I had backup in my purse of her favorite snack. So, note to self, on a plane may not be the time to try something new and always bring more than you think you’ll need; snacks and drinks. To help with their ears popping during take-off and landing, having a drink nearby is helpful.
  • Everyone Stay Calm: Children feed off their environment. If you are calm and not stressed, this feeling will usually reciprocate to the child. We had a flight where I was stressed about keeping my daughter calm and quiet, and it just made things worse. Babies may fuss and toddlers can cry, but they are children and it will be okay. Even if there is a meltdown, the noise of the plane covers most of the sound and it’s not nearly as bad as it feels when you’re in the middle of it.

So, next time you think to cancel your trip because of your child, don’t! There will be ups and downs and things will not always go according to plan, but there are ways to make your trip easier and peaceful.