I’m preparing for a cross-country flight (7+ hours just in a plane!) with my four sons, including my youngest who is a young toddler. At 14 months, he’s at an awkward in-between age where he’s no longer a baby who will nap in the plane most of the way, but he’s not quite old enough to be entertained at length by things like books or coloring. How will I cope? Here are some strategies I’ve uncovered for how to entertain a young toddler on a long flight!
I reached out to other moms in a travel group I am in and asked for suggestions on how to travel in an airplane with my very young toddler. Here were their gems of advice:
Be sure to bring your young toddler’s favorite sippy cup and keep the beverages flowing! Bring snacks for him, from his favorites like sippy-style applesauces, Goldfish crackers, to new snacks that might entertain him with their novelty. The dollar store is a good place to find random snacks to entertain a young toddler!
When it comes to entertainment, the novelty of new toys and books that are just for the occasion of an airplane flight can work wonders to entertain a small child.
“I used to go to Goodwill and find tiny toddler toys that I could surprise the kids with on the plane,” suggested Jen Lee Reeves, who blogs at Born Just Right.
Sara Wellensiek of Mom Endeavors mentioned that she provided “two small/inexpensive brand new toys he hadn’t seen before,” for her toddler son on a recent flight.
Garage sales, dollar stores, or thrift stores are all great places to find small novelty items that will entertain a toddler for a chunk of time. Keep the toys hidden until your child starts to get bored on the flight — no need to pull them out until you need a distraction. Make sure you only bring one toy or new book out at a time so you can pace your in-flight entertainment!
As much as you might want a few minutes of alone time (to read a book or play a game on your phone) while you are on the plane, flying with a toddler will probably not be the time for that! You will most likely have to spend some of your time entertaining your little one while in the air. Squirrel away some fun ideas for quiet games and toddler play:
Games like Patty cake, Peek-a-boo or other finger play songs and games, suggests Christy Matte of Quirky Fusion. These types of play are classics for a reason! Because they are highly entertaining to little ones.
While on a long airplane trip with a toddler, “We would draw faces on their fingers and toes (and on my fingers). I did puppet shows with my fingers,” said Patty Moliterno of A Mother’s Random Thoughts.
When sitting still gets to be too much, take a walk down the aisle of the plane, if only for a minute. Take your toddler into the restroom to give her a change of scenery. Help her wash her hands or check out the paper towels.
While you won’t want to be up and around the whole time, choosing strategic moments to move around the airplane cabin can really help entertain your toddler and distract her if she’s getting antsy.
Candy is in a separate section in this article from snacks, because you should probably save it for later in the flight, aka, “when you REALLY need it!” For my 14 month-old, when we travel I bring small candies that take awhile to eat, such as Dum-Dums (small suckers) or M&Ms, feeding them to him one at a time. If you can serve your toddler a small package of candy that she can reach into, that part can be entertaining in itself too. I like to think of it as a “Snacktivity.”
Older siblings will probably enjoy playing with the toddler, and it will break up the flight for everyone. If the toddler has more than one sibling, consider switching seats once to give everyone a new situation.
If there is another adult in your travel party, give her a chance to hold the toddler and entertain him. Or, if you don’t have another adult you know, the toddler can at least play peek-a-boo with a willing passenger in the seat behind you. There’s usually at least one friendly face somewhere nearby who can distract a kid for a few minutes.
When all else fails, pull out the screens! Adults like to use their phones and watch movies on an airplane, and toddlers do too. Since sitting still and behaving is of utmost importance on a plane, consider lifting any normal bans on screens during the flight.
To make the occasion even more fun, Vanessa Coppola of See Vanessa Craft said she “got her [daughter] some kid friendly headphones.”
Keep screens from the child as a last resort, though! Toddlers won’t be endlessly entertained by the screen like older kids are.
Reeves added, “There was a time when my 16 month old had to fly with me and my end-of-the-world back up was watching Dora on my phone. But I never pulled it out until all other options were used up. (Including the awesome extra snacks.)”
With some planning and preparation, you can travel with a young toddler on a long flight and live to tell about it.
Did I miss anything? What are your go-to tricks and tips for traveling with toddlers?
p.s. I found more tips for flying with multiple toddlers here at When Tara Met Blog: Flying With Twins