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40 Easy Airplane Activities For Toddlers On A Long Haul Flight

It’s no secret that flying with a toddler is harder than a newborn. I know from flying countless flights from short to long haul, including 24 hours to Australia a few times with this age. My eldest never sits still!

Toddlers and preschoolers usually have lots of energy they need to burn and can have a fairly short attention span, and like to explore – which can make family travel a little more challenging. I’m Carrie, an ex flight attendant, family travel blogger and parent of two. and will share everything we have used to help you!

So if you want to know how to fly with a toddler and keep them busy, even on ultra long haul flights, read on for these tips! These travel activities are useful for a road trip too.

40 Easy Airplane Activities For Toddlers On A Long Haul Flight

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How do I entertain my toddler on a long flight?

Flying long haul with a toddler initially filled me with a sense of dread from takeoff to landing with my own kids, worrying what other travelers would think, especially as we have family in Australia, so door to door is often over 24 hours – if not longer, which is a lot of time to fill!

However, on the plus side, toddlers are beginning to grasp the concept of imaginative play, enjoy picture books, sticker books, colouring books and explore interactive, sensory activities.

In my experience, travelling with a toddler on a plane is an adventure and can have its challenging moments.

We’ve dealt with crying, nappy/diaper rash, over tiredness and more on a trip during these ages, so distractions with travel games and activities have been very useful!

You certainly don’t need all of these toys, games and travel activities, but it’s a good idea to pack some. I’ve included some of own favorite airplane activities for toddlers, to help keep them entertained and hopefully give you a chance to have a break during the flight.

Most importantly try not worry about screen time, watching videos/TV shows or snacks, just do whatever helps your family get through the flight!

I’ve categorised all this information into different activities including technology, games, toys and the all important snacks for toddlers.

Best of all, they are fairly small and light weight meaning they don’t take up a lot of space in your nappy/diaper bag or carry-on.

We have covered below lots of tips and easy airplane activities for toddlers and how to entertain a baby from a few months old, to how to entertain a 1 year old on a plane trip, plus older toddlers and preschoolers who are more energetic – and every age in between.

best toddler toys Tomy mini water aqua doodle mats, We have covered below how to entertain a baby from a few months old, to how to entertain a 1 year old on a plane, older toddlers who are more energetic and every age in between.
Tomy Water coloring mats reveal magic painting pictures and have reusable pages

Cheap Ideas to Keep a Toddler Busy on a Flight

These cheap items are a good way to entertain on a budget and will help little ones play from takeoff to landing.

  • Make a puppet out of the airplane seat waste paper bag/barf bag – just bring along some pens or colouring pencils.
  • Make cup animals from the paper drink cups from the crew.
  • Pack post it notes with different colors or themed plasters/band-aids for them to stick around their seat (remove them afterwards!)
  • If you are sitting next to the airplane window, use window gel clings. These can be great to entertain a toddler on a long flight.
  • Bring an old spice container and pipe cleaners for some fine motor skills. Little ones love to ‘post’ things through holes.
toddler travel toy made out of a spice jar and pipe cleaner
Pipecleaners and a spice jar make a great cheap travel toy.
  • Bring an old wallet with pretend cards and/or low value coins for them to play with for older kids.
  • Pack a few piper cleaners and uncooked pasta shapes for them to thread and make a bracelet.
travel toy made with a pipe cleaner and pasta
Pasta necklace or bracelet
  • Find an old empty tub or container, fill it with different coloured small pom pom balls. Put holes in the lid, and then your toddler can post them back through and practice their color knowledge too.
toddler travel toy wuth pom poms and a plastic bottle
  • Any old zips attached to a piece of material for them to play with.
  • Kids washi tape. You can get rolls themed with dinosaurs, pirates, cars, fairytales and more. great for roll play and sticking on the airplane tray table as it is easily removable and mess free. You can even buy washi tape or masking/painters tape which is marked out like a road. Or draw your own road markings on plain painters tape. Just add a toy car and zoom!
  • Another easy busy bag idea and great travel toy for toddlers and preschoolers is pack some pre cut up card in half, but in various shapes, wavy line, in half, zig zag etc for an easy 2 part puzzle where it doesn’t matter if the pieces get lost.
baby travel toy activity which is sensory. Use a baby wipes lid
  • Lift the flap game – use old ‘close down lids’ from baby wipes and stick 8 to a piece of card. Under each open lid draw a picture, colour or number and then close. A quick and easy game of ‘lift the flap’ or ‘where is?’ 
  • Finger puppets of dinosaurs or animals or with photos of family members on is great for pretend play and imagination.
  • Playdoh – although some people swear by it, I find it a bit messy and it can be hit or miss whether you are allowed to bring it on board. As mentioned above, playdoh is not easy to remove for the next passenger sitting in that seat.
  • Another idea for younger children, is a travel busy board – where everything is in one place but there are plenty of activities for little hands. This Montessori Busy Board is a great sensory toy with lots of zips, buttons and games to engage pretend play and imagination whilst learning. It can fit their favorite books, coloring crayons, paper, snacks and even a water bottle too!
  • Colouring books or Activity Books with play scenes and numbers and letters or a magazine

Some airlines will provide some activities and puzzles on board – you can find this information before you book on your airlines website or have an idea here.

Toddler Travel Games

For active toddlers, you will likely want to stretch your legs and theirs and walk around the plane and explore. The economy class section will have the longest aisles, but be aware you may not be allowed to venture into the business class area. Other parents will be doing exactly the same and walking around! It’s worth asking the crew if they need any ‘helpers’ which is a fun adventure for little ones.

Airlines like Virgin Atlantic, often hand out sweets before landing and ask kids to help – this can help with that final stretch.

During the main part of the flight,  the crew might need some ‘help’ after the main meal service handing out ice cream or something similar.

Simplified versions of pairs, or snap can work well or even learning colours or counting/picture flash cards.

Alternatively, other puzzles and activities for toddlers on a plane include an i-spy/ scavenger hunt printable game. Little ones can look around the plane and tick some items off their list.

Here are two plane activities for you to download for free: an airport scavenger hunt and the airplane scavenger hunt. Click on the link for your free download.

free Airport Scavenger Hunt Printable, Airplane Activities For Toddlers #familytravel
Airport Scavenger Hunt Printable

Toddler Snacks for the Airplane

Snacks, all the snacks! If your kids are like mine, they are want a snack from takeoff to landing! Always pack more than you think you need, especially for a long haul flight with a toddler.

Threading Cheerios on a sweetie lace

Threading Cheerios on a sweetie lace is a alternative to lacing cards. Using the lace and cheerios can be a great fine motor skill for coordination which combines snacking too – a great airplane activity for your 18 month old or older. Other snack ideas include:

  • raisins
  • cheese crackers
  • fruit squeeze pouch e.g Ella’s Kitchen
  • blueberries
  • sandwiches (avoid peanut butter in case of other passengers allergies)
  • cooked pasta
  • mini sausages
  • rice cakes
  • bananas
  • granola bars
  • satsumas
  • cucumber sticks
  • bread sticks

Anything that is fresh, remember to leave on the aircraft or check the countries customs laws. For example, fresh food of any kind is NOT allowed into Australia or New Zealand. To keep the food fresh, I take ziploc bags and fill with ice from home, and refill at the airport and on the airplane.

I don’t use icepacks/coolpacks as some countries security laws will not accept these through security. Instead, pack some ziplocs and refill once airside and again from the crew onboard the plane.

I avoid candy, lollies and chocolate etc as a hyper kid on the plane is zero fun and a very different adventure! The only exception is the lollipop I keep for top of descent, in case they find the ear pressure uncomfortable.

Technology – Tablets and Toddler Apps

I used to pack various techie toys or bits, but now I take my phone and iPad and download it with apps, movies and TV shows for the kids and bring some kid friendly headphones. As toddlers they really enjoyed learning apps such as:

  • Peekaboo Barn
  • Toca Boca
  • ABC Toddler
  • Mouse Maze
  • Lego Duplo House and Trains
  • Duck Duck Moose,
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Older toddlers may enjoy the free educational My Town series where they can immerse themselves into various places and role play – like the farm, an airplane, the vets etc. My youngest child is absolutely captivated by them!

I also download the airlines app, as depending on the airline, you may need to have this downloaded before your flight in order to access any of the inflight entertainment. Some airlines will provide child size headsets but this is not the norm, so if in doubt bring your own to use on your tablet or the airlines TV system.

For more screen entertainment, you can also download episodes from Netflix or BBC iplayer. These may have a limited watch time once you have either downloaded or began to watch them, so save this tip for the day before you go.

For more toddler apps you may be interested in, I wrote a more detailed post on baby and toddler apps here.

Travel Toys to Keep Toddlers Occupied on a Plane

I list more interactive toy ideas in this specific toddler travel toy post which are great for play and your. child’s imagination too, but here are some of my favourite travel toys for toddlers on airplanes:

Airplane Activities for Toddlers 2024

Do let us know what worked well for you!

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

What to look out for when choosing a travel activity.

Depending on your budget and mode of transport and baggage allowances (your booking will state this) , look out for these features:

  • Can be used independently: If you constantly need to be interacting or operating the toy, you are going to end up frazzled and exhausted. A toy which allows you a few minutes to enjoy your inflight meal or gives you time to fill out paperwork is best for everyone. An educational activity is a bonus but toddlers are learning all the time.
  • Quiet: A quiet toy or puzzle will make you popular with any neighbors. This includes headsets or headphones for any tablets. The rest of the plane maybe trying to sleep and do not need to hear Peppa Pig on repeat!
  • Compact: Toys which can be easily stowed or folded away are better when you are tight on space, especially with cabin bags allowances always reducing! Make sure the toys doesn’t have really tiny pieces though, or these can get easily lost.
  • Lightweight: Inevitably, it’s the parents who end up carrying not only their child but their toys too! For your back’s sack, pack lightweight. Multi-use toys are brilliant like stacking cups as they can be used as toy on the plane and on arrival for bath-time fun too.
  • Mess free: Please leave the Play-doh at home! Crew or cleaners need to spend longer getting it out of small crevices or removing ingrained bits from the carpet so other passengers won’t be inconvenienced – which means delays to boarding for next flights. It’s no fun removing from the car either.
  • Does not rely on batteries or charging for toddler airplane activities. There is nothing worse than running out of power or finding the charging portal is broken. Have some toys and puzzles packed which don’t rely on batteries or cables but have the trusty iPad too! Tablet time rules go out of the window for us on flights. Do what works for your family! If they do have music, make sure there is an ‘off’ button or headphones can be used. Kids are brilliant at using their imagination at this age.
  • Multi use toys: Toys and crafts which have multi uses for the toddler ages and stages, to play and explore, can save space and luggage weight and can be used at various destinations. eg Snacks like the Cheerio hops and laces idea below, can be a fine motor skill activity as well as a snack. Or road play tape that can be used anywhere, from a plane tray table to a hotel room carpet. Resusable sticker books or water reveal colouring books.

What can I bring on a plane for my toddler?

You can bring pretty much anything on board to entertain kids, but for the sake of everyone and other passengers too, toddler plane activities are best if they are quiet, on the smaller side, do not have liquid inside them, and any activity is fairly mess free. Fill toys like the water toy magic painting pens once onboard, otherwise be prepared to take them out at the security gate. Each country will have different security rules.

100ml or 3-1-1 liquid rules do not apply for baby/toddler food brought onboard.

Families flying with older children, these travel games for kids may be useful too!

The majority of the suggested portable travel toys for toddlers have worked well for myself and other parents on many many flights, car journeys and other modes of travel.

Our review experts are kids and fellow parents, who like myself and our family, have traveled extensively, with toddlers and their varying ages on various long and short haul trips.

Many of them are found on the Travel with Babies and Toddler Facebook group offering helpful advice too!

This guide is regularly updated with the latest toys and activities and ideas which impress us and keep even the most fidgety toddler busy and your flight less stressful. They can be used in hotels and at home too. Get booking that trip – it will be ok!

Don’t forget:

Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions?

35 Easy activities for flying with toddlers. Stuck for flying with toddlers activities? Try these simple ways to keep your little one occupied on the plane! #travellingwithkids #familytravel #planetravel

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twelve + eight =

Sunday 1st of May 2022

Thanks for this! Im about to fly across the globe with a 2yr old and a 10 month old, trying not to remind myself how absolutely daft it seems to be and focus on making it to the other-side with some semblance of peace

Carrie Bradley

Saturday 7th of May 2022

Most welcome! It is tough remembering that you will have an amazing time the other side. :-)


Saturday 30th of April 2022

Great ideas! I'm flying soon with my almost 2 year old and plan to try some of these. Do you have a carryon bag recommendation that accommodates all the toddler toys/snacks/clothes for long flights (Malaysia to Florida) and your own personal items? Thanks!

Carrie Bradley

Saturday 7th of May 2022

I find a backpack is easier than a hard case - especically if I need to be hands free and carry toddler!

Paul McGee

Saturday 14th of December 2019



Saturday 16th of November 2019

Some handy ideas, we are about to travel overseas with our little one for the first time. Im expecting the worst but fingers crossed. Cheers for the useful ideas


Wednesday 14th of April 2021

@Simon, how it go ?

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