Why pack toys for the plane?
I’m a big fan of screentime on planes for toddlers old enough to appreciate it. With so many amazing educational apps and fun, kid-centered videos available, I am happy to let my 2.5-year-old toddler’s play on their Kindle fires for way longer than I allow at home. If you ask me, exceptional circumstances (such as a 10-hour flight with jetlag) call for exceptions. That said, I like to bring along some (small) screen-free toys and activities too for several reasons:
1. Sleep wanted
The blue lights emitted from screens can disrupt the production of melatonin which means it may be more difficult to fall asleep. If you’re hoping for your little one to sleep, you may want to remove screens from the equation an hour before. (you can also utilize the “blue shade” or “night mode” on your child’s device). On the other hand, if you want your little one to stay up longer to adjust for your destinations time zone, letting them play on a device can be helpful.
2. You need a backup plan
Devices can die, crash, break, etc. Flight delays can drain batteries before you even board and only some planes have charging ports. You don’t want to be stuck on a 10-hour flight with limited ways to keep your toddler busy. Reminder to never rely solely on in-flight entertainment. Many budget airlines or short flights don’t even have in-flight entertainment. I’ve also been on flights where the system goes down for several hours. A friend of mine just returned from a flight where the entertainment didn’t work at all during the flight. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to pack a whole bag or toys or anything, just be sure you have at least two or three things in your carry-on bag as a back-up.
3. Toys can be used at the destination
Toys come in really handy for rainy days, long car-rides or occupy your toddler while you plan your day sightseeing, get ready in the morning, etc.
4. For comfort
Even toddlers who travel often can become overwhelmed in airports, on planes, etc. If they have a favorite small toy, bring it along to act as a “lovey” (familiar comfort item) – Unless it’s a one of a kind item – then leave it at home for safe-keeping.
5. To avoid screen time
Some parents may choose to not do any screentime at all. Or you may have a younger toddler who you feel isn’t quite ready for screentime. In which case, toys become essential and you will want to bring for options for long flights.
Toddler Busy Bags
The toys usually go into my toddlers “busy bags.” These are small, bright colored (aka easy to spot) backpacks that they wear onto the plane and keep in their own seat during the flight. They are great to use at the destination as well! I also add some snacks in a mess-free container and their sippy cups. That means that whatever toys are going into the bag need to be pretty small and lightweight.
I leave space in my diaper bag for one or two larger items but I don’t want to be weighed down. (For a full list of what’s in my carry-on bag, click here.) The main criteria for selecting a toy or activity for a plane is the size of the item and the average length of time it will keep my toddlers occupied. This will be different for each toddler, so you will need to pick which ones you think will be best for your little one.
Airplane Toys for Toddlers – Top Picks
Planning for an upcoming flight with a toddler can be stressful. Go prepared with space-saving plane toys for toddlers. Here are some of the best plane toys for toddlers, pick a few to pack and have a great flight!
Dollar store toys
If its new, it’s interesting. If you are lucky enough to have a dollar store nearby buy a few new, small toys and surprise your toddler on the flight.
Magnetic blocks in a travel-friendly pouch make imaginative play easy on-board. I find it’s better if my toddler plays with them on their lap instead of on the tray table. That way, when they drop the pieces, they will (mostly) land on the seat and you won’t have to keep bending down and searching for pieces under the seat.
Tip: to save space, be sure to cut the top of the book off above the spiral. Also be sure to fill the pen up AFTER security but before you board the plane.
Reusable Sticker Books
This one is only 7 square inches, great for on the go!
Tip: If your stickers start to lose their stickiness, you can wash them gently in a bowl of water with a small amount of dish soap. Dry face down, and then return to sheet. It doesn’t work forever but will significantly increase the life of the stickers.
Magnetic puzzle book
If your child loves puzzles this will be a hit! This interactive magnetic playbook is fun for all. Thin and magnetic makes them great choices for bringing onboard.
When my toddlers where around a year old, they loved their boogie boards. Even though they were on the larger side, I would still carry them around in my diaper bag. We ended up losing one of the pens though so I would suggest something like this where the pen is attached.
Every so often, Target puts out felt toy kits in their dollar spot located at the front of the store. We have the Dr kit and my kid love it. It is very compact and can easily be thrown into any carry-on bag.
Put on a show for your kids, have them put on one for you, have a puppet dance party, practice social skills, the opportunities are endless!
Mess-free means stress-free. They make travel packs with a clipboard case (great for car-trips) but you’ll save space by just bringing a few markers in a zipped pouch with the paper.
When my toddlers were younger they LOVED playing with straws. Straws come in handy when you’re dining out during your trip too. Silicone ones can be used over and over.
Good for the plane, great for the destination where there’s more room to race.
Unlike traditional reusable stickers, magnets won’t lose their adhesive quality. The downside is that they are heavier and bulkier than the cling-on version, but they will last longer. I recommend removing all the stickers from the shet before your trip and storing them in a small, reusable pouch.
Even if your toddlers aren’t old enough to play the memory game, this board makes for a great game of peek a boo or fun finding a certain animal.
Small Toy figures
Small animals, action figures, etc are great for trips. My kids are obsessed with horses. They don’t go anywhere without one of these. Sometimes I pack other tiny farm animals for them to play with.
Lace toys are great for practicing dexterity and problem solving, some are large though so make sure you get one small enough to pack in your carry-on.
Great for young toddlers. My daughter used to play with this one for an hour at a time.
Toddlers who can be trusted to keep the tape on the paper will love making patterns in tape books. The tape is easily removed from just about any surface but I personally find it too much work to track and keep removing tape all over.
Crayons and paper
The classic. I ALWAYS carry washable crayons in my purse so when we get ready to take a trip I just need to add some extra paper. I only carry a few crayons in a small, zipped bag.
If you have any bubble wrap laying around, bring it onboard! Toss it in the recycling bin when you land.
We were given pocket-sized Magna doodles by ANA airline last year which have come in pretty handy.
An old wallet with hotel cards, business cards, reward cards or even play money inside has proven to be loads of fun.
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