Our 10 favourite travel toys for toddlers on airplanes
If you’ve been following our travel adventure through Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bali you will know that we’ve flown a lot with our three young kids including a long haul flight with toddler (they’ve all been on nine flights in the past seven months alone). We’ve taken them to arid Turkey where we experienced our first earthquake; beautiful Greece where we indulged in an ultra-all-inclusive 5* hotel, and skiing in Bulgaria when our youngest was just 18 months old.
When we only had one kid, a short or long haul flight with a toddler was a bit of a stress; now it’s a complete breeze, even with our youngest being just two (nearly three). We’ve tried every combination of airplane entertainment you could think of, and we’ve finally nailed it when it comes to the best travel toys for toddlers on airplanes.
In a few months we will have a four-hour flight to Singapore followed by a 24-hour layover in the airport and a 13-hour flight back to London, and below is my ideal kit for toddler entertainment.
We discovered that this was waaaay better than Play Doh for travelling; it is less get-under-your-nails sticky and doesn’t dry out when you have it out for a while or forget to put the lid back on. Before you leave for your journey google some ideas of things to make with plasticine, screen-shot it on your phone and you have a ready made activity to do in the airport, on your airplane tray table and in the hotel room during chill-out time. If you are going for a quick weekend away and haven’t got much packing space we’d recommend a flat box of plasticine; if you are off on a two-week holiday or for longer trip pack the mini tub and a small box of plasticine tools (if you don’t want it all in your hand luggage simply empty a couple of colours into a zip-lock bag for the airplane).
2. Sticker books
Who doesn’t love sticker books? Sticker books are one of the best travel toys for toddlers on airplanes as they are a great time-killer thanks to little fingers having to peel and fiddle to stick each one down. Be prepared to land at your destination covered in novelty moustaches, microscopic cartoon insects and gold stars.
4. Magnetic Play Scenes
Hands up those of you whose favourite part of the holiday is being bent double under an airplane seat, picking up beads and small animal figurines and worrying that you will be crushed at any second if the person in front reclines their seat?
No, one, really? Ok then, so you need magnetic play scenes. Perfect for the airplane as well as sticking on your hotel fridge for holiday fun!
5. Lacing activities
Great for fine motor development as well as quiet fun, lacing activities are easy-to-pack travel toys to toddlers on airplanes. Choose from traditional card lacing pictures or novelty Montessori wooden lacing blocks.
6. Scratch Art
This was one of the toys we took with us on a trip to Turkey when Esmae was 16 months old; even before she could draw ‘things’ she loved scratching at the cards with her stylus and seeing the rainbow colours appear underneath. Another perfect travel toy for toddlers on airplanes that will take up hardly any room in your bag!
7. Fuzzy Felt
More mess-less art, fuzzy felt is a super lightweight and compact travel toy that toddlers will have hours of fun with. The Fuzzy Felt Farm was my personal favourite (25 years ago!) and our kids still love it today.
Kids love small-world play, but keeping track of loose small figures on a travel day is not my favourite part of travelling. These super cute mini worlds in a tin allow toddlers to play happily while keeping all the toys in one small, easy to pack tin. Win win!
9. Airplane toys
Thematic, one-piece toys that aren’t small enough to disappear down the gap in the airplane chairs, airplanes make some of the best travel toys for toddlers on airplanes. Get your toddler to match up the colours to the different planes at the airport with the multipack or give them one to match the airline you are flying with!
10. An iPad
I know, I know, you don’t want to be one of those parents with a digital babysitter. But that’s not what an iPad on a long haul flight with toddler is for; it is a wonderful, amazing, God-given tool to preserve everyone’s sanity. Trust me, when your toddler has had absolutely enough of being overwhelmed with airport security and check-in desks and the hustle and bustle of the airport and being made to sit still in an airplane seat, and having their ears pop- you need an iPad. You can of course fly without one, but when it hits the fan at 30,000 feet you could go from smug to mug in 0.5 seconds.
Don’t rely on the in-flight entertainment on a long haul flight with toddler; when we sat down for our 13-hour flight with Norwegian airlines, it turned out that the kids’ entertainment hadn’t been programmed properly and there was nothing for them to watch or play. For 13 hours. Luckily we had iPads, and we didn’t all lose our minds. Load iPads up with apps such as Peppa Pig on Holiday, Cbeebies Playtime and Cbeebies Storytime, pop a couple of their favourite movies on there, and you have a fix-all magic trick in your handbag. Don’t forget the headphones and a case- for the love of everything remember a case. If you have more than one child a headphone splitter is another thing that you will come to adore.
So, we’ve kitted you up with the best travel toys for toddlers on airplanes – congrats! If you’re heading to Asia why not check out our packing list with eco-friendly travel items as well as our budget-friendly guides to the best travel strollers, travel irons and travel kettles. Then head over to my parenting section where you can find communication tips to help keep the travel experience and a long haul flight with toddler calm and enjoyable for parents and kids!