My husband and I just took our two toddlers (ages 16 months and 3.5 years) on a trip from the east coast to Hawaii. We had four legs of our trip and each flight was six hours long. Before we left, I considered heavily what we would bring to entertain our little ones on our plane ride.
I’m happy to report that our kids did amazing on the flights and loved what I brought with us. I took a variety of toys they already owned and loved plus a couple of new and novel things they hadn’t seen before. Overall we were able to keep them entertained with a flexible schedule of play-eat-bathroom-play-eat-bathroom for all of our flights.
My kids slept probably a total of one hour on all of the flights so if you are expecting your child to sleep, I wouldn’t necessarily count on it. While my son did sleep easily when he was under age one, planes are new environments and are kind of noisy so sleep might be much harder for them.
After 24 hours of airplane travel last month, I’m excited to share with you my suggestions for what to pack! These were some of our favorite travel toys and my top contenders for what to pack.
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Tips For Packing Your Baby’s Toys
Each of my kids had their own seats on this long journey of ours so they were able to bring their own carry ons. We purchased for each of them the backpacks from Ten Little and they were the absolute perfect size. I also know that these are great quality back packs and they will get a ton of use out of them over the years.
Another tip I have is to try to pack light toys for them, especially if you expect your child to wear their own back pack or travel bag. The weight of toys can add up and I was surprised at how quickly their packs felt heavy!
Consider if your child will have their own seat or be lap infant. This can change which toys you decide to pack! We booked both of my kids seats on our long-haul flights (it was worth the extra cost this time, for sure).
I would also personally avoid anything that has sound effects. It’s a good idea to be mindful of the passengers around you (otherwise the flight attendant might tell you to keep it down).
Other than books, we also went with soft toy options because they are easier to squish into a bag.
So with all that said, here let’s dive into my top 20 picks for baby toys for airplane travel. You obviously do not have to pack all of these. I think 5 or 6 is the right amount to keep them entertained!
20 Best Baby Toys For Airplane Travel
I’m going to be quite honest with you, there’s no way we would have survived 24 hours of flying without tablets. Okay, we would have survived but truthfully they did make it way easier for us all around.
We try to limit screen time to when we really need it. I really have no qualms with screens but I do view them as a tool to engage my child in a quiet activity when I really need it. However, when traveling that mostly goes out the window. We allow them (both my 1.5 and 3.5 year old) to watch a variety of shows on their Amazon Fire Tablets. We have profiles set up for them so they can only view certain things. Additionally, we download episodes of a few of their favorite shows and let them watch them as they wish.
Make sure you also get your child acquainted with using headphones as they are required on planes. Interestingly enough, my 1.5 year old preferred to just watch his tablet without sound and no headphones. My 3.5 year old loved using the head phones. I’ll link the tablets we have and the headphones we use below:
2. Buckle Toy
We have the Buckle Barrel from the Lovevery Companion Play Kit and my 1.5 year old is absolutely obsessed with it. By the end of our trip he was able to put the entire barrel of buckles together in under 30 seconds. It’s quite impressive actually.
But buckle toys overall are super easy to pack, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes and great for fine motor development. They are also extremely entertaining and work for a large range of age groups.
3. Pop Its
Both of my kids love playing with pop its. These little fidget toys are lightweight and comes in a ton of color and shape options to match any kids’ interest. These are great for developing fine motor skills!
I always find that kids are more likely to engage with things they find interesting so it might be fun to pack them one that is in a shape of something they love.
4. Engaging Books and Lift The Flap Books
Books are always a go-to for us. My youngest is really into lift the flap books at the moment so I packed a few stories for him. I read them to him on the plane and we got a solid hour out of him lifting the flaps and engaging with the book.
You can pick a book they already love (that’s what I did) or pack an entirely new one so that it is a novel experience for them.
5. Spinners and Squigz
These are entertaining to attach to the window of the plane or put on the tray table. Your child will likely also enjoy taking them on and off and suctioning them different places so it’s basically a two in one activity!
6. Suction Cup Toys
These are definitely a little bulkier to pack but are so fascinating for kids from about six months to two years old. They come in a variety of types (linked below) so you can pick one that will interest your baby the most!
I also think these are great because you can take them to restaurants and suction them to the table. This is screen-free entertainment while you wait for your meal (and try to eat it while it’s still hot!).
I love that these come in different designs and bright colors. There is a reason they are on a lot of best airplane toys lists!
7. Busy Books or Quiet Books or Busy Board
These are quite literally a saving grace! Busy Books have been a long-time favorite of ours because they contain so many activities all in one book.
We bought my oldest son a busy book from Etsy when he was around 1.5 years old. His little brother plays with it now! I highly recommend packing a busy book. There are a ton of options out there at a super reasonable price. Just pick one that will interest your child and match their skill level!
Most of them do require some assembly so I recommend taking the time to prep these before your flight so you can pull it out and surprise them. You might also consider packing some plastic bags for the pieces as some of them do have a large number of small pieces that go with them.
8. Work Books
I do some pre-k workbooks with my oldest son on a regular basis and through those, I discovered he has an affinity for mazes! So to entertain him on the plane, I packed a workbook from Highlights full of just mazes! It wasn’t his favorite thing we brought with us but it did entertain him for quite some time!
9. Water Magic Painting
For kids who love painting without the mess, these type of painting books are so handy. They’re perfect for little art lovers! Instead of worrying about filling the pen up with water, allow them to dip their brush in a cup of water. This also takes a little bit longer to complete the activity so they’ll spend more time on it as well.
Coloring, especially with magic wonder markers that only color on the corresponding paper, are a perfect activity for airplane travel. If your little one loves art, definitely pack this as an activity!
11. DIY Snack Tray
I made two of these and packed them for my boys on the first part of our flight. They loved opening and closing the sections and finding the snacks they were looking for. I will say, though, that they were most interested in the sweets and tended to leave behind the savory items. So if you do make these, consider having it as a “treat” instead of a meal.
I used monthly pill organizers to do this but if you have concerns about your child confusing this with medication, do not use these kinds of containers.
I packed them loads of our favorite snacks from Thrive Market (here is 40% off your first order).
12. DIY Sensory Bin with Play Dough
This is not something I ended up packing for this trip (I went with the snack tray idea instead) but I think making a DIY sensory bin is an awesome idea, especially for littles who love these kinds of activities at home.
If your little one loves play dough, make them a sensory bin that includes some play dough and little items they can play with! You can pull from at home sensory bins or grab some small items that will be new and interesting to them. I would not use any materials that are messy or don’t stick together, personally.
13. Magnetic Puzzle
My 3.5 year old is super into puzzles right now so I packed him a two-in-one magnetic puzzle he could easily do on the plane tray. I will caution you and say this is was one of the heaviest things we packed. It wasn’t too heavy but his back pack was much lighter without it.
These do come in a couple of different varieties and styles and I’d recommend picking the type that your child will not only engage with but the one you realistically have space for!
14. Magnetic Tracing Maze or Magnetic Drawing Boards
We first bought these for use in the car on a road trip in place of a tablet on long trips. They are great for pre-writing hand strength and also engaging your child in an activity beyond staring at a screen. My preschooler loves the one we have for him. They are surprisingly lightweight and easy to transport!
15. Sensory Books
These are especially great for little ones, sensory books offer a variety of textures and activities in a small package. My kids especially loved these around 4-8 months. They are lightweight and easy to travel with. I highly recommend throwing one in your bag if you have a baby!
As a bonus, many of them have chewable items or a teething toy attached which is also great for this age and stage where babies love to mouth anything and everything.
These soft books are a great way to introducing different textures to small children and young babies. We also love a soft activity book for a long car ride.
16. “I Spy” Books
My 3.5 year old is a huge fan of “I Spy” both books and the game! I always play “I Spy” with him on drives or when I need him to hang in there for a little longer (like when we’re waiting to deplane, for example). He loves it and it’s fascinating for him! There are also a ton of “I Spy” books that are fun and engaging for little ones. I think this is a great option for young children in general!
17. Tiny Cars
I cannot tell you how many times these tiny cars saved us. I kept them in the diaper bag and my purse and was able to break them out at restaurants and on the plane for immediate entertainment. My kids love driving these over everything and playing with them wherever we are.
My kids are so fascinated by these and love them. I seriously have tiny cars and vehicles stored all over my bags. You could even do the same with finger puppets. They are highly entertaining toddler travel toys that don’t take up much space or have a ton of small parts.
Here you can see these small toys in action entertaining my littles as we wait for shave ice:
18. Sticker Books
I did not pack these on this trip but am keeping the idea in my back pocket for upcoming travel. Kids always love stickers and there are so many travel-sized books out there for options to make various scenes and stories.
At home we love the Melissa and Doug puffy sticker books but I would definitely go with something more travel sized that would fit in their back packs or your own bag for travel purposes.
If your baby is younger, I would definitely pack some teething toys and “chew” toys so to speak. Teething babies especially will love having these and the chewing motion can be helpful for landing and take off when they need their ears to pop.
20. Your Child’s FAVORITE Toy
The last thing I want to add this as the last one on the list because if you pack your child’s favorite toy, it will likely be the thing that entertains them for the longest time! But not only that, the sense of familiarity can give them comfort in an unusual and unfamiliar environment.
When reading lists of the best toys for airplane travel, it can be easy to get caught up in the ideas. And while I strongly believe in everything on this list, the best thing to bring is truly what your child loves most. And if that happens to be a stuffed animal, definitely don’t forget that at home!!
In Summary: Best Baby Toys For Airplane Travel
I hope this list gave you some inspiration on what to pack to entertain your little ones on the airplane! Family travel and traveling with kids is very rewarding and (mostly) a fun adventure.
These are all great travel toys, no matter how you’re traveling! Let me know any other suggestions you have in the comments.
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