Best Mess-Free Airplane Activities for Toddlers

I completely understand if you’re feeling anxious about traveling with your toddler(s) for the first time, and even if it’s not your toddler’s first flight, travel days bring on little nerves since tiny humans can be a bit unpredictable, and you can never be too prepared.

I’ve been there too, and honestly speaking, I still experience it with my now 4-year-old. I know the feeling of wanting to ensure you have everything your toddler could possibly need on the flight. I didn’t want to be the parent with the crying child on the plane, although we should not worry too much about that, it is a understandable feeling.

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Therefore, in this post, I have created a list of airplane activities for toddlers that will help keep small children entertained and happy throughout your air travel.

Here are some of our favorite family trip airplane activities that are also great for a road trip and a hotel room.

20+ Mess-Free Airplane Activities For Toddlers!

1. Bandages

I was shocked, too, but Bandages are one of my daughter’s favorite items to play with on plane rides. I usually go for the $1 bandage boxes from Target or Dollartree with my daughter’s favorite characters or colorful ones. The bandages actually keep her quiet and to herself for a while until she decides she’s a doctor or mom, and I got a booboo, lol.

band-aid encanto

2. Coloring Books and Crayons

If your toddler loves to color, it’s a good idea to pack small coloring books and crayons when you travel. Coloring can keep toddlers occupied for a significant amount of time, making it an excellent flight activity.

It provides a creative outlet, encouraging a sense of calm and focus, which can help mitigate restlessness and tantrums during the flight and create a more pleasant travel experience for children and parents.

Tip: Consider buying triangular crayons for toddlers still learning to grip a crayon correctly.

coloring book and crayons for travel

3. Stickers & Sticker Books

Stickers and sticker books are ideal activities for flights with toddlers. They foster creativity and imagination, allowing children to design scenes and stories using colorful stickers. Additionally, the tactile nature of stickers provides sensory stimulation, keeping little ones engaged and occupied throughout the journey. Also, sticker books are mess-free and require minimal adult supervision, making them a convenient and hassle-free option for air travel with young children.

    a) Dot Stickers

    b) Window Clings Stickers

    c) Reusable Sticker Books

4. Quiet Toys

The best travel toys are quiet toys! Quiet toys are an excellent choice for flights with toddler because they minimize disruption to your fellow passengers while still providing entertainment and stimulation for children.

These toys, such as soft plushies or simple mini puzzles, promote concentration and problem-solving skills without generating noise or distractions. Parents can help maintain a peaceful cabin atmosphere by keeping toddlers engaged in quiet play, ensuring a more pleasant travel experience for everyone onboard.

Here are some small toys for travel:

     a) Lock Key Toy

     b) Lacing Toy

     c) Texture Suction Toy

     d) Finger Puppets

     e) Magnetic Puzzles

Tip: If you can, bring onboard NEW toys for your toddler because they keep younger kids busy for longer since it’s something they’ve never played with before. Avoid toys with small pieces.

5. Play-Doh

Play-Doh is a great airplane activity for toddlers, my daughter enjoys playing with Play-Doh during long flights. She can spend a lot of time playing with it because it offers endless possibilities for creativity and imagination.

Moreover, it is mess-free and easy to clean up. Playing with Play-Doh helps develop sensory and fine motor skills, keeping children engaged for extended periods. Another great thing about Play-Doh is that it can be easily packed into small containers, making it a convenient and portable option for air travel. It provides entertainment and distraction during the flight. 

Tips: If cleanliness is essential, place a table cover on the airplane tray table for added protection.


6. Activity Books

Activity books offer a variety of small activities like engaging puzzles, mazes, and coloring activities that promote cognitive development and problem-solving skills. Their structured format provides a sense of accomplishment as your child complete each task, boosting their confidence and focus during the journey.

Additionally, activity books are lightweight and portable, making them convenient to carry and use on flights. Thus, they ensure hours of entertainment without the need for screens or excessive parental supervision.

     a) Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book

     b) Water Wow Books

     c) ImagineInk Magic Painting Books

     d) Crayola Activity Pad

     e) Crayola Washable Dry Erase

7. Busy Boards

Busy boards are an ideal activity for a long haul flight with toddlers as they offer a variety of tactile and sensory experiences that promote engagement and exploration.

With features like buttons, zippers, and switches, busy boards provide endless opportunities for fine motor skill development and problem-solving, keeping children entertained for hours.

Again, their compact and durable design makes them convenient for travel, offering a portable and versatile entertainment option. My daughter loves a good busy board buckle toy, Here some great airplane activities for your busy toddler:

     a) Away We Go Busy Board

     b) Aminy Montessori Quiet Book

     c) Control Future Busy Board

8. Tablet or Smartphone with Kid-Friendly Apps

Consider downloading some of your toddler’s favorite TV shows and movies on your smartphone or tablet if they generally keep them calm and happy. This is usually what helps my daughter fall asleep during flights. However, sometimes, she’s content with the movies or shows available on the plane, and I just connect her headphones to the screen.

Amazon Fire 7 Kids Tablet

9. Interactive Games

Play simple interactive games with your toddler, such as: 

  • I Spy 
  • Simon Says
  • The Quiet Game: See who can stay quiet longer lol.
  • Window Watching: Let your toddler look out of the airplane window and talk about what they see. Point out clouds, buildings, or other planes.

10. Mini Yoto Player

Mini Yoto Players is another great option for flights with toddlers because it offers diverse interactive audio content, including stories, music, and educational materials, keeping children engaged and entertained.

With headphones, your toddler can enjoy their favorite stories and songs without disturbing other passengers. The compact size and durability of Mini Yoto Players make them convenient for travel, providing a portable and screen-free entertainment option that can be easily customized to suit each child’s preferences

11. Drawing Tablet

Drawing tablets is an excellent activity for airplane travel with toddlers. They provide a screen-based creative outlet that can keep children engaged for extended periods without the need for additional materials. The interactive nature of drawing tablets encourages imaginative exploration and creativity while offering a mess-free experience convenient for confined spaces like airplane seats.

Additional Comfort Items for Travel

  • Comfort stuff animal
  • Comfort blanket
  • Small travel pillow 
  • Toddler Headphone 
  • Snacks / Snack Box
  • Water Bottle
  • Pacifer 
  • Disposable Airplane Tray Cove

Tip: Bring various snacks to keep your toddler munching throughout the flight. Snacks can also help with ear pressure during takeoff and landing. 

Top Tips for a Smooth Flight with Toddlers:

1. Pick two or three items from this list you think your child will enjoy and add them to your diaper bag for easy access.

2. Make sure the items you choose are new to your child because this will make them more excited and curious.

3. Bring a small pillow and blanket for extra comfort in case it gets cold during the plane ride. This will (hopefully) encourage your toddler to sleep through most of the flight.

4. Give your child the window seat, as they won’t be getting up to walk anywhere unless you take them. This way, if they fall asleep, you won’t have to wake them up. Window watching during take-off and landing at your destination is also enjoyable.

5. If your child doesn’t naturally love being in their car seat, don’t bring it onboard for them to sit on. I had to learn this the hard way, and it wasn’t fun because once the plane doors are closed, there’s nowhere to put that car seat if your child doesn’t like it. You can imagine how this went for me.

6. DON’T FORGET THE SNACKS! As you may already know, snacks are essential in your day-to-day life with a toddler.

Last Thoughts 

Long flights can be challenging for families, particularly when traveling with younger children. Although screen time may seem convenient to keep kids entertained during the flight, it is important to balance it with activities that engage their fine motor skills. Bringing along a variety of toys, books, and games that don’t rely solely on screens is a good idea, as it encourages creativity and keeps them occupied for a longer time.

For older kids, having a comfortable travel pillow and blanket can make the extended time spent in the air more bearable. At the same time, younger children may benefit from having their favorite stuffed animal or blanket from home to provide comfort during the journey.

In addition, flight attendants can be excellent resources for parents, offering assistance and even providing extra activities to keep kids entertained during the flight. With thoughtful planning and creativity, short and long flights can become enjoyable experiences for the whole family.

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Best Mess-Free Airplane Activities For Toddlers

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