Wednesday, 30 June 2010

In-flight Entertainment for Toddlers

We just got back from a long weekend away which is why I haven't yet posted anything this week. I've called this post 'in-flight entertainment' but really it's for any journey, by plane, car, train.... Rather than general travel tips which I have covered previously, this is a list of activities or entertainment for keeping your little ones amused when you travel. I've asked other mums what worked best for them on their travels and combined their answers with things that have worked for our son too.

Being prepared for travel is the best way to ensure the journey goes as smoothly as possible. I keep a little child-size rucksack full of small toys, books etc for travel so it's all ready to go. That also means the toys are either new or rarely seen giving them an extra novelty value. My mother-in-law told me she used to pack a couple of favourite toys a week or so before they went on a trip so her children didn't get to play with them the week before they left. That way, they'd be really pleased to see them when she pulled them out of a bag on the plane or in the car.

Here are 10 ways to keep your toddler entertained on a journey:

Portable dvd player. Not for everyone but if you are happy to ration their viewing or don't care about rationing it, I hear this is the most long-lasting way to keep them happy on a journey. I read recently that dvds were taking over more tradtional travel games like 'I spy'.

iPhone apps & games. Again not every parent wants their child playing with a phone or may want to limit the time spent on it but there are certainly some good apps out there for toddlers, such as the toddler flashcards.

Etch A Sketch. On the suggestion of a friend I picked up one of these from a pound shop. Yes, it's a bit flimsy but it's perfect for travel and doesn't matter if it breaks. The same friend advised I attached the accompanying pen with a piece of string to avoid it being dropped or thrown. That was a great tip!

Stickers. One of my friends told me her daughter loves to stick them on her head! Otherwise there are sticker books you can pick up inexpensively, or you can stick them on all kinds of surfaces.

Colouring. Probably best if you are seated next to them to engage them in some colouring and catch any falling crayons but you can find small sized packs of crayons and colouring books that are ideal for travel.

Books. Lift-the-flap books are good to engage your toddler in the book. Travel or holiday themed books can be fun.

CDs. Best for the car, a nursery rhyme CD can be an alternative to you doing all the singing or something you can all sing along to! A friend of mine uses In the Night Garden story CDs which are a big hit with her daughter. For older toddlers, stories are good, especially those with funny noises or voices. Sometimes, just regular music on the radio can appease my son.

Small push-along toys. Especially good if you are on the plane or train where your child can use a table as a surface to push them along on. My son was very happily engrossed on our most recent trip, playing with little trucks, pushing them back and forth on the fold-down tray table on the plane.

Play dough. With supervision, play dough can wile away some time, rolling it into shapes and pulling apart again. You can get it in small tubs which facilitate transportation.

Other children. Seeing other children on a plane or train can be a great distraction. Sometimes they just like to watch one another or maybe they even share toys.

As parents, it's also nice to engage our children in the travel experience itself. Show and tell them what's around them or what they can see out of the window, explain what's going to happen on the journey and give out positive happy vibes about your family adventure! If you're on a plane or train, take them for a walk to show them other people, doors, windows, eating areas and point out passing trains, people, clouds and whatever else.

I'd love to have other suggestions from you. Let me know in the comments what keeps your toddlers happy when you travel.


Photo credit



  1. Our boys watched several films back-to-back on the DVD player when we drove to the Alps earlier this year. They don't normally watch a lot of tv but we were stuck in the car for a long time! On a flight, I try to 'zone' the time - make the most of take off, find a relatively lively activity before food (I spy, games, even a trip to the loo!) then eek out the length taken to eat, followed by story books or even sleep, then make a big thing of landing.

  2. All of your suggestions are great! On our last trip both of my children enjoyed a drawing app on my iphone where they could save their pictures. I have also found some childrens magazines to take on trips that they enjoy looking through with fun pictures and information. Recently I also found a little tin that has magnetic games perfect for the car/plane. This post was perfectly timed as we are taking a quick trip this weekend! Thanks for the ideas!

  3. Thanks for your additional tips ladies!

    Blissful Mum - I like your description of 'zoning' the time. Good advice!

    Tiffany - hope your trip went well. The childrens' magazines and magnetic games are great suggestions.


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!