Great Ways To Entertain Kids On A Plane (Ages 0-12)
Have you planned a holiday abroad with the whole family? You may be feeling a mix of emotions. It's exciting to spend some quality time with your partner and children. Yet, you may also be dreading being cooped up on the plane with your tired, hungry and potentially bored kids.
We have identified the best travel activities for kids up to twelve years old. So, you don't have to worry about being a parent with a screaming baby, toddler temper tantrums or older siblings squabbling. We have you covered with the best ideas from newborn to tweens. Use the contents page below to skip to your children's age groups.
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Entertaining Babies on a Plane
Ages 0-3 Months
Flying with a newborn baby can be relatively straightforward if planned well. A young baby spends most of his or her time sleeping and feeding (enjoy this while it lasts!). As such, this period is a golden opportunity for travelling with a baby on a plane.
Many first-time parents miss this period because they're not sure what age is too early to travel with a newborn. For instance, a newborn's immune system isn't as strong and their little one's health can be a worry. However, as far as entertainment goes, newborns are the easiest.
How to entertain a newborn on a plane:
- Make facial expressions to your baby (smiling, sticking out your tongue etc.)
- Show your newborn himself or herself using a soft baby mirror
- Let them touch different textured toys
- Sing quietly to your newborn
- Chat to your baby
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Ages 3-6 Months
Your baby will still get plenty of shut-eye during these early months of their life. However, you may find it useful to fly prepared with a few sensory toys for newborns which includes soft books. There's no need to pack too much, you'll need to save the room for nappies!
Once on board, your baby will enjoy staring into your eyes, possibly smiling and observing everything around them. Try showing your baby new objects, saying the names of each item and narrating what you are doing. Most importantly, don't forget to put teethers in your carry-on bag. This will help calm your teething baby on the plane, should a new tooth develop or they need help relieving the pressure in their ears.
Ages 6-12 Months
The second half of a baby's first year is already extremely exciting without throwing too many new activities into the mix. They're fascinated by interacting with their surroundings. You can expect them to be entertained by the plane window shades, fold-out table and even the seatbelt.
Of course, you don't want to try your luck. It's always best to bring a few of their favourite toys and soft books as well. We recommend flying with a handful of pushchair and travel toys. You will also find that highchair toys are very convenient as they stick nicely to the plane table.
Some parents strategically plan flights during the baby's nap time. This will minimise disturbances to their schedule and reduce the number of hours needed for entertainment. If you are paying for your child to have a seat, then a car seat or select travel cots make the perfect bed.
How To Entertain A Toddler On A Plane
1-2 year olds need a lot more toys and planned activities to keep them entertained. This is particularly the case if you are doing international travel with a toddler. We have gathered some of the best travel activities for toddlers so you can avoid those mid-flight tantrums!
Some may suggest play dough. However, we don't think it is particularly suitable for travelling with a two-year-old on a plane. After all, imagine getting the play dough stuck in the chairs, clothes and carpet. It's not the best way to stay on the cabin crew's 'good side'.
Instead, try using mess-free activity sets and books. For instance, Crayola's Mess Free range - these sets can be reused and don't take up too much space. Stickers are always a win and at this age, you don't need a fancy sticker book. Different shapes, colours and their favourite characters will do!
Buckle toys, often found with other soft toys, somehow manage to keep your toddler's little fingers busy for longer than the average activity. Fastening and releasing the buckles enables your toddler to work on his or her fine motor skills. Colour coordinated buckle toys are one of the best travel activities for toddlers.
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Top tip when packing for your toddler: Fasten the buckle toys onto the outside of any bag or buggy for added carry-on space!
Finger puppets are a great way to keep your little one occupied. This flight activity for toddlers usually results in outbursts of laughter, so it's best to play the game when the other passengers are not sleeping! Plus, as finger puppets are very small and light, you will have no problem packing them into your carry-on bag.
What is your child obsessed with at home? Pack a bag for pretend play. These activity bags, which are made in advance, are called 'busy bags'. Your tot can easily transform into a chef, doctor or race car driver. These busy bags are one of the best ways to entertain kids on a plane. Older siblings will also want to get involved!
Best Make-Believe Toddler Busy Bags For Plane Journeys
What to include in a little chef busy bag:
- Play frying pan (small)
- Laminated food cut-outs
- A spoon
- Folded chef hat
- Small plate
Top tip: reduce carry-on items by asking the cabin crew for cups and cutlery.
How to make a car busy bag:
- Add three of their favourite cars or buy a new car set
- Buy tape with road markings or a foldable road playmat
- Include a box with an opening and closing feature to be the garage
- Add laminated traffic signs, trees and people
Entertaining Kids On A Plane
Keeping 3-4 Year Old Kids Busy During Flights
3-4 year olds love to learn and have better concentration at this stage compared to younger children. For that reason, you can pack a bit lighter. However, as you are aware, kids still get cranky! Fly prepared with our favourite plane activities for three-year-olds and four-year-olds.
- Travel Books: We imagine your youngster uses the word 'why' frequently. Well, a holiday is the best time to promote their curiosity and encourage learning. Buy a few age-appropriate books about travel and the country you are visiting. For instance, you could get a relevant storybook coupled with a flag sticker book.
- Mess-Free Activities: Melissa and Doug On The Go Water Wow books are the go-to method for entertaining kids on a plane. Similarly, Crayola's Mess Free range or the Water Magic books. These booklets come with a pen that uses water to make colours on the pages of the children's colouring book.
- Snack Time: Why not turn snack time into a fun counting activity? For instance, provide your children with a pack of raisins and inspire them to count each raisin before eating it. Not only is this travel activity educational but it will prolong snack time. Encourage your kids to chew properly before moving onto the next raisin.
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Flight Activities For Children Aged 5-6
- Mosaic Sticker Books: One of the best travel activities for kids aged five to six. Younger and older children tend to enjoy this activity too. You could buy a travel version and let all the siblings take turns using the book. Alternatively, choose age-specific mosaic sticker books with your child's favourite story characters.
- Go Fish: A family favourite in Britain and abroad. The game is a perfect bonding activity with your child during a long flight. Alternatively, pull out the game for siblings to play together while you get a little shut-eye.
- Out Foxed: Another fantastic game for 5-6 year olds. Mature four-year-olds can easily participate, as well as their older siblings. Unlike some competitive board games, this one involves teamwork from all the players. So it's great for kids who can be sore losers!
- Fuzzy Felt Board: A classic toy that works like a charm at keeping kids busy when flying abroad. The activity comes in various themes, such as farm animals. Other versions showcase popular characters, such as Paw Patrol. Kids will spend ages creating a world of their own with these felt figures and boards, making it a great way to entertain kids on a plane.
Top tip: Take a high-quality photograph of the Out Foxed board and have it printed on a cloth or large paper to save on space!
Best Plane Projects And Toys For Kids Aged 7-9
- Top Trumps: A fantastic card game for entertaining kids on a plane, particularly children between seven and eight years of age. Your kids can exchange with each other or friends they meet on holiday! The card game has been (and remains) a big hit with children as it features all of their favourite TV and storybook characters.
- Numbered Colouring Books: These require patience from your child, keeping them occupied for extended periods! If your child enjoys getting stuck into a colouring book, then the numbered version is for you. It takes a bit of skill and plenty of concentration. The books tend to be quite thin for easy storage.
- LEGO: One of the best travel games for kids. You can find age-specific LEGO (as I'm sure you know) for your child. We don't advise taking a big LEGO set as it is easy for pieces to get lost. However, if you are happy with getting spares, LEGO is the way to go. Parents swear by LEGO as a way to pass hours when travelling on a plane!
Fun Things To Do On A Plane For Tweens Aged 9-12
- Miniature Board Games: Fun travel games are perfect for tweens. It gives them the chance to put away the electronics and spend one-on-one time with you or their siblings. These days, all the popular board games come with a miniature to-go version, perfect for entertaining kids on a plane. So you can pack the family favourites and still travel light.
- Travel Playlists: Tweens often love music. So why not download their favourite tunes or encourage them to create a special travel playlist before your holiday? Encourage your tweens to save their playlists directly to their mobile (if they own one). Alternatively, purchase a family iPod or MP3 player. Then everyone can take turns listening to their personalised tracks.
- Magazines: At the airport, let your tween purchase a magazine of their choosing. There are so many options to choose from, be it about sports, crafts or their favourite TV shows. Often the magazines come with a freebie and several activities inside the pages.
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Best Travel Games For Families Flying Abroad
Get Financial With Travel Money Games
Entertaining kids on a plane doesn't have to be limited to toys. You can make up educational games too! Why not play games that enhance your children's money, maths and cultural skills?
For instance, give your children a small holiday allowance. Before you fly, take your child to a currency exchange cashier. Have your son or daughter exchange a set number of coins (depending on their age). When on board the flight, take the new money out and play our fun money games.
Play these money games with the new currency:
- Explore the money (plenty of conversation and interaction from the offset).
- Younger siblings can find all of the same coins. For example, find all of the 25 cent coins by matching their appearance.
- Aid your child's development by helping them to match the foreign coins with those from your country. For instance, £1.00 would be matched with $1.00.
- Help your children arrange the coins into the order of numerical value.
- See if your child can match price tags with the available coins.
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Make Memories With Photos And Crafting
Purchase a disposable camera for each of your children. Remind your kids to choose their shots wisely as the camera produces a limited number of photos. This will help your children learn the value of distributing their resources evenly over time, a valuable budgeting lesson. The kids will love taking photos throughout the holiday.
This is one of the best travel activities for kids because when you get home, the fun doesn't stop. Get the photos developed and turn them into craft projects. Everyone can make their own holiday scrapbook with the photos they took. Everyone will enjoy getting involved with glitter pens, pom-poms and stickers.
More Of The Best Travel Games For Families To Play Together:
- Travel Articulate
- Drawful 2 (Using the family-friendly filter)
- Deck of cards
- Magnetic travel games (Ludo, chess, Snakes and Ladders etc.)
- Mad Libs
- Connect 4