Learn hands-on ways to take the stress out of flying with young children with no-screen ways to entertain kids from Shawna!
Traveling with young children can be overwhelming, but these hands-on tips will help you get through those hours on a plane. Bonus: all are 100% no-screen ways to entertain kids on a plane!
Try these simple sanity-savers for car trips, too.
No-Screen Ways to Entertain Kids on a Plane
I remember the first time we traveled with kids, our oldest was only one. Anxiety set in immediately after we had booked our trip.
“What am I possibly going to do with a one-year-old on an airplane for six hours?”
Well, beyond being extremely anxious, we did make it through those hours on the plane. And, we’re still taking family vacations regularly!
Our children are now three and six. We take family vacations once, if not twice a year.
I really try to make it a point to avoid screens, even when we’re on a plane.
Through the years, we have accumulated a tons of ideas for no-screen ways to entertain kids on a plane.
I’m giving you the skinny on exactly how we get everyone through those hours on an airplane with as few bumps and bruises as possible.
Get the Kids to Buy-In to the Plane Trip
First, I bought each of the girls their own small backpack to carry.
So simple! We filled their backpacks with:
- their own snack kit
- a reusable water bottle
- an activity case
Wow, were the girls ever proud to be carrying their own bag onto the airplane. They were so cute. The flight attendants even commented on how big their smiles were.
Getting to carry their own bags gave them ownership of the trip, it really made them feel important.
However, don’t overstuff the kids’ carry-on bags. Chances are high that you might end up carrying those backpacks at some point on the journey.
Keep the Kids Fed for Your Own Sanity’s Sake
Hungry kids are cranky kids, so bring a snack kit.
We use a large freezer bag filled with an abundance of snacks.
Yes, we all have our routines we follow but while on an airplane those usually get thrown out the window.
My girls thought it was so awesome that they had their own snack kit that they could choose from at any time.
There will also be snacks and drinks on the plane, but those might not please pickier eaters. So having a stash of sure-to-please snacks will 100% save you.
Pack enough to have 1-2 small snacks per hour of the flight. Just be sure to comply to the airlines rules for getting through security.
Bring Activities To Do When Flying with Young Children
A travel activity kit is also a great idea to make and bring for each child.
We just used a pencil case to entertain for each of the kids on the plane.
In our travel kit, we packed the following to entertain the kids on the plane:
- pencil cases
- stuffed full of lots of small toys and games
- activities to do on the plane
The girls each chose their own color pencil case and I filled them with activities that would keep them entertained on the airplane.
Pro Tip: Bring Presents
Yes, I’m telling you to bring presents.
And yes, you’ll want to wrap them.
All kids love to unwrap presents. Plus, unwrapping carefully takes some time, and secretly works on their fine motor skills.
Wrap up a few little toys from your local dollar store. Pick small things, like mini-puzzles and small, non-bouncy toys.
The kids will have a blast unwrapping and playing with a new toy on the airplane.
You could tie the presents to certain time markers, like a new present every hour. Or use them as rewards for good behavior.
Pack All Kinds of Stickers
Stickers are light and don’t take up much room in a bag. They are always a necessity when we travel.
Stickers are kind of a must-have for every parent, but it’s also one of my favorite ways to entertains kids on a plane without breaking out the screens.
Play this fun follow the line sticker activity – it’s tray table friendly!
We love just plain sheets of stickers but also adore sticker activity packs. One fall trip found my kids making sticker jack o’ lantern faces!
Bring a Deck of UNO Cards
UNO cards are also high on our packing list for the kids (an affiliate link to make it easy to grab your own deck quick).
Plus, it’s something for the adults to do if the kids ever fall asleep. (Hey, I can dream!)
Not only do my kids love playing traditional UNO, there are so many other activities you can do with uno cards that help develop number sense.
Here is a list of ways to play with a deck of UNO Cards:
- sort the cards by color or number
- arrange them into numerical order
- place an amount of stickers on a paper that match the corresponding number or color (dot stickers work great for this)
- count out M & M’s to match a corresponding number and color (this also doubles into a snack)
- rearrange and sort the cards to play some traditional card games like Go Fish, War, Snap and Old Maid
Gummy Snacks Pull Double Duty to Entertain Kids on a Plane
Gummy snacks are a great item to bring on an airplane.
They can be sorted by color or shape. Gummies can build towers, too.
Of course, they also double as a yummy snack.
Bonus, packing a double duty ‘snacktivity’ item, like gummies, also saves space in the backpack.
My girls both loved this activity!
Try Tape for a No-Screen Way to Entertain Kids on a Plane
Tape is great. And it is so flexible, transforming into tons of fun, easy activities!
Bringing a roll of tape on a plane is one of my favorite tips for flying with young children!
My girls played doctor with their stuffed animals, rescued small animal figures (one of their wrapped presents) from tape, and peeled up lines of tape.
Other things the kids could do with tape on a plane:
- make tape shapes on the tray table
- tape designs on the windows, then peel off
- make balls of tape, shoot them into the tiny drink cups
- DIY a tape road and drive tiny toy cars along it
- use long pieces of tape to attach crayons to the table to avoid them rolling away
- tape letters, words, and their names onto the tray table
- use tape to divide the seats into “zones” to avoid squabbles over space
- add pieces of tape to secure headphones or other valuable items
We used painters tape because it’s easy to peel off of things and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.
Advanced Flyers Can String Beads on the Plane
Now that I have a few flights under my belt, I’m ready to level up. This activity isn’t for novices flying with young children!
Beads and string were two more items I included in the girls’ activity kits. They promote fine motor skills and pattern building.
Precutting the string ahead of time was also a good idea so the kids could make multiple things with the beads.
You could also use pipe cleaners or yarn for sturdier stringing options.
Fair warning: the beads will roll around. Bring something to contain them or be okay with the mess.
Sticky Notes Save the Flight Again
My girls also love sticky notes on airplanes.
Bringing a pack or two of sticky notes is one of my best tips for flying with young children.
It’s definitely a sanity saver when flying with young children.
They colored on them, we played a homemade matching game and we also played hide and seek with them.
They loved sticking them all of the seats and walls, as well!
Pack Magnetic Whiteboard with Dry Erase Markers and Magnets
Lastly, one more item that entertains the kids in multiple ways while on plane is a small magnetic whiteboard.
When flying with young children, you can:
- draw pictures
- create patterns with magnets
- play guess the number/letter/shape
- play hangman
- sort magnets by colour
The possibilities are endless when it comes to a whiteboard. The girls loved the multiple ways it could be used.
Traveling with kids is a fun way to support learning and explore, making memories with the people you love.
It is an epic adventure filled with fun, laughter, new experiences and memories that will last forever.