15 Screen-Free Ways To Entertain a Toddler on a Flight

Long flights with a toddler can be challenging, especially when screens aren’t an option.

Trust me, I’m not high and mighty about screen time; it’s just that my toddler refuses to wear headphones, making screens impractical for us.

So after over more than 100 flights with my 22 month old, several of which were over 15 hours long, I’ve found numerous ways to keep him entertained without relying on electronic devices. Here are 15 tried-and-true methods to make your journey smoother and more enjoyable from one parent to another:

1. Stickers

Flying with a toddler

You guys, stickers are a fantastic, mess-free way to keep a toddler busy. It’s an activity that requires focus and can keep them occupied for a good amount of time, and it’s quiet and repetitive. Show me a toddler who doesn’t love repetition.

I pack a big sticker book with hundreds of stickers and pages and we slowly make our way through it flight by flight. It’s a special thing I usually only bust out on plane journeys, so he looks forward to them and gets excited when it’s sticker time.

2. Finger Foods That Take a While to Eat

Healthy Eating Facts for Kids

Finger foods that require time and effort to eat are a great distraction. Snacks like raisins, blueberries, or small crackers can keep your toddler busy as they work to pick them up and eat them. Plus, it doubles as a way to keep their tummies satisfied.

I have a list of my 20 no-mess favorite foods here.

3. Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-boo never gets old for toddlers. You can use a blanket, a scarf, or even your hands to play this simple yet engaging game. It’s a great way to get giggles and keep them entertained.

I have yet to get through a game of peek-a-boo with my toddler being the one to get over it first. He can play that game forever.

4. Gentle Pillow Fight

A gentle pillow fight can be a fun way to expend some energy. If you’re flying internationally, you probably are going to receive a pillow and a blanket, and as long as you have the space without disturbing anyone, It’s a soft, safe way to engage in a bit of rough-and-tumble play.

If you’re American, there’s also a good chance you can build up credit card points to fly business class with your toddler while they’re still a lap infant, which allowed him to move and climb more and made our lives easier.

5. Small Toys

Traveling with a toddler on a road trip

I pack a few small toys — usually from whatever Lovevery Playkit we’re on at the momnet — that are easy to handle and don’t make much noise.

Things like mini cars, small dolls, or action figures can provide hours of imaginative play. I rotate them out so there’s always something new to hold his interest.

6. Let Them Walk the Aisles

When the seatbelt sign is off, letting our toddler walk up and down the aisles is one of our favorite ways to survive the fight. It can be a great way to burn off some energy. We make it a little adventure by counting the seats or spotting different colors on the plane.

If he’s feeling social, sometimes he’ll wave at people as we walk by, and most people smile and wave back.

7. Bathroom Visits

Use bathroom visits as an opportunity to stretch legs and have a little break from sitting. It’s also a good time to change diapers and freshen up. My toddler enjoys the change of scenery and the novelty of the airplane bathroom.

8. Color Wonder Markers

Color Wonder markers are magic! They only color on special paper, which means no mess on the airplane seats or clothing. I bring a small Color Wonder coloring book and a few markers to keep my toddler creatively engaged.

9. Busy Board

Best Toddler Travel Toys

A busy board is a great way to keep older toddlers entertained. They usually come with buckles, belts, velcro, and a bunch of other everyday items that require motor skills to use.

They’re a great way to provide entertainment while helping your child learn.

10. Hand Puppets

Hand puppets can be a source of endless fun and storytelling. I bring a couple of small puppets and use them to create little stories or play interactive games with my toddler.

It’s not something they can realistically do on their own, but if you have an older sibling along, they may enjoy putting on a puppet show for your toddler.

11. Magnetic Drawing Board

A magnetic drawing board is a wonderful, mess-free way to let your toddler draw and erase over and over again. It’s compact and perfect for travel. My toddler loves making shapes and doodles, and then wiping them away to start fresh.

12. Water Wow! Books

Best Toddler Travel Toys

Water Wow! books are a fantastic travel toy. They use a refillable water pen to reveal colors and pictures on each page. Once the pages dry, the colors disappear, and they can be used again. It’s a clean and reusable activity that my toddler loves.

13. Window Shade ‘Fun’

If your toddler is in their own seat, they’re probably next to the window, as most airlines won’t allow small children in the aisle seats. When this is the case, my toddler sure loves pushing up and pulling down the window shade.

If it’s one that gets stuck easily that can sometimes lead to a meltdown, so tread carefully.

14. Playdough

A small amount of playdough can keep a toddler engaged for quite a while. I bring a couple of small containers and let my toddler squish, roll, and create. Just be mindful to keep it on the tray table to avoid making a mess.

15. Suction Cup Spinners

Depending on the age of your toddler, they may be young enough to be entertained by spinners stuck on the airplane window. This worked for a while for us, though looking out the window, especially during take off and landing, is the most entertaining option of all.

Final Thoughts

Entertaining a toddler on a long flight without screens can be challenging, but with a little creativity and preparation, it’s entirely doable. From interactive games to engaging toys and activities, these 15 methods have helped us get through countless flights. The key is variety and keeping their little minds and hands busy. Happy travels!

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