In full and honest disclosure I’m going to tell you that onboard a flight I’ve learned to throw the rules out the window—even if I’m sitting in an aisle seat.
Because my only mission onboard a flight with young kids is simply get through the flight with my sanity and humility still intact because kids will truly test your limits in small spaces. And I’ve found that the best way to make this happen is 1. Be prepared. and 2. Get rid of the rules.
This means that even though we don’t allow screen time at home, onboard a flight, or on a road trip, my kids are sometimes allowed to watch hours of a show or movie, though obviously this is dependent on how long the flight is. And this is because, in the same way that I want to be entertained sitting in a chair, my kids want it even more, and have a much harder time sitting in that chair.
But I do use screen time as a last resort, and have found other activities they love that I always offer first. Each of these items is small enough to bring in a carry-on bag, backpack, or purse and can either be purchased at Target, Amazon, Dollar Store, or usually anywhere there’s a kids travel/craft section. But for easy access I have also provided Amazon links* to each one. All of these also double as great road trip and “busy” items for restaurants, waiting room activities, etc. I have a box in a closet next to my garage door so I can just grab an item below, when needed, as were heading out.
- Travel size (mini) magnadoodle
- Anything by Crayola Color Wonder Crayola, you really changed the game with this one. And this mom, and every other who has never known what it’s like to clean paint off a couch thanks you deeply. My kids are especially partial to the paintbrush pens, and love the character books.
- Magnetic Fun Tins: With this your kids have the ability to create an entire play scene using the magnetic characters inside.
- Imagine Ink and Water Wow: A Magic marker coloring set my kids love, have been using for years and years, and oddly aren’t sick of yet. Instead they just keep asking me to buy more.
- Play Packs: I’ve also used these many times as goodie bag favors!
- Activity/Workbooks for kids: This link is a personal favorite of my eldest daughters, and one she still loves and uses to this day many times. But then, who doesn’t love Junie B. Jones?
- Puzzle in a tin: My kids also love these, but I save them for airports as finding these pieces underneath airplane seats isn’t fun. But it does keep them quiet at the gate.
- Set of Mini Magna Tiles: One of my kids favorite (and most expensive) toys ever is their magna tile set! They could sit and play with them for a good 30 minutes (I won’t lie and say an hour. Nothing is that miraculous.) before I hear a peep out of them. So once on an overnight flight I thought there has to be a way to bring some along, without sacrificing my expensive ones at home, and still carrying a small bag of them. Well, once again, thank you Amazon. This entire bag of mini tiles is a little bigger than my hand, can easily fit inside of a backpack, and only costs $11.99!! Plus because they/re magnetic you’re less likely to lose pieces (or dig underneath a plane seat) since they all stick together!
- Book to read and/or journal to write in: I feel like this should go without saying, but sometimes we overlook the obvious. Just like adults, sometimes a brand new book and an empty notebook one can scribble their thoughts in makes such a big impact entertainment wise. And this is the teacher/writing teacher/writer in me talking, but please, please, buy your kids empty pretty notebooks to write in and a new pen/pencil and watch the paragraphs flow. Trust me. There are even some fun travel ones that can be purchased that I’m excited to us for my own daughter!
- Wild Card: A brand new toy/activity your kids loves and/or has been asking for. This is the wild card category. Sometimes, especially on a longer flight, I’ll save a brand new toy they can open on the plane or in the car if its a road trip. They’ll be so excited to play with it and will find it entertaining for a while!