Let’s face it: the thought of being stuck on an airplane with an energetic kid for hours is enough to send shivers down any parent’s spine. But with a little planning and ingenuity, you can keep sane and your child entertained!
Below are activities I packed for my three year old on a recent trip to the East Coast in case you need ideas. The bonus? These activities also kept my daughter and her friends, ages 1 to 6 years old, happy at restaurants during our trip. Hooray!
Books: I’m a big fan of packing books with flaps, which helps keep my child mentally and physically engaged during story time. While traveling, I also like to bring books with tales set in our destination. Since My Traveling Troop was heading to the nation’s capital, I brought Clifford Goes To Washington to read to my daughter on the plane. The book tells the story of Clifford, a big red dog, who visits Washington, D.C., to see his friend get an award. The book also contains illustrations of monuments, bridges and other sites that my child was bound to see in the city. Needless to say, our daughter Bella’s face lit up when she recognized the Washington Monument as we drove past it during our vacation. “Look mom,” she said. “Clifford climbed the Washington Monument!”
Crayons and paper: This activity was easy to put together for my little artist since we already had crayons and paper on hand at home. If my printer didn’t run out of ink right before the trip, I would have printed off fun pages for her to color from free websites like this.
Mini-sized play-doh and cutters: My toddler pounded, rolled, twisted and cut play-doh, which came in cute little containers, she also enjoyed stacking the containers, and opening and closing them. (Tip: Make sure to wipe down the surface your kid will be playing on before hand to ensure the play-doh doesn’t pick up anything icky. After your trip, toss the play-doh, but wash out and save the little containers. You can always pack them with fresh play-doh for your next adventure!)
Pipe cleaners: For just a dollar, I bought a package of pipe cleaners at my local craft store. My daughter spent much of the plane ride to the East Coast making bracelets, necklaces and gingerbread men, women and children with the flexible sticks. (Why gingerbread people? We traveled amid the holiday season). She also tried her hand at counting the pipe cleaners when she ran out of ideas of what to make.
Puzzles: My daughter loves puzzles, but all of the sets we had at home were either too bulky, too heavy or contained too many pieces to bring on a plane. Thankfully, I discovered the Melissa & Doug Colors Cards Puzzle before we left for our trip. Each puzzle card in the set only broke into two pieces — perfect for a kid learning how to put puzzles together and for parents tasked with carrying them. The set of ten puzzle cards also helped my toddler work on her colors, vocabulary and matching skills during the trip. She loved the illustrations, while I loved the lessons she learned! On our next adventure, I think I’ll treat my daughter to Melissa & Doug Alphabet Teaching Puzzle Cards so she can work on her ABCs.
Are you worried about how to keep all of these activities organized in your bag? Or perhaps you’re wondering whether the pieces will fly all over the plane or get lost? I recommend using zip lock bags to keep everything organized. Or, if you’re willing to spend a little money, get some pencil pouches. I found clear pencil pouches at my local Staples that were large enough to store the activities I packed for the trip. I also made sure my daughter put one activity back in the pouch before she started the next one, which helped keep the mess and lost pieces at bay. The other benefits of using clear pouches? I could easily see what activity I was reaching for in my bag and I will be able to reuse them on future trips.
What activities do you like to pack for your child on a plane trip?