After taking four flights alone with my toddler this year, I am sharing the best toddler toys for flights. I am not a total expert on flying with a toddler, but there are a few toys that are worth sharing.
Flying alone with a toddler is hard. Gwen is very active and would prefer not to sit still and stay in her seat. I prepare by packing plenty of toys to keep her attention throughout the flight.
And I also pack some chocolate to bribe her with. In my experience, Whole Foods’ mini chocolate-covered graham crackers can work miracles. If she is getting very antsy, I ask her if she would like a chocolate. The answer is always yes. Then I tell her to sit nicely in her seat, and she does. Usually, the chocolate-covered graham cracker can buy me about 7 minutes of perfect behavior. The graham crackers also come in handy when she doesn’t want to get into her stroller.
When you are a parent in hard situations on your own, you do your best. If you need to introduce chocolate to the situation, it’s ok.
Advice for Flying with a Toddler
Bring Fresh Toys
New toys, or toys they haven’t seen in a while, will do a better job holding a toddler’s attention. I keep toys for flights in a separate drawer, and she only sees them when we are flying.
Place a Large Tote Under their Feet
Toddlers drop things. I have a large L.L.Bean tote that I keep open under Gwen’s feet. This way, most of the things she drops end up in the tote and not on the airplane floor or under her seat.
Plan Lots of Activities
Be prepared to offer a new activity every 10-15 minutes. We usually cycle through about five different activities.
The CARES Seat Harness is Helpful
This harness turns the seatbelt into a four point harness. It isn’t perfect, but I think it is worth having. The harness wraps around your child’s seat and is very easy to install. It’s a great alternative to bringing a carseat onboard.
The Best Toddler Toys for Flights
This small and inexpensive toy has been flying with us for a year and she still loves it!
Felt Paper Dolls
A huge hit, this toy doesn’t take up much space at all. I recommend getting a starter pack for the doll and the travel case, which gives the child a surface to set the doll clothes on.
Re-Useable Sticker Book
Gwen loves playing with the little sticker people and letting them talk to each other. I don’t pack the entire book, I tore out one page and added a bunch of the stickers. It’s a bit easier than bringing the full book.
Water Coloring Books
Just remember to fill the pen up with water!
Elmo’s On The Go Letters
My sister’s daughter brings this on flights, and Gwen loved playing with it at my sister’s house, so I just bought it for our next flight.
Screen Time Esseentials
iPad with her Favorite Shows
She tends to go back and forth between watching a show and playing with the toys.
You can opt for wireless Bluetooth headphones, or if you choose a pair that needs to be plugged in, make sure you have the necessary converter for the iPad. I like to bring a pair that gets plugged in so that it can be plugged in to the in-flight entertainment system or used with the iPad.
A quick sidenote regarding sippy cups and flights…
Sippy cups leak on planes. Sometimes they burst open. Now that Gwen is two and can drink from an open cup or waterbottle without spilling everywhere, I don’t bring a sippy cup. If you need to bring a sippy cup, the trick is to open it up throughout take off and landing so that it pressurizes and won’t leak. Another trick is to keep it in a ziploc bag so that if it does leak, the mess is contained.
And lastly, turn snacktime into an activity
Toddlers love the snack boxes available on flights. Gwen especially loves dipping pretzels in hummus, and I’ve found that pretzels and hummus are universally available at Hudson News. So grab a snack at Hudson News or let your toddler taste their way through a snack box. Somehow, it’s more exciting than eating the other snacks you packed.
Happy travels everyone!
Tuesday 6th of December 2022
Obsessed with the tote bag hack!
Tuesday 6th of December 2022
Thank you so much! I’m getting ready to take my 20 month old on his first flight in a couple of weeks! I would also be very curious on other “single parent” travel approaches you have— Eg what type of carry-on, stroller, etc combos you’re using.