8 Flights Later: Tried & True Toddler Plane Activities

travel Sep 11, 2019

Recently, my husband and I embarked on a few adventures. We bummed on the beach in San Diego, fell in love in LA (HAHA who caught that Nav reference? Totally inappropriate for a mom blog? Whoops...), slurped ramen in Tokyo, got face-mask drunk in Seoul, and attended a wedding in New York.

Here’s the kicker: we took our 22-month-old toddler along.

You’ll either think we’re super smart for utilizing his under-age-two status to take him on flights for free, or you’ll think we are insane for subjecting ourselves to this... what’s the word... trauma? Insanity?

How about: all of the above?

Toddlers are difficult humans. That's a given. It's never easy to travel with a temperamental human that always wants his way, but you can do whatever you can to make the journey as smooth as possible. Like the Muslims say: tie your camel.

I packed a zippered pouch with a few activities that I prayed would get us through the eight flights we took in under a month.

Surprise surprise: IT WORKED!

Between playing around with the built-in TV system, some scattered naps, and taking a few laps in the aisles to pick snacks from the kitchen, these activities were all utilized and kept Zaki engaged. Plus, they’re relatively cheap, so your heart won’t ache if something gets lodged in some germ-infested crevice of the seat.

Here’s what we packed:

1. Window Clings

Window Clings! $1 a pack from the Target Dollar Spot! 

The first and probably MOST important item we had in our activity kit were a few packages of window clings. At $1 a pack from the Target dollar section, these were an absolute life saver. I got one set of clings that are space themed and another that had a bunch of different colored crayons drawn on them. These clings are less messy than stickers and so great because if you manage to not lose them all on your flight, they’re easily reusable. Zaki loved sticking them onto various surfaces. Then we’d put them back on the sheet they came on, and do it all again. Loved it! I can't find the Target ones, but here are some from Amazon.

2. DIY Flash Card Book

Used 2 index-card rings and some flashcards to make this DIY book! 

I’ve mentioned my obsession with the Scholastic large flash cards a few times here, and I’ll say it again: they’re AMAZING. They’re large, they are laminated, they have real pictures on them (not cartoon pictures), they are easy to handle, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg. I took a stack of them, plus two index-card rings from the dollar tree, punched 2 holes in the cards, and put them together as a book. Zaki loved flipping through them and naming what was on the cards.

3. Puffy Stickers

Puffy Stickers

One of my friends is in medical school had purchased a bunch of stickers in anticipation of her pediatric rotation. She offered the leftovers to me, and I took them graciously because every mom knows what a godsend puffy stickers are. They’re easier to deal with than non-puffy(?) stickers because they’re easy to peel off if placed somewhere they don’t belong, and they are perfect for little toddler fingers.

We spent some time taking various stickers and placing them on mommy as we practiced different body part names as well. Then we giggled as he pushed the “buttons” (the stickers) and mommy made weird noises. Ah, motherhood really does get the best of you…

4. Dollar Tree Puzzles

Dollar Tree WASSUP

Puzzle pieces are so pesky (say that out loud, super fast, ten times) and they always ALWAYS get lost. I have some Melissa & Doug puzzles that I DID NOT get on sale and they are now missing precious puzzle pieces. The remorse kept me awake for a few nights before I finally accepted the lost puzzle pieces’ fate. Ugh.

Dollar Tree has these AWESOME wooden puzzles for $1 each. They’re easy for tiny toddler fingers, and so compact! Also, at $1, you won’t lose sleep over missing pieces. This was fun for Zaki because we used the different puzzle pieces to make different “pictures” (a house, a car, etc).

5. Favorite Puppet or Puppet Book

This book was everything. 

I don’t know if it is only my kid, but he is OBSESSED with puppet type things. I mentioned this bear book on IG stories from my Amazon Books haul, and I was afraid that maybe this book wouldn’t interest Zaki anymore after a few reads.

I was so gloriously wrong—he is still fascinated. We use this bear book to make a “play” with his lovey acting as a second character. I also changed up the words of the book to make a different story each time we read it. In addition, we used the puffy stickers to identify different body parts the bear had. The stickers peeled off the book super easily.

6. Lacing Beads

BEADS bruh! 

I got this set of lacing beads by Melissa & Doug on Prime Day for a little under $8. The strings that the set comes with are a bit more advanced for my little one to handle right now (they are super flimsy), so I found this thick twine from an old project, tied a knot on the bottom, and voila. I put a circle of tape on the part that weaves into the beads so that it’s easier for Zaki to pass it through. This is an activity we haven’t done at home so it was a new challenge for him. I took 5 beads from the bigger set.

7. A New Toy

Weird toy...but hey, it worked! 

I’ve read a lot about the dimpl toy and thought that Zaki would be too old for it. We grabbed it anyway, because it looked so tiny and easy to travel with. At take off, Zaki got anxious and this got us through a huge chunk of time. He’d go back to it repeatedly throughout the duration of the flight and enjoyed it so much.

8. Tablet, His Highness

HAAALELLUJA

Self explanatory. But we have the Fire 7 tablet, and this is the case. These are the headphones (that we never used because he’s just too young for them right now and keeps ripping them off). We tossed on some Cocomelon and Dave & Ava, and this was also a great thing to have during our random bus rides and train rides.

And that’s it!

I didn’t want to post this article earlier because I wanted to endure all eight flights before I really suggested anything. I’m hoping these ideas are helpful and are a good reference to have when planning your next travels. Let us know your plane must-haves! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

XOXO,

Zara

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