Inexpensive Plane Activities for a Young Toddler

With family on both the West and East Coasts, we book plane flights on the regular. However, plane flights have recently become more challenging — we now have a wonderfully curious and energetic little one-year-old, and he prefers to poke around and explore rather than sit still for extended periods of time. For our recent flights to Maine and California, I came armed with some simple (and non-electronic!) activities to keep him occupied. And in case you’re interested, the activities averaged out to less than $4 per flight 🙂

  1. Keys. My little guy always begs for my car keys, so I surprised him with his very own set! How cute is that monkey key?! My local Home Depot gives away incorrectly cut keys, so my total cost for this toy was 50 cents for the key ring (and if you have a extra key ring on hand, this toy would be completely free). The keys were a huge success — he loved holding them and shaking them! We of course had to supervise to make sure that he didn’t put them in his mouth, but overall, it was a very absorbing activity for him, and it didn’t require any clean-up
  1. Note pad ($2) & egg crayons ($5). These egg crayons are inexpensive and perfect for small hands — and as a bonus, they are washable in case your little Picasso gets crayon on the tray table!
  1. Stickers ($0.50). I made sure to get lots of small stickers so that there would be plenty to play with. This was the first time we introduced him to stickers, and they were a huge hit! Our kiddo really enjoys peeling off the stickers and putting them on his shirt or his hands :). Handling small stickers requires a surprising amount of dexterity for small fingers, so this kept him occupied for much longer than I expected. Again, you’ll probably need to make sure that your little one doesn’t try to eat them, but since our boy was on our laps the whole time, we found it pretty easy to keep and eye on him.
  2. Water spritzer ($0). About once a flight, I would bust out a small spray bottle of water — our kiddo is still young enough that the sensation of wetness is a novelty, so I would spray his hands, arms, etc. to keep him entertained.
  3. Cotton balls (1 cent). Our little guy LOVES cotton balls! He likes to hold one in each fist and eventually systematically shreds them. This can of course get a little messy, so we found it handy to keep a little baggy nearby to collect the bits of cotton.
  4. Kleenex ($1). This was another activity that occupied our toddler for a surprisingly long time! We wrapped the Kleenex in foil and let him unwrap it (not a quick process for small fingers), and let him figure out how to open the Kleenex pack and take out the tissues. Again, this will require a bit of clean up and supervision (to make sure curious mouths don’t try to eat the foil or plastic!), but we found it so much easier to supervise a happy, entertained toddler than a fussy and bored one.
  5. Books (not pictured). And of course, we packed several of his favorite board books, and well as a couple new-to-him books 🙂

I don’t think it’s ever easy to travel by plane with a young toddler, but these activities definitely helped our flights go a lot more smoothly!

What are you favorite inexpensive and non-electronic plane activities for young toddlers?

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