Because a busy toddler is a happy toddler, here are a few ideas on ordinary things to use to entertain your toddler on a plane. On my last flight with my son, John, (age 16 months at the time), showed me what items kids like him really enjoy:
Bring along a small mirror, separate from your powder compact which a toddler will quickly destroy. What toddler doesn’t love gazing at himself/herself?! If things get really boring you can use the mirror to make the reflection of the sun “dance” around on the seat in front of you (if the angle is just right). You could also pack a dry-erase crayon and let your toddler draw on the mirror. Just use a tissue to wipe off.
On our flight I had emptied a water bottle by filling both John’s and my six year old, Ella’s refillable bottles (I like to bring spill-proof cups for less mess in-flight). John played for a long time with the empty bottle, working on screwing the cap on and off over and over again. Great activity for strengthening fine-motor skills!
Many planes have this great push button for the seat recline feature. John was obsessed over it. He wanted to completely figure it out. It’s so easy for us as adults to overlook such simple things. Remember these are all new to your toddler and can be quite fun. If your toddler doesn’t notice the button at first and you are looking for something to interest him, point it out and help him imagine it does something if he pushes is. Maybe it just makes a quiet, “beep”, for which he can provide the sound effect. Of course if he has a difficult time maintaining a low volume, leave out the sound effects.
You can design a perfect-for-travel penny slot by just cutting a coin-sized hole in a plastic lid. Give your toddler a few coins (only while closely watching to prevent choking) and let him slide the penny through the slot. John just loves doing this. You can catch the coin in your hand and give it to him to do again or set the lid on top of a cup and give him several coins to work with. Don’t you love the look of concentration John has when dropping the penny in the slot? Too cute!
Another item you’ll likely be packing anyway is a lid or cup of some sort. Toddlers have a great imagination. In this first picture you see John using the lid to “walk” along the armrest. I have no idea what he was pretending it was, but he sure had fun with it! In the second photo John practiced putting the cap on and off his sippy cup. It’s a fun activity that is challenging for him but not so difficult that he gets frustrated. With two cups your toddler can practice “pouring” a toy, coin, or even a wadded up piece of paper from one cup to the next.
One thing to be aware of with toddlers is they love to slide toys through small holes. You’ll notice in the photo above that John has stuffed his toys beside the seat cushion. Luckily on that particular plane there was a connecting piece which prevented the toys from falling to the floor. On many planes there is a gap between the seat and the side wall. If your toddler discovers it he will likely entertain himself by systematically shoving everything you give him into the “slot”. If possible put a folded blanket over this space before your toddler discovers it.
Which of these ideas would appeal to your toddler? Do you have other low-tech ideas to share with our readers? Comment below!