Airplane Activities for Kids to Keep Them Busy All Flight Long

Child playing a game on an airplane

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Jetting off with your family? Worried about keeping your kids occupied (and well-behaved) for the hours they'll be cocooned in their seats? You're not alone. While most of us look forward to a vacation with our families, few relish the thought of flying with kids.

Genuine trepidation about filling those hours is common as are worries over the potential disruption to kid's routines, particularly how a missed nap, a later lunchtime, or less than optimally healthy snack foods may impact behavior.

It can be hard for any of us to sit for a long time but this is especially true for most kids. However, a long flight doesn't need to be boring, stressful, or fidgety. Keep children grounded in their seats with age-appropriate airplane activities that will keep them busy and happily engaged during a flight.

Magnetic Games

Bring along some magnetic travel games as one of your plane activities. For around $10 or less per game, kids can play bingo, tic tac toe, chess, and checkers. The game pieces are magnetic and stick to the board, so they're easier to keep track of mid-flight. Also, the game board itself is compact enough to easily slide into your carry-on luggage.

Card Games

Pack a deck of playing cards for fun on the plane and at the hotel. You can't go wrong with classics like regular playing cards, UNO, Skip-Bo, Phase 10, and Canasta. Additionally, many versions of playing cards incorporate your favorite board games into card games. Look for Monopoly and Yahtzee decks to add a new twist to your old favorites.

Movies

A portable DVD player or pre-loaded laptop or tablet gives your kids a customized viewing experience while they're trapped in their seats. You can take or download a few of their favorites or buy a new movie they haven't seen yet. Surprise them on the plane with their new movies to watch as you fly. Pack some popcorn as a snack to really bring the movie theater experience on board.

iPad Games

If you're planning on taking a laptop or iPad with you, load some of your children's favorite games to take along with you. Familiar tablet games are one of those plane activities that make kids feel right at home and provide a welcome break to hours of watching TV shows or movies.

Once you're up in the sky, kids can play their games while you read a book or even take a nap.

Play Games Online

Many airlines now offer Internet access during your flight. Access prices vary but in-flight Wi-Fi can be a lifesaver if you have kids that like to play games online. They'll be happily occupied while visiting all of their favorite websites 30,000 feet above the ground.

Learning Activities

Turn the airplane into a classroom. There are many learning activities you can practice on your flight, such as writing, math, colors, and sorting. Some ideas include asking your child to write a story, create an itinerary for your trip, or draw pictures of what they think you'll see or do on vacation.

Workbooks

Pack workbooks that offer a variety of activities such as coloring pages, mazes, word puzzles, hidden pictures, or stickers. You might also consider learning booklets that offer your kids grade-specific activities like spelling, the alphabet, reading, handwriting, fractions, geometry, geography, or pretty much any other area of study you can think of.

In fact, there is likely a workbook on just about any topic your child is interested in from dinosaurs and daffodils to pixies and pets. You can also look for dry erase workbooks so your kids can wipe away their answers and try again for longer-lasting fun.

Miniature Versions of Bigger Toys

You can't pack all of your children's favorite toys so look for miniature versions to carry along with you. You can find classics like a mini Etch-A-Sketch, a mini Simon game, mini stuffed animals, and even a mini Bop It, to name a few.

Coloring Books and Crayons

This old classic is a no-fail way to entertain your kids during a flight. Buy coloring books in advance of your trip when your children aren't with you to heighten their interest when you bring them out on the plane.

Choose coloring books with topics your kids already like such as farm scenes, flowers, pirates, or superheroes to up the odds they will enjoy them for a longer period of time. Add in a new set of markers, crayons, or colored pencils in a portable carrying case to up the allure of coloring—and make toting the activity easier.

Break out a pack of crayons and the new coloring books as an in-flight surprise.

Color Wonder Markers and Pads

Or, try an update on classic coloring books. Crayola offers a modern take on the old coloring book and crayons. The Color Wonder markers only work on the special pads to prevent messes. There are a variety of themed pads to choose from too, including Disney princesses, Toy Story, Cars, and blank drawing pads.

Sharing Music

Enlist your family members in a music project for your kids. Have everyone pick out some of their favorite songs and put them on your iPod for your children to listen to while they're on the plane. Sharing music with your children will expose them to a variety of genres or artists that they may never know otherwise. Plus, it's a great activity to pair with coloring or other booklets during the flight to will keep them quiet and focused as they listen to new songs.

Books

Ask your kids to come up with a list of books they would like to read or head to the bookstore or library together to make some new selections. The trick is to hold off on letting your child read them until the flight. Then, unveil new books once you get to your seats, aiming to hold at least one back for the return flight.

Varying up their activities, from playing games to reading books and back again, will make them forget they're stuck on a plane for hours.

Audio Books

Audio storybooks are another way to get some quiet time out of your children while you're all on the plane. Recorded stories for toddlers all the way to young adults can be found in stores or at your local library. Podcasts are another great option for older children, which can be downloaded ahead of time on an iPad or another MP3 player.

New Toys

Buy some new toys to take on your flight, but don't show them to the kids before you take off. The toys don't have to be expensive to be entertaining. The key is to pick something you know your child will love, such as a new toy vehicle for a car fan, a new set of playdough for an artist, a superhero figure for a comics fiend, a jewelry kit for a crafty kid, or a Lego set for a dedicated brick-builder.

Hit the dollar store for some inexpensive toys kids can play with while they're on the plane. The best part about getting cheap toys is that it doesn't have to hurt your wallet if the toys get lost or broken.

Check With the Airline

Airlines are also interested in keeping your kids happy on planes. Check with the airline to see what they have to offer children for in-flight entertainment. For example, Lufthansa gives kids small toys to play with during their flights. Other airlines offer video screens that feature Disney or Nickelodeon entertainment. Many pilots will invite children into the cockpit pre- or post-flight and numerous airlines hand out airline pins as well.

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