Keeping Small Children Busy + Happy on Airplanes

Our 3-year-old loves going places. To the park. The post office. The grocery store. Anywhere.

When we announced that we were going to Disneyland, she talked about it for weeks. Truth be told, she is STILL talking about. In fact, I am still talking about it too. I'm ready to go back. I love that place.

preschooler-on-airplaneShe also still talks about the plane. Lately, she's been wanting to pretend that we're on a plane several times a week. She always want to cook me food on the plane - steak and potatoes, vegetable lasagna and cheesecake and peach tea. If only REAL food service on planes was that good.

Anyway, from my limited experience, I think 3 is a very good age for jet setting. She can sit still for a longer period of time, she can be distracted, and she can have full conversations. She was the picture of good behavior during both of our flights.

Here are four things that helped:

1. Lollipop, Lollipop. If you are traveling with a preschooler, never underestimate the power of a lollipop. Lollipops are wonderful for two reasons: (1) they take a long time to lick and will buy you a good chunk of time, and (2) they help little ones to "pop" their ears during take-off and landing.

2. Drink Service. Our 3-year-old was totally excited by the prospect of getting a special drink to put on her tray. We normally never let her drink soda (In fact, she only had her first soda this past summer - a neighbor's home brew of root beer), but we made an exception for the trip. She drank Sprite happily out of a straw and felt quite proud of herself.

3. Snacks. DO bring a variety of snacks - dried apricots, trail mix, crackers, fruit snacks, etc. Chances are the airline won't serve anything (which stinks, by the way...I remember the good 'ol days when you got a sandwich and chips and a cookie) so be sure to have your own on-hand for any "I'm hungry" moments.

my airport busy kit4. My Airport Busy Kit. The My Airport Busy Kit is a a genius little kit designed by two California moms. The kit is priced at $15.99 and includes markers, crayons, stickers, a measuring tape, a laceboard, scissors, bendable craft sticks, and much more...all packaged in a see-through mini suitcase with two smiley faces on the front. When I used the word "genius" above, I meant it. This kit is packed with just the right variety of products to keep a preschooler busy for a long time. In fact, we didn't even make it through all of the contents over the course of our two flights. Surprisingly, she probably loved the kid-shaped measuring tape best (it's the blue elephant in the picture, see above). She "measured" the seat and her arms and her baby sister and all kinds of things.

At $15.99, I actually think the kit is priced very fairly. On a previous trip, I went to Michael's and bought stickers, a sketch pad, and other odds-and-ends...and I spent at least that much. And the items weren't as plane-friendly or as packable.

Needless to say, I think these kits are great for plane rides, road trips, waiting rooms, and any time when sitting "still" is required by a small child. I already have the kit tucked away for our next journey.

YOUR TURN: How do YOU keep your small children occupied on airplanes and on long road trips?

travel products for kidsWIN IT! One winner will receive a My Airport Busy Kit ($15.99) by My Busy Kit. To enter, leave any topic-related comment on this post prior to Saturday, December 12th at 11:59 p.m. (Don’t forget to follow the rules…all generic comments like “Enter me!,” “Love it,” and “Cool stuff!” will be disqualified.).

* I received a product sample for review purposes.

*UPDATE* The winner is #6 MaryBeth @ FourSillySisters. Congratulations!

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44 comments on “Keeping Small Children Busy + Happy on Airplanes”

  1. The travel kit looks great, but I would put everything in a small backpack. It would make carrying it much easier for the child

  2. The only way to keep my daughter occupied on long car rides is to bring the DVD player with her favorite movies. Otherwise she gets really cranky!

  3. I recently flew with my son on my lap on a long airplane ride from Maryland to Hawaii. Beside taking naps, he ate a lot of snacks, played with toys and ripped magazines. He was still really antsy so next time I think I'll bring more toys!

  4. I haven't done the airport thing with kids yet...but my two toddlers have already told me that they want to ride in an airplane. Your lolipop idea sound great! I love the look of this kit as well. Thanks for the great ideas!

  5. I got to the dollar store and buy a few brand new toys that my daughters have never seen as well as some new snacks. I pull them out one at a time and when one gets old, I pull out the next item. It works well for me.

  6. I so agree about lollipops and when a little older gum!! We always bring a little of everything, small dolls, cars, animals, coloring, bendaroos, books, and lots of snacks!!

  7. I will be traveling with my 2 year old next year and had started thinking about how to entertain her. This is a great idea...

  8. I have an 11 our flight coming up with two little kids. I have been looking for a kit like that. This is perfect. If I dont win it, I will definitely buy it!

  9. My little one hasn't been on a plane yet, but on long cars rides, we take along books, notebooks to draw and write in, a MagnaDoodle, other small toys, and the DVD player as a last resort. Plus lots of snacks. And somehow, I usually still hear, "I'm bored!"

  10. travel kits are a great idea b/c buying all that stuff individually does add up. i've traveled solo with my toddler from the east coast to hawaii and here's some things i found helpful: a weekly pill container so my toddler can open/close it and put cheerios in it or small containers in general; for snacks, smashies are great so i dont have to bring fresh cut fruit plus they have no added sugar and have omega-3. also my advice to get through security with a car seat, stroller, carry on, and toddler is to use a baby carrier b/c you can keep your toddler on your front, backpack on your back, and car seat on the stroller. happy and safe travels to everyone!

  11. my girlfriend with twins said that painters tape was the best thing ever. They taped the cups together and pretended they were a phone and they taped paper into different shapes and then when you get to where you are going to can tape over light sockets or tape things to the shelves without leaving a big mess.

  12. What a great thing to have! I usually do what you do and pack a bunch of new goodies... but then they're all over in a backpack somewhere and hard to dig out. I love that my daughter could carry this herself and know that it was all hers to keep busy. Also, snacks. Lots and lots of snacks around here. My kids can stay content for a fairly long time as long as they're eating!

  13. My little one has flown several times and now that she is getting older this will sure come in hdany for the next time we visit the grandparents.

  14. I take a lot of things - paper, markers, coloring book, doll and accessories. The kit would be a lot easier! Also, long flights with movies are a lifesaver - at 26 months, she watched Lilo and Stitch about 3 times on the way back from Europe.

  15. Well, during short flights we bring toys, crayons, snacks etc. For long flights we also bring out the big guns, pacifier and videos! Anything to just get through it!

  16. My baby is not big enough to enjoy this right now, but I know we'd use it in the future. We live in South Africa so we have lots of 16 hour plane rides back home to see family in our future. I can use all the hints for traveling with kids that I can get!

  17. That is ingenious!!!!! We are probably going to be traveling with are three kids ona 14 hour plane trip within the next year and I am dreading every minute of it!

  18. For younger kids I think Bandaids are great! They can stick the anywhere, and then they come right off. And you can get cute ones with whatever they like on them, so they would love them. We also spend a lot of time looking for things (dogs, cats, cars, planes) in the plane magazines. And our son LOVES cars, loves them, so we buy him a car magazine as a treat and he spends a long time looking through them!

  19. I usually give the kids to my husband to deal with while I have a nervous breakdown in the back corner of the airplane. I hate to fly. I suppose though something like this would really help him manage four boys! One time my son who was 3 opened and closed the tray for 3.5 hours. The lady across the row commented on arrival that she was amazed it kept him entertained that long!


  20. My sister's husband is a pilot so they are always flying to visit family and friends. She has a 4 year old and a 6 mth old. I know she would love this kit to keep the 4 year old busy while she is taking care of the baby. She has this really cool little suitcase that she uses for the 4 year old called a Trunki. It has a hard plastic shell and a leash that allows the child to pull it through the airport. It is also shaped so that child can straddle it & take a break.

  21. We pack our laptops and our own little kit. On the trip to California we had snacks, lollipops, small (but not too small/easily lost) toys, paper and colored pens, and, if all else failed, a movie on the laptop. We used everything in the arsenal, but it worked. :)

  22. We don't fly. But on car trips, we use the Nintendo DS now that they are older. We also bring alot of games and cd's. My littlest would love this kit for our next trip.

  23. It's not as convenient, or fun for the parents, but I would recommend scheduling a flight with a layover if you're traveling very far. Little ones just need to get out and move around after a couple of hours in a seat. And the change of scenery is a good thing too.

  24. Um, I guess I kinda answered your question about keeping little ones occupied in my comments on your last post. This bag does look genius! I've brought along similar things and I would agree that it's a good price if you're going to go out and buy everything. (That sentence didn't quite flow.) My daughter is also in love with measuring tapes and this reminds me that I want to go get one for her stocking.

  25. Fro trips in the car, our 4 yr old likes the I spy books with pictures(he cant read yet) and I get books on CD from the library- No DVD player for us- maybe when I'm done with nursing school adn our budget isnt so tight! My DD isn't a good traveler, but an etch a sketch, toy phones, and snacks like pretzels with cheez dip- keep her attention.

  26. What a great idea! I love that travel kit. I keep a little travel set in the car each time we go somewhere, but I would love to have a bigger kit like this for on plane rides.

  27. That is fun looking travel kit!! One thing that has been good for my 3 yr old on the plane and in the car (from Calif. to Montana) is a deck of Go Fish Cards that we played consentration with. :)

  28. Speaking of those keeping busy kits. Have you seen the versions they sell inside the terminals? They're 15 bucks (like everything is overpriced) and come with just a little coloring book, a weird toy and some markers. Yeah, better get a good one ahead of time and save money. Or, you could always share your booze with the kid! Did I just say that outloud? hehehehe

  29. I'm hoping what I've put together works on our 28 hour road trip that we're taking later this month - I've got books, hand puppets, sticker/coloring books, blank paper, colors, colored pencils, color wonder coloring pad and markers, a small cookie sheet and Sugar's favorite animal magnets, a couple of her favorite toys that do things (I put those away last week so she isn't playing with them right now), some rubber animals that she loves to play with and her tractor's that she loves to drive around. We also have "her music", stories on CD that we all enjoy listening to, snacks (staying away from the sugar) and lots of water to drink. I'll have to let you know after the fact how things actually go :)

  30. We give each of our children their own activity pack for long road trips! Drawing, coloring, magnetic games, healthy snacks, etc. are a few of the items in each pack.
    Thanks, Cindi

  31. I need tips on how to occupy a one year old on a 12 hour roadtrip... for two days in a row!!! HELP! :)
    I wish crayons and lollipops were an option.

  32. This looks adorable and since it looks like we'll be traveling with a toddler and a newborn next summer I'm sure this would help to keep him occupied when the baby is demanding my attention!
    My son actually does pretty well on trips just talking. He's very social. Some snacks and a toy truck or two and he's pretty happy!

  33. Our little one has traveled from the get-go and has always enjoyed a nice set of books. Paperbacks are easier to carry however not as sturdy as board books. As he gets older we hope to have other methods of entertainment. However, he does think the safety presentation is pretty interesting right now...

  34. That airport kit looks amazing! We will be moving soon and my wonderful M-I-L will be flying our daughter home so she doesn't have to deal with the long drive. I know my 2 year old would love to play with it.

  35. Long road trips have always been a challenge. Our son gets antsy after about two hours so they've never been fun. On the airplane, our portable DVD player saved us (and I only packed it last minute "just in case") I think the Airport Busy Kit just might do the trick - looks like there on plenty of things to keep kids busy!

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