5 Alternative Ways To Entertain A Toddler When Flying On A Plane

When it comes to going on holidays with kids, I’d imagine that most parents would put flying on a plane as the most feared method of transport. I doubt that this is anything to do with the danger or helplessness of being thousands of feet in the air. It’s more likely to be related to being stuck for hours in an oversized aluminium tube with a bunch of strangers tutting at the fact that you dared to bring a child on board.

I totally get this. Pre-Toddler L, I’ve been guilty of hoping that I’m not sat near the parents who have a newborn or the family with seven kids all jacked up on sugar. However, becoming a parent does change your perspective on stuff like this. The idea of a flight with your toddler – who doesn’t want to sit still, is unpredictable and will probably be pretty lairy – is bad enough, let alone the sneers, stares and general lack of understanding.

Last week, we had a spontaneous short break to Copenhagen. We hadn’t visited Denmark before, but having enjoyed other Nordic countries like Iceland, Sweden and Norway on previous holidays, we were looking forward to popping our Danish bacon pastry cherry. This was actually Toddler L’s second time on a plane since she got her passport, although technically she was Baby L when we flew to Berlin for my birthday last year.

As a baby, we worried a lot about the flight in advance. In reality, there was very little to fret over as she fed and slept for the majority of the journey. Now as a two-year old toddler, we knew this would be a very different plane experience and that preparation would be key. We packed a ‘Toddler L bag’ which had everything we thought we’d need for the journey – a tablet with downloaded kids shows, some of her favourite toys, some food and a recently purchased Aquadoodle and airport sticker book.

Now let me share a secret with you. This was a complete waste of time! OK, maybe not “complete”, but the reality was that she only spent about 5% of the flight with this stuff. The other 95% was spent doing alternative stuff. As such, I’m going to put my neck on the line and say you don’t need to prepare for a flight. Don’t pack anything special. Don’t try to entertain them. Just go with the flow.

Your toddler is on a plane. This is a new experience. The lights, the sounds, the people. They will find ways of entertaining themselves, meaning that you don’t have to pack loads of crap to distract them or spend your money on the latest gadget. The entertainment is the plane.

Don’t believe me? Then check out these five alternative ways of entertaining a toddler when flying on a plane:

Window Blind

Entertain a toddler when flying on a plane playing with window blind

Placing your toddler in the window seat obviously has the benefit of allowing them to watch proceedings out of the window. This means they can be entertained as they watch bags being loaded, the take off and subsequent looking down on the clouds.

However, the window seat also has the added benefit of the window blind. For a toddler that loves repetitive processes and figuring stuff out, what’s better than the incessant opening, closing, opening, closing of the blind? Annoying? Yes. Effective? Definitely.

Cabin Lights and Buttons

Entertain a toddler when flying on a plane playing with overhead lights buttons

I’m assuming that it’s a normal toddler thing, but the sprog loves performing any action which creates a visible difference in outcome. Think stuff like mashing the buttons on the TV remote to turn the channel or pressing the car keys to make the lights flash.

It was hardly surprising then that she was entertained by the stuff above her head. Pressing a button to turn the light on / off, turning the nozzle to switch on / off the fan, or pressing the call button to to make an ever increasingly annoyed Flight Attendant appear. Magic!

Tray / Table

Entertain a toddler when flying on a plane playing with tray

Based on the blind and overhead buttons already mentioned, it’ll come as no surprise that the next thing to entertain her was the tray. I made the ‘mistake’ of showing her how to unclip it, which obviously resulted in what felt like an eternity of open, down, up, close, open, down, up close – you get the gist. Still, it kept her happy.

Not only that, but the tray doubles up as a pretty decent drum. Throw in a bit of singing – Twinkle, Twinkle is her current tune of choice – and you’ve got the beginnings of her very own one-man band – or should that be one-toddler band? Maybe she could even start charging as the inflight entertainment? About time she started pulling her weight and contributing financially.

People Watching

Entertain a toddler when flying on a plane watching people

Toddler L is a bit of a creep. I probably shouldn’t say it, but there’s no point denying the truth. Her understanding of social norms is lacking, so she’ll often stare at people from a distance or invade their personal space. I’ve calculated that she’s got a 76.3% chance of receiving a restraining order in the future.

A plane is therefore a perfect place for her to be a creep – sorry, I mean to people watch. She had strangers behind her, strangers to the side and strangers in front – doesn’t that sound like a crap version of Stuck In The Middle With You?

Anyway, back to my point. Whilst in the air, Toddler L was able to entertain herself by watching and interacting with other people, whether it was peering over the back or looking through the armrests. She even managed to score a few Pringles off the fella who was sat in front of us! Skillz.

Seatbelt

Entertain a toddler when flying on a plane playing with seatbelt

Designed to keep you safe in case of turbulence – or a fall from the skies – there’s no doubt that seatbelts are pretty beneficial things. But, did you know that they’re also a great way to keep toddlers entertained on a flight? In fact, the humble seatbelt actually kept the sprog distracted the longest when we were on the plane.

I lost count of the amount of times that she buckled – then unbuckled – her seatbelt on the 1.5 hour flights. When she was done with hers, she swiftly moved on to undoing and redoing both mine and the missus’ seatbelts. I just hope that this hasn’t taught her the required skills to escape from her car seat…

So that’s my alternative ways to entertain a toddler when flying on a plane. See, I told you that you didn’t need stuff like toys, iPads and all the other crap! Have you used any of these methods before? How do you entertain your kids when flying with them? Let me know below!

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  • RachelSwirl

    lol so true, we packed up special entertainment packs for the kids but they were barely used !

  • Haha brilliant, my kids are so well behaved when we travel, it’s like the motion hypnotises them. Will be remembering this and my words (which will no doubt come back to bit me on the bum) when we fly again soon!

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  • john adams

    Oh the tray table thing. Man that does my head in. We just flew back from Portugal and my three year old insisted on playing with the table throughout and I do always find myself thinking of the person sat in front. Much to the chagrin of various family members who live in long-haul destinations, we only holiday short haul these days because flights get very tiring. Our eldest has always been a good flyer though. Give her a picnic (her words) a DVD player and a set of headphones and all was good!

  • Haha! Good advice!
    Totally with you on the no pack thing. We had a 9 hour flight and their bags of toys etc were only breifly touched. And I spend a lot of time picking Lego, Duplo and pen lids, up in zero space.
    Another fun thing kids can do is puke. A lot.
    It’s very enertaining to everyone on the plane and kept us all very busy!
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