Keeping Kids Happy While Traveling in a Plane 2

flying into the sunset

It can be hard to keep kids entertained on longer flights. If possible, get a window seat so they can watch the clouds and see the magic of the setting sun.

After awhile, even the coolest game on your phone or tablet stops holding your young child’s interest. As he hands you back the device and asks, “How much longer?” you realize that you’ll be in the air for two more hours. Now what? It can be tough to keep little ones entertained while you are traveling by plane, but there are a few things we’ve tried that have worked pretty well.

Road Trip Games

Many of the games you play on car trips also work on plane trips. We have had success playing:

  • I Spy With My Little Eye – There are a lot of things to see without leaving your seat. You’ll probably tire of the game before they do!
  • Guess the Animal (An easier version of 20 questions. We limit it to animals so they have a better chance at succeeding.)
  • Airplane BINGO – Just draw a quick grid on scrap paper and come up with a list of things they are able to find pretty easily from their seats. It is pretty much a longer, different form of I Spy.
  • Tell a Shared Story – This works well with creative children. Start with a line or two of a story and then have them come up with the next line. The story usually gets increasingly silly, so be prepared to really think to keep the story moving forward!
  • Find all the letters of the alphabet – You may need to let them use some of the in flight magazines to find the tough letters! An alternative is to have them look for everything that starts with a specific letter. (This works really well in an airport, too. Especially if you are sitting in eye view of a sign for Azores Islands, which has the elusive “Z” on the sign.)

Action Songs and Fingerplays*

Sometimes, the boredom is actually fatigue from sitting so long. You can adapt many childhood action songs for airplane travel. We like these the best for children under six:

  • Head and Shoulders – They may have to bend their knees to touch their toes without getting out of the seat, but our guys have managed to enjoy head and shoulders from a car seat, so a seat on a plane is downright easy for them!
  • Shake Your Sillies Out – Skip the verses on jumping or stomping and make up verses for sitting instead. We shake, wiggle, wave, clap, nod, etc.
  • There’s a Spider on the Floor – This one doesn’t need adapting unless you want to change the last verse. Instead of “There’s a spider on my head, I wish that I were dead…” we say, “There’s a spider on my head, I am filled with dread…”
  • This Little Piggy Went to Market – We also do the travel version. “This little piggy went to France. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy had a suitcase. This little piggy had none. This little piggy said Let’s travel more! all the way home.”
  • Any other fingerplays or bounces you usually enjoy – Two Little Blackbirds, Open, Shut Them, Bouncing Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon, etc.

Interactive Apps

I’ve found that sometimes a change in the type of app from gaming to maker or reading apps can make your device fresh and exciting again. Give them a half hour break from the device when they tire of the game they are playing or show they are watching and do something completely unrelated to holding a device in their hands. Then, offer it back with the new app loaded and ready to play. We’ve tried coloring and silly photo editing apps, as well as some of the really well done children’s book apps. Here are my top five favorite iPhone/iPad apps:

  1. Nighty Night by Fox and Sheep – This interactive children’s story is absolutely adorable. Kids love helping the animals settle in and then finding the switch to turn off the light on each page. I’ve actually seen the six year old play with it, but I feel it is best for ages 2-4.
  2. Petting Zoo by Fox and Sheep – I confess. I’ve been known to play this one myself. It is a fun, interactive petting zoo with black and white illustrations.
  3. Tiny Firefighters – Kids help the action unfold as the firefighters spring to the rescue. It is cute and very interactive.
  4. Toca Doctor – Or anything Toca, really. All these apps are cute.
  5. Fingerpaint With Sounds – This is an awesome creativity app. When you paint, you make music, too.


Our local library has the coolest talking books. The whole thing is recorded on a tiny device that only needs a set of earbuds. I will check out 5 or 6 children’s chapter books on Playaways and pack them into a tiny space in my carry on. You could also pre-load some children’s e-audiobooks on iPods if you can’t find these talking books. Check your local library’s website for their digital books page or ask your librarian for help. More and more libraries are offering an extensive number of services for digital materials of all kinds, from magazines to movies. Older children who get caught up in the story may just get so absorbed that they are disappointed they’ve arrived at their destination. (True story!)

Magic Bag

If you are able to spare room in a carry on bag for it, a smaller bag we call the magic bag is a fun thing to bring on a trip. On road trips, I fill it with just about anything. For plane trips, you have to consider safety regulations. Crayons, small activity books, small blank books and travel stickers for decorating a travel journal, a new action figure, and other little things are secretly stowed in the bag. Every once in awhile, you can make a big deal about checking your magic bag to see if something new has appeared in it.

* Don’t forget about your fellow travelers. We sing softly and usually have the whole row since we are seated with the kids. I don’t recommend doing a stirring rendition of Shake Your Sillies Out when a tired businessman is sitting beside you. Still, most people will be grateful that your child isn’t crying and that you are proactively keeping him or her entertained.

Do you have a favorite way to keep kids entertained on a long flight?

About KateTravels

Kate loves to explore new places. She often begins planning her next trip before her suitcase is unpacked! She is currently working on her goal of fifty by 50, with detours to places outside the USA or trips back to states she's already visited to discover new towns or enjoy new sights. In addition to travel, Kate is passionate about photography, dabbles in painting and cannot start her mornings without a good cup of tea. Her most recent travels were to Rhode Island and the Azores. She will also be traveling to the Eastern shore of Maryland and Iceland in 2016.

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2 thoughts on “Keeping Kids Happy While Traveling in a Plane

    • KateTravels Post author

      Thanks. It is mostly commonsense stuff, but I know the first time I traveled with a child, I didn’t think to do stretches and bounces in the seat or some of the other things we came up with as we traveled more and more often with little ones.