Travel Toys: How to Entertain Young Kids While Flying Across the Country


I recently had the pleasure of flying across the country with my 4.5-year-old son, M.J., and my 14-month-old daughter, C.

I wasn’t at all worried about the big kid. The 4-year-old was happy as a clam to have extra iPad time. Audio books, Legos and his excitement and delight over his first time flying made me worry less about keeping him entertained during a long day of travel. I was worried about the baby. I mean, how could I possibly entertain a 1-year-old during a cross-country flight? Not to mention that at our destination, we’d be without all of the toys I usually rely on to keep my kids entertained and happy.

After lots of planning and preparation, I decided to make a few travel toys that wouldn’t take up much room in my carry-on and I went into the flight with a few tricks up my sleeve! Here’s what toys worked for my 1-year-old, what was just okay, and what I’d bring if I have to do it again!

Pom Pom Push Toy

C. loves to empty and refill containers over and over again. So after a tip from another mom and a quick search on Pinterest, I made a Pom Pom Push Toy. Clean an empty margarine tub, cut holes in the top and ta-da! I picked out a bunch of extra large pom poms and let C. push them through the holes. C. played with this throughout the trip and since the pom poms were big, I only lost one on the whole trip! This is an excellent travel toy and so easy to make.

Finger Puppets

We were gifted some fun finger puppets after a family member went to Peru, but you can find them on Amazon. I put the finger puppets on C. and she’d pull them off. She also loved when I’d sign Old Mac Donald using the finger puppets with the song. I was able to store all the puppets in a small Ziploc bag, which served as another source of entertainment. She loved taking all the puppets out of the bag and then putting them back in.

Interactive soft book

We brought an interactive cloth book that was a huge hit. There are shape flaps that C. loved lifting and we practiced animal sounds together. There was also a page with various textures to feel and various closures like Velcro and a button that was very popular. Since it was a cloth book, I could roll it up or smoosh it into my luggage. I picked a book up from home that we hadn’t played with recently so it was “like new” on the trip. 

Small Dolls

I packed several small dolls from our dollhouse and C. loves having them “walk” on her legs and around her car seat. She’d giggle and play peek a boo with them. The dolls, the puppets and the pom poms all fit into the plastic tub for easy packing.

Pipe Cleaner Pull Toy

This was another Pinterest find. I emptied a container of puffs, poked holes in the lid and ran pipe cleaners through. Initially, we let her pull them all the way out but later decided by tying off the ends she could still pull them up and push them in but we wouldn’t lose as many.  If I had to pick one thing not to bring again, it would be this. C. played with this toy a few times but it wasn’t her favorite.

Easter Eggs

I packed six empty plastic easter eggs. C loved opening and closing them, holding and carrying them around and when we arrived at our destination, M.J. loved having us hide and find them!

Matchbox Cars

We packed a few small Matchbox Cars. Don’t bring your favorites in case they get lost. They don’t take up a lot of room and were lots of fun for both the baby and the big kid. We had races, rolled them on ramps and drove them around the house we stayed in.

Matchbox cars make for great entertainment during a flight.

Painters Tape

Painters tape is awesome! It can be stuck to things and removed easily without mess. C. liked playing with strips of it or a balled up collection of tape,  and then at our destination, we made car tracks on the floor and played with the cars. She also kept herself busy trying to pull the tape up from the floors. This was not an activity my son enjoyed, but it did keep them both busy! You could even make a hopscotch board with painters tape if you got stuck waiting at the airport.

Painters' tape is a great travel toy for flying!

These things helped make flying with the kids bearable!  We also packed small containers of playdoh and silly putty but neither of those got played with. Next time I am flying with kids, I will for sure pack outlet covers and more snacks. So many places we were had exposed outlets and C found every single one. And you can never have enough snacks!!!

Have you flown with a one-year-old? What did you pack that made your fight and stay easier?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here