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50 Ways to Entertain a Kid on an Airplane

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    Samuel L. Jackson was terrified of snakes on a plane. But the tough guy never dealt with an energetic toddler on a five-hour flight to Grandma’s house. Now that’s scary.

    But you don’t need to worry. All you need to do is print and save this list. You’ll find 50 fabulous ways to pass the time, without annoying fellow passengers or running into TSA restrictions (play-dough, glue sticks and ninja throwing stars are all in the “forbidden” category, no matter how much your toddler may enjoy them at home).

    Pick your favorite lightweight, no-fuss options from the following list. Go ahead, have a good time on the plane. They aren’t charging you for that—yet.

    Have an electronic fanatic under your care? Check out the Best iPhone and iPad Games for Little Kids!


    1. Play a gentle game of catch with a mini Koosh Ball.

    2. Create a sticky situation with small, inexpensive Dover Little Activity Books; choose from stickers, paper dolls and dot-to-dot.


    3. Play dress-up or create silly faces with a Smethport magnetic playset

    4. Surprise your child on the plane with coloring pages of a favorite character, printed from a website like (we’ve got Sesame Street printables) or


    5. Spin string through trains with Lauri lacing shapes.

    6. Use beeswax crayons, rectangular crayons or glitter crayons (look for ones that won’t roll away) on a variety of papers stapled together: colored, tracing and textured. We especially love these crayon earth worms.


    7. Can’t find any rainbows out the airplane window? Make your own with a prism or kaleidoscope.

    8. Retell a fairy-tale story with finger puppets, like the Three Little Pigs set from Manhattan Toy Company.


    9. Make necklaces with paper clips, and add beads for more silly pizzazz.

    10.Surprise your child with new lift-the-flap board books, like the Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap board book box collection.

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    11. Mix up a silly cake (don’t forget the imaginary twigs and dirt) using a kiddie spoon, fork and measuring spoons from home. Bonus: It’ll taste better than anything the airline serves.

    12. Keep little fingers busy with a box of Band-aids and a sheet of bubble wrap.


    13. Play dress-up on the plane with a small bag of old necklaces, bracelets, scarves and sunglasses.

    14.Encourage dress-yourself skills with a zipper, snaps and Velcro sewn onto denim, or bring along an Alex Learn to Dress Monkey.

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    15. Wrap (and unwrap) toys with squares of tin foil—no tape required!

    16. Go fishing with a stick, string and dowel. Create “fish” out of Post-it notes.

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    17. Pop a favorite (or even better, new) DVD into your portable DVD player.

    18. Play who’s-that-relative with photos of Grandma, Grandpa and other favorite family members inside contact paper or plastic sleeves.

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    19. Bring the office along for crafty activities: Post-it Notes, highlighters, a mini-stapler, tape and mini binder clips.

    20. String Cheerios on dental floss—a necklace you can eat after you make it!


    21. Paint (mess free!) with the Crayola Magic Light Brush.

    22. Create scenes with stamps, a stamp pad and paper, such as with these Melissa & Doug pet stamps.


    23. Load a new app on the iPhone, using any from our list.

    24. Use learning chopsticks to pick up cotton balls and small toys.


    25. Drive toy trucks in a Snack and Play Travel Tray from Toys R. Us.

    26. Arm yourself with lots of options with My Busy Kit, a mom-made tote stuffed with activities, including markers, tape, quiet toys and lacing puzzles.


    27. Play card games like Uno or make your own trading cards (take that, Pokemon).

    28. Make faces with the mini Mr. Potato Head Spud Buds.


    29. Create a colorful collage with magazines; just snip out letters, animals and faces and connect with tape.

    30.Cause a giggle fit with a wind-up seal or dancing robot from Z Windups.


    31. Create dot art using Do-A-Dot Art Dot Markers.

    32.Listen to favorite audiobooks or storyteller’s yarns, like those offered by


    33. Color your own carry-on backpack with the Kidzsack cloth backpack

    34. Transform your angel into a (temporary) rock star with rub-on tattoos. Count slowly as you wait for the tat to transfer.


    35. Make mazes and spell names with a Travel Magna Doodle.

    36. Perform magic with Invisible Ink coloring books, like this Marvel Heroes one.

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    37. Cook up a play campsite for a favorite doll with what’s on hand or what you can score from the airline attendant—napkin tent, coffee stirrer firepit etc.

    38. Create a sculpture with bathroom supplies, like cotton balls, Q-tips, tissues and tape.


    39. Co-author a book: Write down your child’s dictated story on a pre-stapled stack of paper, and ask him to supply the illustrations.

    40.Toy with portable activity kits, like the Short Stuffs no-sew stuffed animal kit from Klutz.

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    41. Fold origami paper into cranes and caterpillars. Print pages from the site Origami Club for simple-to-follow directions.

    42. Set up a safari scene with miniature plastic animals, like those from Schleich.


    43. Assemble Ravensburger small travel puzzles, but keep track of dropped pieces.

    44. Get out a portable, plane-friendly game like Scrabble Folio or Bananagrams.


    45. Take getting-there shots for the scrapbook with a disposable camera.

    46. Create 3-D sculptures with Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners.

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    47. Make a bouncing ball out of three bags of rubber bands.

    48. Spy on row 25 with a magnifying glass, binoculars and a notebook.


    49. Bungee toys off of the tray table or arm rest with elastic tape.

    50. Bring the Nintendo DS so you can have five minutes of quiet with a magazine.