What To Bring On the Airplane to Entertain Your Toddler Who Won't Sit Still

Top 20 Items to Entertain Your Toddler While Traveling On an Airplane

Airplane Toys for 3-Year-old blog post photo with airplane toy

How to Keep Your 3-Year-Old Happy and Entertained (and Tantrum Free) On a Flight

For our last Spring Break, I traveled with two 3-year-olds, a 5-year-old, a one-year-old, an 11-year-old, and the rest of my extended family on an airplane and the trip was between 3-5 hours, plus the time it took to get to the hotel and the time waiting in the airport.   I've traveled with a toddler many many times in my life due to the job location of their father at one point in my life (he constantly traveled).  Here are the items that I found to keep my 3-year-old children entertained the best, as well as some items that I really wish I would have had on the flights.  I've also included some items that are top-rated for entertaining 3-year-olds, but that I don't think would work for my children.  

Here are the top items to bring on an airplane to keep your toddler (around age 3) entertained and tantrum-free throughout the flight.  Be sure to check out our packing list for traveling with a 3-year-old for more on what to bring to a resort vacation when traveling with a 3-year-old.


1.   Removable Puffy Sticker Pads

Link: Removable Sticker Pads for Kids

Removable Stickers

These removable stickers by Melissa and Doug are fabulous because you can remove these before you get off of the airplane without leaving permanent damage.  

2.   Candy Sucker Pops

Link: Toddler Suckers

Sucker Pop Candy

For the ascent and descent of the airplane (where it's critical to yawn to help pop your ears), these sucker pop candies are helpful for those toddlers who don't quite grasp the concept of yawning yet, and who are old enough to be trusted with suckers for choking purposes.  These pops are organic and sugar-free and come highly rated on Amazon and from several of my friends.  I think these are delicious and so does my toddler!

3.   Erasable Drawing Pad

Link: Erasable Drawing Pad

Erasable Drawing Pad

This Erasable Drawing Pad is fabulous because you don’t need to worry about markers drying out or running out of paper or bending the paper.  It’s a fun way to keep score of games you’re playing together with your toddler (e.g., iSpy) while you’re on the plane. It’s also a great way to write out and teach them letters/numbers and sight words.   

4.   Bag of Squishy Stretchy Animals

Link: Squishies


I was shocked at how effective these dinosaur squishes were at keeping all the kids in my family entertained on their airplane - from age 3 to age 11 - these were a hit.  I kept these in a pencil bag and dispersed them carefully throughout the trip.  These were fun to squeeze and squish even for myself.   Don't give them out all at once - one at a time was key for my kids and nephews.   My daughter loved the kitten squishies.  There are so many to chose from on Amazon - just type in "Squishies" into the search box.  

5.   Amazon Fire Tablet for Kids

Link: Amazon Fire Tablet for Kids

Amazon Fire Tablet

I love the Amazon Fire Tablet for Kids over an iPad because so many (most) of the apps are free.   The battery lasts a long time, and it comes with a case that protects the device.   The parental controls are easy. 
Tip:  Make sure you give yourself plenty of time - at least 24 hours - prior to leaving for the airport to download all of the apps/movies that you want to ahead of time - it takes a LONG time to download everything when setting up the device.   The process is not exactly idiot proof either, so grab a cup of coffee and make sure you can focus for an hour or two when setting it up.  You'll want to learn how to customize the settings.  If you download Netflix on the device, you can download movies ahead of time too (the movies are available with or without WiFi - which is so helpful on a flight or in a pinch.

Tip:  Another tip that I learned after purchasing the Fire Tablet is that you can insert a SD Card into the device for extra memory expansion.  If you have a spare SD Card, this can save money considerable if you are thinking about buying a device with a higher storage capacity (the SD card method is less expensive).  

6.   Toy Airplane

Link: Toy Airplane

Toy Airplane

I found that buying a toy airplane that actually looks like the airplane we were going to be flying on was significantly more fascinating than a regular white airplane.  When you walking to the gate at the airport, point out the planes and make sure your toddler sees what they look like before getting on the plane.  It will make giving them this toy more special and meaningful to them.   I pull out this toy when we're waiting at the gate, but I've also waited until we're on the airplane.  Use your gut - but this is a hit when flying with a toddler.  

Tip: What toy airplane you end up buying, make sure it doesn't make noises, or you will drive the other passengers crazy (and you might even scare them because sometimes the toy airplanes make noises that would be disturbing to hear on a flight if you didn't realize they were coming from a toy).

7.   Wireless Headphones for Kids

Link: Kids Wireless Headphones

Wireless Kids Headphones

There is nothing worse than boarding an airplane with a toddler who is excited to use their tablet only to find that you have forgotten their headphones.   Certainly some apps do not require sound, but if you have the type of luck that I do, your toddler will want to watch Daniel Tiger and he'll want to hear the show when he's watching it.   

Tip:  Make sure to charge these the night before!  And make sure to charge these prior to your return flight!

8.   Slap Hands

Link: Slap Hands

Slap Hands

These are a fun toy to use on the back of the tray table or on the airplane window.  It shocks me every time how much and for how long these sticky slap hands can entertain a 3-year-old.



9.   Insulated Kids Thermos

Insulated Kids Thermos

I love this Camelbak Kids Thermos, but if you're not as worried about having an insulated thermos, then check out the Contigo Autoseal Thermos - I love these because I never have to worry about it spilling in my purse. My friend had a genius idea - to let her toddler decorate the thermos with stickers.

10.   Fidget Toys

Link: Fidget Toy Caterpillar

Caterpillar Fidget Toy

This is a new fidget toy as of 2023, and it seems to be all the rage.  


11.   Stress Balls

Stress Balls

There is something oddly satisfying about playing with these stress balls.  Make sure your toddler doesn't have a tendency to put things in their mouth prior to using these with him!


12.   Ring LolliPops

Link: Ring Pops

Ring LolliPops

If your child is old enough to eat a sucker without a risk of choking, then these Ring Pops will be a hit.  They also come in Spider-Man theme, which was HUGE with my 4-year-old nephew who LOVES Spidie.  

13.   Travel Squishmallows


Portable Squishmallows

If you haven’t heard of Squishmallows, these are one of the most popular toys of 2023.   They flew off the shelves at Christmas due to their fun designs and extremely soft fabric and stuffing.  The larger version of Squishmallows are great because they’re a stuffed animal that meets a super soft pillow.  The smaller Squishmallows are great as rewards for good behavior and these are also excellent pillows for the airplane for when your toddler falls asleep with his head against the window.  

14.   WikkiStix

Link: WikkiStix


I love WikkiStix because they allow kids to be creative while hardly taking up any space in a carry on bag.  I brought these to dinners at restaurants while we were on vacation for my 3-year-old to play with while at the table (I also bring these to dinners at home).  My nephews (age 4 and age 5) also loved playing with these at the dinner table and on the airplane.  Even my 11-year-old loves these.  


15.   Tape Activities

Link: Melissa and Doug Tape Activity Book

Tape Activities

Tape.  Yes - tape.  You'd be SHOCKED how much children love to play with tape unless you've seen it firsthand yourself.   Another idea that is in the spirit of tape is to find decorative tape (Washi tape) on sale and bring these along for the plane ride.   

16.   Magnetic Puzzleboards

Magnetic Puzzleboards

These are a genius invention!  These provide the benefits of a puzzle without the concern of so easily losing the pieces to the puzzle.  This is a good activity to do with your toddler on the airplane (and at home too!). 

17.   Sticker-Dot Mess-Free Activity

Link: Sticker Dot Activities

Sticker Dot Activities

I didn't try this dot activity book personally, but my 5-year-old nephew would have absolutely loved this on the airplane. He is very detail oriented, and he is a "stay in the lines" type of coloring-book child. I feel like I might enjoy doing this more than my 3-year-old, but maybe I could surprise myself.


18.   Light-Up Activity Board

Link: Crayola Light-Up Activity Board

Light Up Activity Board

Full-Disclosure: I feel like this would not keep my child occupied long enough to make lugging this thing in a diaper bag worth my while; that said, this activity board has great reviews on Amazon and I know a lot of other kids have attention spans that are much longer than my child's attention span. Therefore, I wanted to include it on this list.

19.   Dry Erase Travel Board

Dry Erase Travel Board for Kids

This is a similar concept to the erasable drawing pad except that this board adds dry erase markers to the mix (which can be risky on an airplane because markers can be easily lost if dropped), but the markers allow your toddler to express more of her creativity.  Unlike the one-click erasable drawing pad, this folds together - so there is less of a risk of losing whatever is written on the pad.  This is for the more mature toddler - ideally, a toddler who understands the importance of putting caps back onto markers so that they don’t dry out. 


20.   Felt Stickers Activity Set

Felt Stickers

Felt stickers are a fun change from regular stickers and if your child hasn't been exposed to felt stickers previously, then introducing these while on an airplane will buy you some tantrum-free time if you're lucky.  This Melissa and Doug Felt Sticker Activity Set is awesome because you can put together pre-cut shapes to make cute animals - it was the perfect challenge for my 3-year-old.   

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