Flying with preschool-aged children can be a challenge. Well, traveling with children of any age can be challenging, but the younger ones are harder sometimes to keep entertained, or just overall happy from start to finish. I have lots of first-hand experience with this and when prepping for trips haven’t found many useful lists for preschoolers. There’s tons of info out there for babies and toddlers, but what about after they are toddling and just becoming “kids”?
Here are a few things that help keep my daughter (age 4 going on 15) entertained and a happy camper while traveling long distance on an airplane.
1.Magic Coloring Paper: This is small paper coloring pad that when using a “magic” marker unveils the colors of the image in the book. My daughter loves them and they only require the one marker, so less to carry along in your bag. She spends hours making sure she has colored every inch. She has recently been asking me about the words and what they spell, reading them out to me.
2.Window “Stickies”: These are meant for holiday décor but can also be awesome for window seat entertainment. They can spend the entire flight decorating their window over and over — or at least 20 minutes of the flight — and we will take any distraction!
3.Snack Bag: In a gallon-size zip-lock bag put an assortment of snacks for your children to pick from. That way when they say they are hungry they have options and you avoid the complaints of not having what they want. It also gives them some freedom of choice when they can pick from whatever they want, keeping them happy campers.
4.Something New: Get them something new to play with at the beginning and a small reward to give them at the end of the flight. For my daughter, I get her a small toy to open when we take off (nothing big — something from the Dollar Tree). For the end of the flight I get a surprise I know she will be on her best behavior for! With Caroline that is a small LOL or My Little Pony Suprise figurine.
5.Water Bottle: Bring an empty water bottle with a lid for the flight. Once you get through security fill it up with water. Make sure they are drinking on the flight as air travel tends to cause dehydration, especially children. If it is empty have the flight attendant refill it or better yet, have them put some juice in it as a treat.
6.Magnetic Doodle Board: Like the magic coloring pads these are mess free! Easy entertainment on the airplane and while traveling in general. When I first got my daughter’s, I used it as the on-flight toy surprise.
7.iPad or Smart Phone:I know this one can be controversial but I am all about screen time in the right amount and right time, and long-distance travel is the RIGHT time. Make sure you download some preschool appropriate games ahead of time and if you have Netflix or movies you will need to have them downloaded as well since there is not always Wi-Fi inflight. Longer flights will have in-flight entertainment so sometimes I don’t even need to pull out the iPad but would hate to be caught without in a time of need.
8.Anything from the Target Dollar Spot: The Target Dollar spot has some great cheap arts and crafts $1 packs, and other great stuff to entertain your littles at a low cost, so make sure to hit it up before you head out to the airport for take-off.
9.Their Own Bag: Have them pack their own backpack for the journey. Let them pick a few things that you approve, but give them the freedom to decide what they bring on the trip. Just make sure it is all airplane appropriate and that they don’t bring things that are valuable or have lots of parts that can get lost and or left behind. My daughter LOVES packing for trips and will play with everything and “everyone” she brings since she is the one who decided who was coming along on the trip.
Every child is a little different from the next, so make sure to do what you think is right for traveling with your children. These are just some things that have helped us manage long-distance cross-country and international flights with our preschooler. Many of these suggestions work for long car trips, too.
Do you have an inflight must have? Share with us in the comments.