In-flight activity kits for kids

In-flight activity kits for toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged kids

By Sally Webb

travel flight kit for kids

Many parents despair about keeping their kids occupied on a long flight. The bad news is that you can’t just shove headphones on their heads and tell your kids you’ll see them in Singapore! You do have to engage with them from time to time, whether that’s reading a story or role playing as Lightning McQueen. The good news is, an age-specific activity kit will help occupy your kids throughout the journey. And you just might get some peace.

Here are our checklists for what to take on board:

Activity kits for toddlers

1. Picture books

Favourite books, especially interactive books with flaps and windows. Look for small format board books (less space, less weight) and stories that you don’t mind reading over and over again. Because you will.

2. Art and craft

Thick stubby crayons or pencils (that are easy to grip) and a plain notepad or colouring book for creative scribbles.If you’re brave you could take a blob of play dough although you might end up having to pick it off the carpet.

3. Favourite toys

A comfort toy for sleeping is essential but so too are a favourite toy train or car or doll to play with.

4. Tablet

If you’re happy for your child to use an iPad, load it up with educational apps such as Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann, Press Here: The App, Drawnimal and Eric Carle’s My Very First App. Make sure you’ve got child-sized over-ear headphones that will stay on (and muffle the sound from fellow travellers).

5. Surprise, surprise

Distraction therapy is essential. Raid the $2 shops before you leave home for trinkets and compact toys that you can produce one by one when boredom and fatigue kick in. If you can, wrap them up; unwrapping kills time and adds a further element of surprise.

Activity kits for pre-schoolers

Baby feet on seat in the aircraft

1. Books

Pack a selection of slim paperback picture books that you know your child loves – and that you don’t mind reading again and again.

 2. iPads and tablets

Load up the iPad with interactive but educational games, plus episodes of favourite shows like Dora or Play School. Personal screens are often better for pre-schoolers than seat-back screens which are positioned with adults in mind, not kids. Don’t forget the child-sized over-ear headphones – the aircraft issue ones usually won’t stay on – which work for audio books below as well.

3. Audio books

Load up the MP3 with some favourite audio books. These can be particularly good for a night flight when you want your child to be occupied but not overly stimulated by a screen. Hopefully they’ll nod off.

4. Stickers

Sticker books are great for pre-schoolers as you don’t have to worry about losing pencils or textas down the side of the seat. Ideally find one that relates to your destination. Then it’s educational too.

5. Travel scrap book

Pack new textas and pencils, a stick of glue and a small roll of sticky tape into a pencil case. Include a small sketchpad or book with blank pages (which can double as a travel scrap book). Encourage your child to stick in mementoes of the trip, such as boarding passes and tickets.

Activity kits for school aged kids

young girl playing with tablet pc at airport

1. Books and more books

Once kids are fluent readers they should be happy to have their head stuck in a book for at least some of the flight (although that seat back screen will be pretty enticing). If you’ve got a Kindle or eBook reader load it up.

2. Tablets

Load up the tablet with favourite TV shows, movies or games as well. Child-sized over-ear headphones are still a good idea.

3. Travel journal

Bring a lined notepad that can become a travel journal and encourage children to use it on the flight (and every day of the trip). They can collect things like tickets, postcards, coasters, pamphlets, wrappers and other souvenirs and glue them into the journal. Bring a small pencil case with pencils, pens, textas…and don’t forget the glue stick.

For aircraft-mad boys and girls you can even get specialty log books that cover all aspects of the flight experience. (See

4. Deck of cards

If you don’t lose them down the side of the seat playing cards are great; two kids seated next to each other can play Snap or Fish. Look out also for Uno and Rat a Tat Cat.  It can also be a lifesaving time killer in a lengthy airport layover.

5. iPhone or iPod with movie making app

Load up an old phone with a movie-making app which works offline (such as iMovie) and encourage your kids to get creative. You’ll be surprised with what they can come up with without moving from their seat and it will pass hours!