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Everyone hates a screaming kid on an airplane, especially this year when travel is anticipated to be extremely chaotic. But you know who hates a screaming kid on an airplane the most? The parents. Believe me, we don’t want our kids unhappy and uncomfortable and disrupting the whole plane. Sure, kids cry, and sometimes, there’s nothing you can do but attempt every trick up your sleeve to settle them … and of course, the tricks don’t always work.
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Keeping my kids happily entertained on the airplane is always my goal, and I do everything I can to keep them content and quiet for the duration of the flight by stocking up on snacks, drinks, diapers, and wipes and keeping a change of clothes close in case there’s an accident. But on top of all that, I now travel with a backpack full of items that help make the trip go smoother for everyone: me, my kids and my fellow passengers. So what’s in my backpack? Here are some of the compact, travel-friendly items I never get on a plane without—and that in my experience help keep kids quiet on the plane:
1. Travel backpack
First things first: the backpack. I use the Commuter Backpack from Mark & Graham, which is no longer available. But a lot of moms rave about this backpack from HaloVa because it’s got lots of handy compartments and a spacious main interior pocket. It’s waterproof and easy to wipe clean. I have to admit that I resisted the idea of a backpack for a long time. It’s not the most stylish bag and doesn’t always go with my outfit (LOL) but in the end, it’s a very practical choice since it leaves my hands free to hold my kids’ hands or carry them.
2. Fly Tot
The best way to have an easy flight with your little one? Get them to sleep! Easier said than done, but the Fly Tot really helps. Placing this inflatable cushion at the end of a seat essentially turns a coach seat into a first-class seat for kids. Kids can lie down flat and sleep comfortably. Thanks to the Fly Tot, Jack has sometimes slept for three-plus hours on a plane, which has been amazing…for everyone!
3. Small travel pillow
A lie-flat seat is great, but a small pillow is the cherry on top for a comfortable sleep. We never travel without ours for our kids. When I was nursing them, a small pillow was great for propping up my arm or placing beneath their head. My kids prefer an actual rectangular pillow to a neck pillow and this one is very compact and is machine-washable so you can keep it clean between trips.
4. AVAWO iPad case for kids
While we try to limit screen time when we’re at home, the airplane is a different story. The kids get to watch their favorite movies and TV shows (Curious George and Paw Patrol, mostly) when he flies. This AVAWO iPad case is perfect for his use. The foam offers tons of cushiony protection for the many bumps, scrapes and falls that the iPad endures in little hands, and there’s a convenient handle for them to carry the iPad around with. The handle also folds back and turns into a stand so that the iPad can be propped up while they’re watching.
5. Snug Play+ kids headphones
The kids needed headphones to use with their iPads on the airplane, and after plenty of research, I decided on this pair from Snug Play+. They have a volume-limiting feature, which was the number-one thing I was looking for (so his little ears don’t accidentally get blasted). They fold in half so they’re easy to pack and you can’t beat the price. Also, I love the assortment of fun colors!
6. Water WOW! activity pad
These Melissa + Doug activity pads are perfect for the plane! You just fill the pen up with water and then ‘paint’ on the reusable pages to reveal the hidden pictures beneath. When the water dries, the colors disappear so the pad can be used over and over again. The best part is that this is truly a no-mess activity!
7. Eye Found It card game
My kids love “look and find” books and games. This card game from Disney offers lots of quiet playtime as I ask them to find various elements within the cards.
8. “Where Is Curious George?” look and find book
This “look and find” book is another favorite. And since my kids go bananas for Curious George, it’s the perfect book for them. But there are lots of other “look and find” books (like these) with different characters if your child has a different preference.
9. “First 100 Animals” board book
The entire series of “First 100” books (seen here) is a big hit with my kids. They love identifying the animals, numbers, colors, and shapes (depending on which book it is) but “First 100 Animals” is definitely a favorite. I love that the book is relatively small in size and easy to pack.
10. Crayola Pip-Squeaks Washable Markers & Paper Set
Drawing is one way that my kids and I pass a lot of time, on the airplane, during mealtime or just hanging out in a hotel room. This Crayola travel kit is perfect. It’s got a great selection of colors and packs up compactly in an easy-to-carry case. And the markers are washable, which is key, so you don’t have to worry about your kid drawing on the seats or tray tables! Just make sure you have some wipes on hand to clean up any marks (they’ll wipe off easily)!
11. “My World” board book
We get our drawing inspiration from this book. The kids choose a picture from about 350 options and I draw it or they do. After their drawing is complete, I write the word out, and finally we talk about the word and spell it out together. This activity combines fun with learning and it passes a lot of time.
12. Paw Patrol AquaDoodle travel kit
Since the kids love to draw, this AquaDoodle travel kit is perfect for the airplane. You just dip the marker into water and draw on the fabric. When the water dries, the images disappear so it can be used over and over again. It doesn’t hurt that my kids also love Paw Patrol!
I’m sometimes shocked at how much my kids love this little puzzle. They spend tons of quiet time with it, manipulating it into different shapes and, I think, trying to figure out how it works. Whatever has them so engrossed is fine with me as it keeps them quiet on the airplane—and develops their hand-eye coordination and improves their dexterity. Plus, it’s small and easy to throw in my purse.
This little metal box features 40+magnets that kids can stick to create different adventures for each of Eric Carle’s beloved characters. The best part, of course, is that it’s magnetic so the play pieces stick to the tin and aren’t continually falling on the floor.