Flying with little kids? Then you know the dreaded feeling of discovering the iPad battery is low.
That's when the right toys can help keep your children busy — and keep you sane — even on a lengthy flight.
I’ve been traveling with my two kids since they were infants; we’ve survived because we always remember to bring along engrossing activities. A few rules of thumb: make sure travel toys are compact, mess-free, and quiet. (Your flight attendants and fellow travelers will thank you.) I never introduce them before a trip, because familiar toys aren’t nearly as fun as new ones.
These are some of our tried-and-true trip savers:
Jinja’s House, $30, Amazon
Though it’s on the pricey side, this tiny playset is packed with enough lovable (and lose-able) figures, furniture, and accessories to keep a toddler busy for ages. It has a kid-friendly handle, and easily fits into a carry-on. My daughter, who calls it “liddle house,” is especially fascinated with the bathroom hidden behind a flap door.
Mudpuppy Puzzle to Go, $10, Amazon
These cute 36-piece puzzles come in soft, packable pouches. They’re big enough to be interesting, but small enough fit onto an airplane tray. And the design options—including a map of the United States and animals of the world—mean your kids might even learn something en route.
Water Wow! Activity Pads, $5, Amazon
Melissa & Doug’s activity books are a great alternative to messy markers. Kids use a refillable water pen on the pad, revealing colors, letters and numbers. To use them again, just let the pages dry--the colors disappear.
I was really, really nervous the first time I took my son on a flight alone. He was just 18 months old, and I was prepared for disaster. Instead, he spent three hours playing with this deceptively simple set of eggs. He took them in and out of the carton, “cracked” them into a cup, and played peek-a-boo with their shells. Later, they helped him learn about colors, shapes and matching. Though they squeak when squeezed, they’re quiet enough to make the cut.
Wikki Stix, $6, Amazon
There’s a reason they’re handed out to kids in restaurants. Made from yarn that is coated in non-toxic wax, Wikki Stix can be bent, twisted and rolled into almost any shape a child can imagine. I also love that kids can stick them to things, like the back of an airplane seat, without causing damage.
Mini Sticker Books, $2, Amazon
What kid doesn’t love stickers? These activity books are small, but they come in a number of themes—airplanes, cupcake decorating, funny animal faces—and the stickers are reusable. Throw several in your carry-on, along with those magazines you’ve been dying to catch up on.
Kid O Magnatab, $25, Amazon
A great toy for fiddly fingers. Draw pictures by using the magnetic pen to pop beads to the surface of the tablet; it’s so satisfying to snap them back in with a fingertip. If you lose the stylus, you can buy a new one for a few dollars. There are letter and number versions, too.
Dear Zoo, $5, Amazon
Books are good; lift-the-flap books are even better. Rod Campbell’s classic about a kid searching for a new pet has simple illustrations and something for little hands to open on every page.