One year old’s have an attention span of approx. 2-3 minutes. With even a short-haul flight, that’s a lot of activities you need to come up with occupy that time. And don’t forget about the airport entertainment too!
If you are like me and forgot to book a flight during naps, then you’ll need all the entertainment tools possible, without taking up too much space in the luggage and toys that allow for multi-purpose play.
In order to keep our babies busy, I’ve compiled some of the best toys to entertain a one year old on a plane. Most of these are readily available, cheap to find and will definitely buy you some time on both your departure and return flights.
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Melissa and Doug Take-Along Shape-Sorter
At one year old, babies love sorting things, taking things out and putting them back in. This Melissa and Doug shape sorter was perfect to fit in the luggage as the carry-case was soft, the shapes were the perfect size for travel but also big enough for little hands to play with and not swallow. We ended up using the shapes in the hotel with an ice bucket for a removing and putting things away activity.
Band aid Dispenser
Trust me when I say that this kept my daughter busy for hours. I think I got this for free at a baby show. My daughter LOVED pulling the band aids out with her thumb and forefinger (practicing her fine motor skills) and then handing it to me to refill the band aids. Sometimes they would get stuck, sometimes she took out a bunch at a time. She loved it and it surprised everyone how into it she was.
Sticky notes are always a fun activity and good substitute to stickers. I’ve tested all different sizes of sticky notes and this size is the best for little hands and for optimal stick-age. Play with them by sticking them on the back of the airplane seat in front of you or on the window.
Zipper Pouch (with multiple zipper compartments)
These Zipper Pouches were great for a one year old to pull on. We also played a memory game of hide-and-seek with some of the other toys we brought by hiding it in one zipper slot and then moving it to the other. You can even keep these for a few years from now for when they actually fill them with school supplies! (Kidding, sort of.)
McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys
Feel free to eat the actual meal and save the toy for your flight. Or you are also likely to find some at your local Value Village or other thrift store. Pick up a few of these and you have instant “new toy” satisfaction from your baby. I also didn’t care too much about these so when they went missing, I wasn’t too heartbroken.
We used these toys to play hide-and-seek with the zipper pouch above as well as imaginative puppet play. By the end of the trip our daughter didn’t care much for them but they served their purpose on the trip.
Pop-up Books/Books with Flaps
Dear Zoo is a classic lift-the-flap book for good reason. One year old’s love seeing what is behind each page and I found my daughter playing with this book on her own long after we returned from our trip.
This particular Sophie book has very thick tabs which was great for little hands to pull on since they slide both on the side and top and I didn’t fear things being ripped. (Dear Zoo will have noticeable damage over time.)
Good ol’ fashion Cheerios. Toddlers love these and you can just put one at a time for them to find, pick up and play with. We also used these for some hide-and-seek-and-eat games. Bring them in a small Tupperware container. These will double as a toy for hiding/sorting/etc.
But the internet tells you no screen time until they are at least 2. Well, when you are on a long-haul flight and have exhausted your ‘fun activities bag’, that’s when you get desperate and a kids movie or show from Netflix or Disney+ is a lifesaver and buys you some peace and quiet. If you opt to get a tablet, purchase one that has more memory or an expandable microSD to allow you to download more shows/movies before you leave. Amazon’s Fire HD8 Tablet even comes with a kid-proof case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee that they will replace it for free if it breaks.