I dreaded air travel when my girls were little. Between the two of them, I had a seat kicker, a non-napper, and an impatient whiner. Yeah, I was that parent.
So I learned what works, and what doesn’t, to keep my little ones happy and occupied on long flights.
Besides packing lots of snacks and lollipops, which helped with hunger pains and air pressure changes, I always brought along toys that were easy to use, not messy or awkward in small spaces, and ones with few parts to avoid missing pieces and ensuing tantrums.
And these 5 travel toys for preschoolers would definitely make the cut. I know they would have kept my kids busy for hours. But, of course, if all else fails, a few really good age-appropriate apps or an inflight movie is your parenting lifeline.
Top photo: Flickr Creative Commons
CMP is a rstyle affiliate
When my girls were little, they would spend hours playing with their Aquadoodle mat. It was a huge hit and I loved the mess-free fun. I’ve recently discovered that the geniuses at the toy company (who you can also thank for the Hatchimals craze) have created a travel version that’s small enough to fit in a child’s carry-on backpack. Just fill up the Aquadoodle no-leak pen (no, really!) before the flight takes off, then watch the magic happen. The pictures appear and disappear when dry for endless hours of creating. ($14.99, Amazon)
Board games are not what come to mind when you’re looking for a great travel toy for preschoolers. Trust me, I know. Even with magnetic games, pieces get lost and it’s a lose-lose for everyone. But Slooooks is a game-changer. This combination scavenger hunt and I Spy game is a 3-ring binder that opens up to a game board with everything you need attached. Spin for a color and a letter, then look around. Spin a blue and an S, and that blue scarf on the flight attendant will get you a point. The game goes fast, but it’s one you can play over and over without boredom setting in too quickly. ($14.99, Slooooks)
Keep crayons and drawing paper organized and neat in the cutest fabric travel organizer I have ever seen. I’m in love with the Giraffe print (I blame it on my obsession with April), but this company has a bunch of other adorable patterns, like mermaids, foxes, and robots. The set comes with a 4×6 notepad, but you’ll have to supply the crayons. And, probably more paper too. ($19, Paper From Heaven)
A clear canister full of colorful beads and 48 hidden objects (like a balloon, a marble, or a toy car), that you have to twist and turn to discover. Fun! The game comes with cards, so you may have to read the instructions to smaller children, but then enjoy some quiet time while they search. There are several versions of Find It, but I think this Kid Edition is just right for preschoolers. ($19.95, Amazon)
For those times when you have to pull out all the stops, like long international flights, this Fun on the Fly Travel Pack is a parent’s BFF. It’s a bit splurge-y, but you get a child’s backpack filled with tons of activities: crayons, activity books, card games, and more. Of course, you could DIY this really easily with small games and activities you have at home, but the thrill of something brand new can work wonders when traveling. Plus, it’s one less thing you have to worry about when packing for the entire family. ($49.99, Fun on The Fly)