10 Airplane Travel Games for Kids

Following up on the popularity of my 10 Restaurant Waiting Games for Kids, I thought I would write about some ways we keep our boys occupied while on an airplane. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t absolutely dread the thought of flying with toddlers and preschoolers. Cramped quarters, long flight times and squirmy kids with short attention spans don’t mix well. So here are a couple of ideas for games you can play to help distract your little ones and keep them occupied while you are flying the friendly skies. And just like my 10 Restaurant Waiting Games, these airplane games can all be played (mostly) with items found on the airplane. No need to take up precious carry-on bag space!

Of course we always bring the iPad loaded with their favorite shows or movies, their LeapFrog Leapster Explorer Learning Game System
and Invisible Ink coloring book.

But what about the times when you can’t use your electronic devices? Those 20 minutes during take off and landing can seem like hours if you have a screaming, whiney child.

1. I-Spy Passengers: The classic game of I-Spy but with the people around you. Choose a person within view of your seat and using the phrase “I spy with my little eye, someone ___” Provide a descriptive word about who you see and let your child guess who it is. Then let him/her pick someone and you try to guess!

2. Ice Cube Fishing: Who knew a small cup of ice and a straw could be so entertaining?! I noticed that the ice cubes on airplanes have a hole through the middle. So when your drink is gone, grab your straw and let your little one try and pick up the ice with the straw. This kept my 20 month old occupied for quite some time!

3. Sky Mall Toy Search: Sky Mall magazine is full of fun toys and gadgets and the magazine is free and available in the pocket in front of you. Ask your child to find different objects or toys in the magazine. They will be flipping pages for hours :)

4. Thumb Wars: This is a fun and classic game always has my boys giggling and laughing. Facing each other and using the same hand, grasp your fingers together leaving your thumbs sticking up. Chant “1, 2, 3, 4, I declare a thumb war!” and when you are ready say “Thumbs back, now attack!” The object is to get the opponent’s thumb pinned down by your thumb.

5. Paper Toss (keep score on radio channels): Have you ever played the game paper toss on your smart phone? This is the real life version using crumpled up kleenex from the lavatory and an empty drink cup. Place the drink cup on the tray table in front of you, lean back and try and make a basket with your crumpled tissue paper. Move the cup in different spots and throw from different angles. Just make sure to keep the game from getting out of control.

And keep score with the numbers on the channel changer on your armrest!

6. Barf Bag Puppets: All you need is some crayons or markers and the barf bag from the pocket in front of you and you can create puppets! Some airlines (like Alaska Airlines) have small packs of crayons for kids if you ask.

7. Paper Towel Mask: Use those rough and thick paper towels from the lavatory to make funny face masks. Just poke holes through with your finger. I had my 1.5 year old giggling for a good 10 minutes during descent!

8. Food Play: If you have little ones, I am sure you have packed a large arsenal of snacks. Try to choose some snacks they can play with. Cheez-it now makes “Scrabble Junior” letter crackers that are great for working on letter recognition. Make words with them or try and find the whole alphabet. You an even “build” with these fun little squares.

Or how about Tic Tac Toe with mini Oreos and straws from the drink cart!

9. Rock, Paper, Scissors: This is another simple classic game that can’t be forgotten! If you don’t know how to play, I will let Wikipedia explain it to you. Click HERE for instructions.

10. The Alphabet Game: Look out the window (or around you) and starting with the letter “A” name something that starts with each letter of the Alphabet. For instance, A = airplane, B = backpack, C = clouds, etc.

I hope these ideas will help make your next flight a smoother one! Be sure to check out my 10 Restaurant Waiting Games for Kids for ideas to keep your kids occupied while waiting for your food to arrive when eating out.



  1. says

    Great ideas. We traveled back and forth from overseas with our kids many years. Wish I'd had some of these ideas then. My kids were really good on planes, though. I'm going to keep track of some of your ideas as now I'm a grandma!

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