Not taking a travel nanny on your next vacation? Not to worry. Airplane games for kids help keep your little one occupied — and you sane — during the flight. Pick up travel games from the dollar bins at many stores, use classic car games or create your own portable games to keep the kiddos occupied. “If kids love to play with it at home, they’ll love to play with it on the airplane,” says Amy Pincock, the cofounder of kids’ activity site Serving Pink Lemonade.
“Small toys like action figures are perfect for the child who likes to make believe, or [bring] a drawing notebook for your little artist. Pack a few new toys or games to create a distraction when the need arises too.”
Technology can also be a great portable option for long trips. “Don’t shy away from technology. A tablet computer keeps children busy for hours and lightens your carry-on by combining books, games, movies and shows,” adds Corrine McDermott, the founder of Have Baby Will Travel. “A few old-school items like paper or coloring books and crayons and a travel Etch-A-Sketch are worthy distractions and should be brought out first. Once the tech comes out, it’s hard to go backwards.”
Think outside the box when coming up with games to play together. Make puppets with airsick bags or create fishing poles with coffee stirrers and fish for numbered pieces of paper on your tray. “Don’t worry and be creative,” Natalie Diaz, the founder of Twiniversity suggests.
She, along with Pincock, McDermott and Leanette Fernandez of Teach Me 2 Save, share 18 airplane games for kids and fun activities to enjoy on your next flight:
- Airplane I Spy Game
Let your little ones race to be first to find all the items on this free printable board from Dotting the Map.
- Imaginary Traveler Alphabet Game
Take turns naming places you’re going and items you’re taking starting with consecutive letters of the alphabet, with this game from What Do We Do All Day.
- Fingertip Twister
This mini version of the classic Twister game from Later Gator Crafts is sure to end in giggles.
- The Picnic Game
This game from Teach Me 2 Save begins when the first player says, “I went on a picnic today and I brought…” then adds a picnic item that begins with A. Players take turns adding items starting with each letter.
- Magnetic Fishing Game
Here’s a pocket-sized race to the finish to catch the most fish. Find directions for this creative game at Crafts Unleashed.
- Alphabet Travel Game
Challenge your little ones to find objects starting with each letter of the alphabet and write them on dry erase boards with this game from Prepared Not Scared.
- Lines and Dots Game
Players race to win the most squares in the classic dots game. Print one from Mom’s Minivan or make your own board.
- Travel Memory Game
A DIY version of the classic children’s memory match game, Kids Activity Blog shows you how to make a durable felt version.
- Quiet Book Game Othello
All ages will enjoy this DIY Othello game from Serving Pink Lemonade on the go.
- Paper Toss
Make a plane-safe version using crumpled tissues and an empty drink cup, using directions from Repeat Crafter Me. First player to 25 wins.
- Marble Travel Game
This game from Serving Pink Lemonade lets your little one have a blast working the marble through the maze. Make two sets and have marble races.
- Travel Checkers Board
Create this checker board from using an old DVD case with directions from Handmade by Stacy Vaughn.
- Magnetic Tic-Tac-Toe
Reuse a metal mint box and glass marbles, like A Flexible Life did. Compete to see who can win the most games.
- Bubble Wrap Travel Game
In this version of I Spy, Apartment Therapy uses repurposed bubble wrap.
- Treasure Hunt
Make a list of items for your little ones to find, using the suggestions on Tips From a Typical Mom. The person finding the most items wins.
Print out a Scattergories sheet from Fun English Games your kids will love.
- Scavenger Hunt
Have players look for things found on a plane including: baby bottle, pillow, computer, magazine, plastic cup and iPad. Find tips on Twiniversity.
- Would You Rather
Challenge players to answer what they’d rather do, using this list of kid-friendly questions from Make It. Keep score of who answers quickest for the win.
Whatever you do, don’t stress. “Even if you get on the plane without anything to use for games, you can come up with 25 games using items found on the plane,” says Diaz.
For more game ideas, check out these 53 Fun Car Games for Kids.
Sandy Wallace is a seasoned traveler whose kids love playing the Alphabet Game. Sandy enjoys family life and sharing tips for busy families. Follow Sandy on Twitter and have fun making family memories.