Feb 24, 2022
Upcoming travel with a 3 year old? That can sound overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be as long as you plan. Plane toys can be a great distraction for a 3 year old, but so can their surroundings and other creative ideas.
I have taken my 3 year old on domestic and international plane trips. In this article take you through the best plane toys and other means of distraction as well as some general questions.
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Your three year old will be very excited to go on an airplane. Depending on what type of flight you have there are several different ways to keep a toddler entertained on a plane.
First don’t overestimate the entertainment your toddler will be surrounded by by just being at the airport and on the plane. He/she will want to watch what is going on around them and interactions of all the people. You don’t need to pull out toys from the beginning, let them soak in their surroundings for a bit.
Short plane rides and intercontinental flights don’t usually offer many perks to passengers, including toddlers. Unless you pay to upgrade or pay for the entertainment package (if it's available on your flight) there will be no movies or shows available.
Once the excitement of being on a plane wanes from your 3 year old you might need some distractions for them. For ideas look further down to my recommended plane toys for a 3 year old.
Longer plane rides often come with more perks for the passengers. Typically you can expect entertainment services as well as food services. Both of these services help to keep a 3 year old entertained.
I would not solely count on your toddler watching endless amounts of TV or movies. I personally limit my toddlers screen time, even on plane rides. This is a personal choice. If you do want to utilize the entertainment available on the plane I recommend bringing toddler sized headphones. The free headphones that airplanes offer don’t fit a 3 year old’s ears very well.
My 3 year old taking his time over the meal service on an international plane ride back from London while watching TV show
On an international flight from London to the USA I tried to use the free headphones from British Airways. The headphones fell out of my son’s ears repeatedly and I would have to keep inserting them; every time he moved they fell out!
Meal times are also a great distraction for a 3 year old on a plane. They will watch the food being served to others and be very excited when it is their turn. Let them linger over their food to take more time.
I also recommend a handful of plane toys on international flights to add more distractions and fun.
I am a minimalist so I prefer taking very few toys on trips with my two toddlers. Once we arrive at our destination I find my toddlers are no longer interested in the toys we bought; they are more interested in the new place.
Each of my toddlers have their own toddler backpack. This is considered their first toy. They love carrying it around by themselves and having the responsibility for what goes in it. I allow them to bring toys, snacks and water that will fit in their backpacks, nothing more. Also the toys have to be approved by me.
Also have a 1 year old and wondering what airplane toys to bring, read my article here.
Allowing your toddler to carry their own backpack has many benefits. Make the backpack fun and he/she will find it a toy as well as a way to carry all their other toys.
My Skip Hop sets, one in monkey and one in dog theme
My almost 2 year old and 3 year old both have Skip Hop Toddler Backpacks in preschool 2-4 size. Skiphop offers backpacks in many different fun animal designs. My oldest has the dog theme while my youngest has the monkey theme.
I am a type A mom and love organization and order. I love that all my son’s travel items (backpack, snack container and water bottle) match each other. It makes it easy for him to identify what is his and for me to keep the kids’ items separate.
The snack containers and water bottles go on hikes with us, car trips and, basically, whenever we leave the house. The products are easy to clean and can be popped them straight in the dishwasher.
3 year olds love to color. However, you do not want to worry about your child drawing on seats or himself. Crayola offers a great mess free coloring option. The markers do not color on anything other than the special paper that comes with the markers.
Crayola offers tons of additional coloring pages you can purchase. So, you never have to worry about making a mess.
A similar idea to Crayola, Melissa and Doug have a mess free way of painting with water. These activity pads come with several different black and white pictures. You use the provided brush that you fill with water to paint over the pictures.
By painting over the pictures the pictures start to reveal hidden objects and colors. Once the water dries the pages go back to black and white and can be repainted. Melissa and Doug offer many different bundles and themes to keep your toddler entertained.
A small tablet and headphones might be the perfect toy to entertain your 3 year old. Load the tablet up with their favorite show or games and this will surely entertain them for a period of the flight.
The Kids Fire 7 is a compact size for an airplane and comes with a kid-proof case, built-in stand and 2 year guarantee. The deal comes with appropriate sized headphones and comes in 3 kid friendly colors; blue, pink and purple.
It s a personal choice if you want your 3 year old to have a tablet. I currently do not have a tablet for mine, but I can see why many people do.
Stickers are all the fun for a 3 year old. However, you don’t want your toddler stickering up the airplane, you will be trying to pull all the stickers off for the rest of the flight.
Melissa and Doug’s reusable sticker pad is the solution. Their stickers only stick to the paper included in the pad. The sticker pads come in many themes from down under to the farm to princesses. The stickers can be reused over and over again on different pages and no worry about sticking them on surfaces other than the paper provided. Win Win.
A great educational toy is the counting caterpillar. 3 year olds are learning new things everyday and that includes their numbers. This caterpillar is small enough to take along in their backpack and aids in their number development.
Work along with your toddler and you can practice counting, adding or subtracting or counting the dots on each segment.
You cannot go wrong with bringing a book or two. I would suggest bringing one of your toddler’s favorites. Currently my 3 year old loves the Dr. Seuss’s beginner books, such as Hop on Pop, Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.
The great thing about Dr. Seuss’s books is that they are relatively long for a toddler book. For an airplane this perfect, it will take you longer to read to your child, killing more time. You can also spend time going over the whimsical pictures and asking questions; “What is that fish doing?”.
This toy is a developmental toy for your toddler to fidget with on an airplane and it makes no noise. The square provides different activities; 6 types of buckles, zippers, colors, shapes and numbers.
The buckle toy should provide 5-10 minutes of distraction on an airplane for a toddler.
A doodle board is quiet and mess free, making it a great travel toy for 3 year olds. This toy also comes with a couple different magnetic stamps your toddler can use on the board. The stamps come in shapes which provides a learning opportunity for your toddler.
To erase the board all you have to do is slide a toggle and your 3 year old will be on to their next masterpiece. The board also writes in 4 colors.
If you are looking for an interactive activity you can do with your 3 year old, these flashcards are great. On the plane parent and toddler can go over the alphabet, numbers, animals, shapes and more.
Having a couple educational toys and fun toys is a great combo for a plane ride. Once your toddler is maxed out on learning you can have them play with something else.
I don’t know a 3 year old that doesn’t love hot wheel cars. A 3 year old is starting imaginative play and with the cars they can make stories up and adventures. Hot wheel cars are cheap and small making them perfect for traveling.
Entertainment doesn’t always have to come in the form of a toy. If you are returning home on a plane you most likely came from a holiday or were visiting friends/family. You probably took some pictures of your visit.
My 3 year old loves to look through my phone’s photos. He loves to recap adventures he just had or look through older photos.
3 year olds should understand inside voices. If they do you can softly sing their favorite nursery songs with them, or songs in general. My 3 year old loves to sing with me and also do the hand actions of the songs (think itsy bitsy spider).
This is only an option when the seat belt sign is not illuminated on a plane. Or in my case walking to and fro the plane's potty.
My 3 year old sleeping on a daytime international plane ride
Yes. If your toddler is used to a schedule, planning a flight around their sleep time should encourage them to fall asleep on a plane. For more tips on how to get your toddler to sleep on a plane read my full article on Flying with a toddler here.