If you’re looking for the best airplane toys for a one-year-old, you’ve come to the right place. I recently took an overseas flight with my one and three-year-old boys. In addition to our long-haul flight, we’ve also taken several domestic flights. So I know firsthand the challenges that come with keeping little ones entertained on those seemingly endless flights.
But fear not, because I’m here to share my experience and insights with you!
I’ve compiled a roundup list of the best travel toys for one-year-olds that worked well for me. Also, stick around till the bottom for my free Carry-On Packing List for One-Year-Old PDF.
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How Many Toys Do I Need?
If it’s your first flight, you’ll want to pack at least 2 toys per hour of flight, plus 2-3 extras (in case you get stuck on the tarmac, or get re-routed like I did ).
If your child gets bored easily you might want to pack 3 per hour of flight.
If you’re a seasoned traveler, you’ll have a better idea of how many toys your little one needs.
Carry-Bags, Diaper Bags, and Backpacks
If you’re wondering how to pack for your one-year-old on the plane, here’s how I did it:
- I used the diaper bag as a backpack/personal item for my 1-year-old.
- I took out most of the diapers and changing accessories and put them either in my personal item bag or in the carry-on.
- Once you get to your destination, you can take the toys out and use the diaper bag for its intended purpose.
- I packed everything my baby would need in the diaper bag: clothes, toys, a few diapers, wipes, a small tube of Vaseline (great multi-purpose cream), food, comfort items, etc. If you want to know exactly what I pack for flights, check out my Carry-On Packing List for One-Year-Olds PDF.
Pro-Tip: Children’s backpacks are adorable, don’t get me wrong. But they are small. If you’re allowed a personal item, grab an adult-sized bag so that you can fit more toys. I tried cramming everything in a kiddie bag once, and I will never do it again. Just taking one toy out felt like a human game of Tetris.
Toiletries Bag for Airplane Toys Hack
I recently saw the most genius hack for traveling with kids on an airplane that I think I’ve ever seen (too bad it was after my long-haul flight 🙃). Take a toiletries bag and pack all of the toys in there.
You can hang the bag from the back of the tray table and easily access everything you need for your little one.
Fill one of these up with toys and craft supplies, then pop it in your personal item or carry-on bag so can easily take out and organize all of your toys.
Considerations for Airplane Toys for 1-Year-Olds
Your toys need to be:
- Compact: You’ve got a limited amount of space, you need to maximize it.
- Lightweight: Some airlines have weight limits for carry-on items now. Grab one of these hand-held baggage scales to make sure your pile of toys doesn’t send you over the limit!
- Quiet: Why does every toy have sound effects?!
- Multipurpose: As much as you can, pack toys that can be played with in more than one way.
- Mess-Free*: I’m putting an asterisk here because I have a couple of suggestions that aren’t exactly mess-free. That being said, you don’t want to bring sand or glue that is going to go everywhere or can make a permanent mess.
- Varried: Even if your little one is obsessed with blocks, you’ll want to pack lots of other types of toys. Try packing toys from each of the categories below!
Busy Boards, Busy Books, Buckle Toys, and Fidget Toys
A busy board is great for engaging your child with different activities and textures. They also promote fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Melissa & Doug offer great options.
Busy books are just like busy boards, except each page is a new adventure. They encourage problem-solving skills and keep babies engaged on long flights. It’s a great idea for little kids who might get overwhelmed with a whole busy board. The best part is that the books are smaller so they are the perfect size for little hands and easy to carry in a diaper bag.
You might think fidget toys are just for older kids, but they are the perfect travel toys for young kids and babies too. They are quiet and have all different textures, shapes, and sensory feedback options.
If you have Squigz at home, just pack a few for the trip. Squigz are part of my 39+ Activities for 14-Month-Olds, and they are perfect for travel. They stick to things like the window and the tray tables.
Buckle toys are some of the best toys for long car rides, in a car seat, or in an airplane. They usually have several different types of buckles for kids to tinker with. Buckles usually aren’t as challenging or stimulating as busy boards, so they keep little ones occupied independently (letting you get a few minutes of rest!).
Reusable Sticker Books, Water Wow Books, Window Clings and Magic Coloring
Reusable Sticker Books
A reusable sticker book is a great toy for small children who like stickers. They provide entertainment without the mess of traditional stickers. There are lots of different themes and sets to keep kids interested. Reusable stickers (usually) stick to the windows of the plane too. They are great for quiet play.
Pro Tip: Opt for puffy stickers for one-year-olds. These stickers are easier to peel, easier to stick, and less likely to fold on themselves and get stuck.
Water Wow Books
If your child likes to paint, but you’re worried about the mess, Water Wow books are mess-free coloring books with refillable water pens. They are a great way to introduce different colors and shapes to one-year-olds. They are suitable for both older and younger children during travel. The best part is that the pens never dry out. You need about a tablespoon of water (which you can get from the bathroom tap!).
You can often find window clings in seasonal decorations (like the Target Dollar Spot or Dollar Store). Kids really love them! My only cautions are:
- They get dirty (they pick up all of the dirt and dust around them).
- They look tasty (my son tried to eat them!).
Pro Tip: If you have space, consider packing a few different toys in your checked luggage. These toys can be surprises for the plane ride home. Having different toys for each direction ensures they won’t get bored with the same things.
You might be firmly against screen time for your little one on a regular day, but travel days are a whole other beast, and I’m here to tell you it’s ok to rely on a tablet or phone for a few minutes of peace.
Parent-to-Parent: I will warn you though, I thought my son would be obsessed with screens on our flight (since we never allow them at home for him). He couldn’t have been less interested. So don’t put all of your eggs in this basket, definitely have an assortment of tools for the trip.
If you don’t have a kid’s tablet, you might want to invest. They aren’t expensive, and they can hold all of your kids’ games and media in one place. You don’t have to worry about them destroying your $800 iPad.
14. Tablet cover
If you already have a tablet or iPad you know your child is going to use, consider investing in a kid’s cover to keep it safe. Kids’ covers have handles that are easy to hold on to, and they are usually made of squishy silicone which is also grippy for little hands. Plus, this one has a kickstand.
Babies don’t typically like wearing headphones, that being said, I have two options for you. Personally, I had the most success with the headband, but every baby is different.
Parent-to-Parent: On our first flight, my husband and I thought about wired vs. wireless headphones. We decided on wired headphones: they would be easier to set up, less likely to break/ not connect. We were horribly wrong. First, only one of the devices we brought actually had a headphone jack (didn’t think to check this). Second, once we got them working, my son thought it would be fun to pull the cord… He ripped it, and they were done for the whole trip. Take my failure as your sign to get wireless headphones at all costs!
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my article on the Best Screen Free Music Players for Toddlers, you definitely should! I think every parent should have a music player that their baby can interact with. You can browse all of my favorites in the article to see which would be best for your baby, but my top pick for traveling would be the Yoto Mini player.
Some planes don’t have outlets on board (or you might be on an international plane with different outlets). Make sure you have enough battery power to charge all of your electronics.
Pro Tip: Different airlines have different restrictions when it comes to battery packs. Make sure you check with your airline before your trip.
Rechargeable Batteries and Extra Batteries
You’ll want to have extra batteries for any battery-operated toys. Grab some rechargeables that you can plug in during your stay or layover so that they are ready for the next flight.
LCD Writing Tablets and Magnetic Toys
LCD Writing Tablet
LCD writing tablets are a win for parents and babies. Your baby will feel like they are playing with a “tablet,” or something “grown up,” but you know that your little artist is getting creative without screen time. Bonus: they take up very little space in the diaper bag or carry-on, and they are virtually indestructible!
There are lots of different designs of magnetic toys. They are fun and interactive toys with bright colors and different shapes. They are an easy way to engage kids during long journeys without using too much space. They are also convenient because the pieces stick together, and multi-purpose because you can stick them on the armrests, etc.
Pro Tip: Wrap each toy in the bag individually like a present. As your child gets bored with one toy, unwrap another one. The unwrapping can be part of the fun! For babies, wrap with different materials (paper, aluminum foil, fabric) for a sensory activity.
Finger Puppets and Books
These small toys are perfect for imaginative play and storytelling. You can put on a show your little one, or let them play (or chew) on the characters. Finger puppets with grow with your child, so they will play with them in new ways as they get older.
Board books are a great quiet book option. They don’t have bells or whistles. They are perfect for unwinding, trying to go to sleep, or just flipping pages and gnawing on the corners.
Crafts and Craft Supplies
Grab them from your desk drawer! Post-It Notes are a hit with babies. Stick them all around you on the plane, and let your little one do the fun part of ripping them off. Use them over and over.
Same idea as the Post It Notes, but a little more challenging. Use painter’s tape if your child can easily pinch things.
Bonus: Use painter’s tape for–literally–everything when you get to your destination. Hang up blackout curtains, make roads on the floor for toy cars, seal containers so they don’t leak, etc.
These activities can be done on the tray table. They can get a little messy, but it is a reasonable mess, and easy to clean.
Water Paint Pages
I’m sure you remember these from when you were a kid. All you need is a bottle-cap amount of water (seriously, don’t use any more than that for fear of spilling everywhere on the plane), and a paintbrush or fingers.
Is there anything more fun than Duplo? … Or is it just me? 🤣 These small travel sets are perfect for multi-tasking toys. Use them to build, pretend play, or even turn them into cars and planes. Note: Some Duplo parts are small enough to be choking hazards and should be removed from the kit.
Teethers, Pacifiers, and Toy Tethers
You can’t predict when those teeth are going to come through 😬🪥, so it’s best to pack a few teethers to have on the ready. They also help relieve air pressure (chewing) for take-off and landing.
If your child will let you use these, they are a lifesaver. Whether you’re on the plane, in the airport, or in a restaurant, save yourself the agony of picking up that rattle for the 1000th time.
My son took it as a personal challenge to take every toy off the tether… But it kept him occupied regardless, so I’m not mad about it.
Pacifiers and Clips
However many pacifiers you think you need for the trip… Double it. Thank me later.
Comfort Items for Sleep
If you’re planning on getting any sleep on the plane, bring as many comfort items as you possibly can. We’re talking pillows, blankets, stuffies, sleep sacks, whatever will make them feel at home.
A pair of pajamas can double as a backup outfit. They also signal to your baby that it is time for sleep.
Bring a travel pillow with you! Even if your baby doesn’t sleep with a pillow at home (mine doesn’t), the seats on the airplane are not perfectly flat and will be uncomfortable to sleep on. Walmart sells a toddler pillow in the baby section. They also sell a travel pillow in the pillow section. I also love these mini-pillows for how small but well-designed they are.
Drinks, Meals, and Snacks
Think of your drink and snack choices as extensions of your toy selection. They will keep your little one entertained for 5-15+ minutes, and should not be discounted.
I once famously said, in a moment of peace on our plane ride, that the morale would continue until the Goldfish were gone. No truer words were ever spoken on that trip.
Pro Tip: Use my tips below to get real food in your baby’s belly while traveling. Snacks are fun, but too many snacks can even give an adult a belly ache.
Make sure you pack some kind of sippy cup, bottle, juice box, juice pouch, fruit pouch, boob 🍈🍈, or anything else that your baby can suck on for take-off and landing. Sucking will prevent or release pressure build-up in the ears which is the #1 reason why babies scream on planes.
If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, I’m sure you’ve seen the viral spinning snack container. It doubles as a fun game to keep your baby entertained while they eat.
Try to get some real food in your baby’s belly. If you are traveling domestically, you should be able to take on any baby food you want. If you’re traveling internationally, you will have to contact your airline or TSA to understand the meat and produce restrictions for that country.
Even if you’re traveling internationally, Gerber sells some fairly decent non-perishable food options that you should be able to take with you. They aren’t amazing, but they are better than only feeding rice cereals, fruits, and snacks. They can be served at room temperature, or heated up if you have a microwave or some hot water.
Again, if you’re traveling domestically, grab a thermos and fill it up with your baby’s favorite home-cooked meals. These kiddie thermoses are the perfect size and will keep your food warm for up to 5 hours.
Disposable Place Mats
Next time you’re at Chic-Fil-A, save your disposable place mat (or ask if they would kindly give you another one). They are perfect for eating at tray tables, on the go in the airport, or at restaurants. You can even use them when you’re doing crafts and activities on the plane. Or, buy a pack of these and stash some in your diaper bag!
Even if you don’t believe in single-use plastic, take a few Ziploc bags with you. Whether you’re putting away dirty dishes, or trying to cover up the smell of that blow-out-covered onesie, they will come in handy.
Wipes and Bibs
Hand wipes, face wipes, bum wipes, table wipes, flushable wipes, all the wipes. Don’t forget a bib or two!
Free Carry-On Packing List for One-Year-Old PDF
In conclusion, finding the best airplane toys for a 1-year-old can make all the difference in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey for both parent and child. From busy boards and books that promote fine motor skills to mess-free sticker books and fidget toys for quiet play, these travel toys have proven to be the ultimate companions on long flights. Don’t forget to grab my Carry-On Airplane Packing List for a 1-Year-Old before your next flight 🛩️🧳.