International Flight with a Preschooler

15 Mar

image from fumira.jpAre you going to be flying with your preschooler in the near future? So am I, and I’m actually excited for it! My 4-year old has been looking forward to this trip to Japan for weeks. She’s big enough to sit in her own seat and not squirm out of her seat belt, old enough to be entertained with books and in-flight entertainment, doesn’t need help eating her food, and knows not to kick the seat in front of her. Awesome. BUT a 17-hour flight will still feel like an eternity, even for an eager 4-year old. Here are my ideas for busting boredom on the plane:


1. Fingerplays and hand-games, like “Paper-Rock-Scissors”, Niramekko (にらめっこ), Patty-cake, etc.

2. Let her use your digital camera to take silly pictures of herself (then pass it to their sibling for entertainment).

3. Do some stretching exercises together every hour.

4. Play “I Spy” with the in-flight magazine, or items in the plane.

5. Download educational apps/movies on your iPod/phone for her to watch.

6. Watch in-flight entertainment.


1. Bring a piece of yarn and teach her how to play cat’s cradle, learn how to braid, or make a bracelet/necklace.

2. Fold origami (print some instructions at origami-club).

3. Color Wonder or Water Wow (special markers that only write on special paper).

4. Sticker books (I love the Sticker Dolly series).

5. Preschool workbooks. On a 2-hour long flight we had recently, one workbook occupied her for the entire flight! If you search for “printable worksheets” on this website, you will find lots of links to sites that have free Japanese worksheets for kids.

6. Doodle with crayons on plain paper (endless possibilities: self-portrait, tic-tac-toe, make a maze for her to complete, etc)

7. Bring a roll of masking tape to make body art, artwork on paper, make a paper chain, etc.

8. Read a new children’s book or magazine together. Make sure to read it several times to get the most use out of it.

9. Make paper bag puppets (I love these). You could even use the barf bag.

10. Scratch pads are fun (Target has them in their party section for a dollar).

11. Bring a paint-with-water book and some q-tips to use as brushes. (I found some in the dollar section at Michaels)

12. Coloring books.

13. Make her a photo book with pictures of the people you will see on your trip, and help her learn their names.

14. Be creative with pipe cleaners: make animals, eye glasses, letters, etc.

15. Bring a deck of cards and play “Memory”.


1. Lollipops, starbursts, juice, or fruit snacks for the take-off and landing to help with ouchy ears. (I DO NOT recommend lollipops for kids younger than 3! Big sticky mess!)

2. Granola bars (I like the Cliff bars for kids)

3. Dried fruit

4. Pretzels

5. Animal crackers


1. A comfort item (stuffed animal or blanket), especially on a long flight

2. Spill-proof cup for drinks

3. Waterproof bib

4. Neck pillow (I have a tutorial here)

5. A change of clothes (and make sure to dress in layers)

6. Kid-size headphones (if they are not provided by the airline)

7. Wet wipes

Do you have any other tips for preschoolers? What have your experiences been like? If you have a toddler, be sure to check out my International Flights with Toddlers post for more ideas!

5 Responses to “International Flight with a Preschooler”

  1. Maria Wen Adcock (@BiculturalMama) March 16, 2012 at 10:11 PM #

    Great tips…I can use these when I next travel with my DD to visit her grandparents.

  2. Sibyl March 29, 2012 at 4:17 AM #

    One thing I recommend that is often forgotten is a change of clothes (or at least an extra shirt) for both mom and dad. On our most recent flight from Tokyo to the US our pre-schooler vomited after excessive turbulence. While I always have 2 back up outfits for her, my husband and I were faced with 10 more hours of travel in vomit-coverd clothing. Not fun. Also, put your child’s extra outfit(s) in a gallon size zip lock bag. That way if you have to change for vomit or diaper leak, whatever, you can truly seal the soiled clothes into the bag so they don’t get other things in your carry on dirty. Have a great flight!!

    • Hiragana Mama March 29, 2012 at 8:41 AM #

      Eek, that sounds awful! Thanks for the tip, especially about bringing a large zip-loc bag.


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