Can You Bring Playdoh On A Plane? This is a question that comes up often in the ex-pat communities I belong to along with other nervous first-time-flying as a parent questions. Flying with kids can be stressful, especially long haul flights but it doesn’t need to be. Prepare ahead and use the following advice for a fun flight.

I have travelled quite a bit with my son. We live in Japan. My family are in the UK and because of the Japanese holiday system we have never flown back with my husband. I have traveled quite a bit with my son, managing all the trips on my own, which has its advantages and disadvantages. But that’s a post for another day.

For this post, I enlisted the help of my friend Cathy Rehms Cat-Wood Kaku who is a veteran international flight attendant and Purser, flying for almost 40 years! She is also a mom to twin girls who have flown numerous times, so let’s just say, she knows a thing or two about flying with kids!  

We will cover the frequently asked questions such as “can you bring playdoh on a plane”? And share some tips to help your trip go smoothly,making it more fun for everyone.

Just to preface all this, rules change all the time, so take this post as a guide. Airport security checks and screening process can differ from country to country and even airline to airline. We recently flew to South Korea and even though our hand luggage was screened they didn’t bother with the weight or size. Other times the airline as been super strict with carry-on bags. 

Can You Bring Playdoh On A Plane? a yellow house with a purple roof made of playdoh in a childs hand

Booking Flights

If you can, try and book long flights that fit with your child usual sleep schedule. That way, they will be tired on the flight and sleep for a good chunk of it, which makes it more relaxing for you. It’s hard if you are battling sleep as well as trying to keep the children entertained. Something else to note is that some airlines require you use to a car seat for kids up to a certain age, not only that, the child seats have to flight approved, it is worth checking this information before you book the flight.

Learning To Be Good Flyers

One thing parents often stress about is worrying that the kids will be ferrel on the flight and everyone will hate them, Which is a fair enough fear, we have all been on a flight with ‘that’ child at sometime. But like anything, if your child has an idea what to expect and already know the rules and how to behave, things will go smoother.

A couple of weeks before you are due to fly, do some role playing, make it fun and model the behaviour you expect from a good flyer. Have them sit on a chair then repeatedly hit the back of the seat whilst they are trying to watch something or read a book. Demonstate how annoying it is.

You can make some pretend passports and role play checking in, weighing their luggage and then going through immigration and then onto boarding the plane. And then you can take it in turns on serving the food and drinks. If they have never flown before the experience can be super-exciting but also extremely overwhelmng.

You can also go over flying etiquette and make sure they are aware of the rules and why they are in place.

  • Fastening the seat belt for takeoff and landing and anytime the seatbelt sign is on.
  • Always putting on shoes to go to the toilet (it’s surprising how many people don’t, that is not water on the floor folks!).
  • Screen time – Set expectations beforehand.
  • How to be polite passengers, how to be respectful to other passengers, not kicking the seat in front, pulling on the seat, indoor or in plane voices. And how to be respectful to the cabin crew.

Jo:

We practiced a lot of ‘What to do if you got lost’ scenarios, as we often travelled as just 2 of us and that was my big worry. We never used/owned a stroller so when he was a toddler I drilled it into him what to do. We used a strap/leash which gave him the freedom to move about without getting lost. He learned to hold the papers whilst I checked in, help find the flight on the board etc. Giving him responsibilities helped us both get through! And now is a confident traveller and a great travel companion.

Cathy:

When my girls were toddlers we played airplane at home. How to sit nicely, not touch seat in front, take headsets off when flight attendants come and look at person talking to them.

a toddler looking through the window at airplanes at the airport

Top Tips – before you get on the plane

Most kids find it very exciting to get to the airport but it can be a long day and a lots of queuing and waiting around. But the great thing about airports is that there is often lots of open spaces, so encourage the kids to have a run around and get their wriggles out. 

If both parents are travelling, You need to be on the same page when it comes to parenting on the flight and be prepared to divide and conquer.

Don’t under-estimate sleep

It’s really important that everyone gets some sleep. It can be difficult on a plane but by sticking to routines and their normal sleep schedule it will help, as will staying hydrated, eating healthy snacks and limiting screen time. Try to make sleep the priority, when everyone is well rested, all the rest is easier – for parents too.

Jo:

Kids can get really excited before a flight and that will over roll over for the first hour or so on the flight, but then reality sets in and they realise it’s not actually that exciting being stuck on a plane! We try to keep to a normal sleep schedule. We would try as best as possible to stick to the same routine, eat, quiet-time activities, brush teeth and then read some books.  When he was little, I would change him into PJs too.

Cathy:

For flight attendants who are human beings — sleep is most important. With kids keeping a sleep schedule important. I give my girls eye shades or make a tent over their seats to reduce the distractions and help them to get to sleep.

Screen time on a long-haul flights

With the increase of electronic devices it can be tempting to set the kids up with a 12 hour playlist and be done. This might feel like the easy option but as Cathy explains, this really is not the way to go.

Jo:

When my son was little I didn’t want him spending the whole flight on the screen, so I put restrictions on it. I didn’t have any reason other than personal preference at that time. After speaking the Cathy, I’m glad I followed my gut.

Every long distance flight I have been on in the last 20 odd years have had entertainment systems built it. Usually with a variety of movies, TV shows and games. Depending on the flight times, I would let him watch a show or play games for 30 minutes and then we would get something out of the bag. Until he was about 8, he really wasn’t that interested in the screen anyway.

Cathy: 

On long flights, I don’t let girls watch more than 2 hours and only during proper body clock time. For example, my flight to Seattle leaves at 16:50. 2 hours after takeoff we are usually finished with our service and then it is an all night flight.
At home, by 19:00 screens are off. I don’t allow screen time before bed; we have the same with the plane. I set a timer explaining the time it is in Japan, their normal sleep time, and that if not tired after 2 hours they can read or draw — but no more screen time. 

The same rules apply on day flights, but I tell them it is special to watch a movie during the time they would normally be in school.

I see people who let their kids watch tv the whole flight. I watch their little zombie eyes and skin pale over the course of the flight. And then having meltdowns as they disembark because they are overtired. 

For my girls, screen time is a special treat of travel, but they know before we ever leave home there is a time limit.

Another thing to be aware of is, adults watching inappropriate movies when sat next to a child. I recommend waiting until the child is asleep before turning on a movie that is not suited for children. 

a toddler sitting on a plane watching a show on her ipad.

Food for kids on long flights

Long-haul flights provide food, but it might not come out on the schedule that your child is used to eating at. Always pack extra baby food, and meals or healthy whole foods for the kids so that you can feed them when they are hungry. Plus, there is no guarantee that they will like the airline food.

Jo:

My son (and myself) have never been big fans of the airline food, so I always packed lots of extra food. In recent years, it’s possible to order alternative meals. We will often get the fruit platter and then take lots of snacks along with us.

Cathy:

What I often see happening, that ties in with what I mentioned above, is that awake kids usually keep eating. And often the snacks we have on the plane are not healthy. By landing we often have kids throwing up and if they fall asleep right before landing, they are screaming monsters to get off the plane. When the crew deplane, we often see these same families with screaming or vomiting kids in the hallways to immigration.

As babies & toddlers, I brought a separate cooler bag for each girl, telling the airline it was medically necessary. When they were older, I packed food in each of their bags. It always included a lot of whole foods (fruits and vegetables), dried fruits, cheese, and nuts, as well as a sandwich or roll up. They always wanted to eat the food onboard as part of the experience but preferred the treat of mommy’s taste. If they didn’t like something served onboard, they never went hungry because they had plenty to eat. One of the big mistakes people make with kids is thinking the onboard will be enough for kids. And if kids don’t like the choice, they think that we can magically come up with something for their kids.

Drinks – a common mistake is giving anything but water to kids on the flight. All the sugar from fruit juices is awful, making them more hungry and hyper. Soda—don’t even get me started! Customers from the certain countries drink gallons of soda on the flight, especially kids. I hate to generalize, but it is very noticeable. 

When we fly, the girls also bring their own water bottles and I refill them after going through security.

a young boy in a red sweater eating a health sandwich whilst travelling on a plane

How To Keep Kids Entertained on a long flight

As we have mentioned, spending too much time on an electronic device might feel you are keeping the child quiet, but can often result in meltdowns and tantrums. The best way is to take several activities and a selection of toys and the kids have their own hand baggage.

One question that I often see in Facebook groups and forums is “Can you bring playdoh on a plane?” I asked Cathy, and she said yes, as long as it doesn’t have a very strong smell then it is OK. According to the transportation security administration (TSA) website, they allow bringing playdoh on a plane, but the final decision on whether to adhere to the TSA’s rule or not lies with the TSA officer on duty.

So what is the big issue with play doh/play dough? Anecdotal evidence says that when going through security checkpoint screening, the playdoh may look like plastic explosives. If you plan to take some with you, pack just a couple of small containers of playdoh and maybe a couple of small plastic or wooden tools.
Playdoh is great for fine motor skills, and works well on the flight tray table. If you child is that stage of development it might be a great addition to your activities bag. (If you need more fine motor skills activities, check out this post).

Other toddler airplane activities, you will have the best results if you are ‘following the child‘ and know what kind of things keep them entertained. As the kids get older then can choose more of what they want themselves.

  • Fuzzy felt
  • Small vehicles 
  • Puzzles suitable for their ability
  • Colouring books, water paint books (you paint with water), activity books
  • Some new items/toys/games
  • Sticker books – the peelable stickers work well on the wall of the plane without causing damage
  • Dolls
  • Finger puppets
  • Eye spy books
  • A story book
  • Travel games for older kids

What I wouldn’t include is anything with sound or flashing lights which are likely to disturb other passengers. I was on a 4 hour flight one time, sat in front of a kid with the most annoying electronic toy that kept going off even when he wasn’t playing with it. I’m pretty chill when if come to flying and very tolerant of kids, but that flight…

Jo:

I would pack small toys, sticker books, finger puppets, window clings, some simple games, toys cars, card games, colouring book etc. Anything that would work in a confined space. Some of them I would gift wrap, so if he started to get antsy, he would get a new ‘present’. We never took anything that would cause a problem if it got lost. The current most popular toy stays at home.

One rule we had was ‘one thing out at a time’. When he finished playing with something, then it had to be put away before the next thing came out. This fits very much with the Montessori work cycle ethic and helps to keep everything under control.

To keep unhealthy snacks to a minimum, I devised a game using a die and a 7 day pill box. Pop a single treat in each section of the pillbox. Roll the die and then you can eat the treat in the corresponding pill tab (use stickers or draw on numbers). You had to eat the first lot of treats before refilling them. Believe me, it takes a while!

Cathy:

Often, the kids that start playing up are the ones that don’t have enough things for kids to do. I usually pack stickers from the ¥100 store, coloring books/papers, origami paper, and simple puzzles that won’t break our hearts if forgotten or lost. worth packing. I also have travel to magnetic games and bring cards. Now the girls are older, they know the size of their bags and we plan in advance. They can pick items to pack beyond clothes and toothbrush (carry on).

a young white boy playing with a toy plane outside

Wrap Up – Flying with kids

It can be a lot of fun, adventuring by air with the family but to make it as much fun and as stress free as possible remember to follow the simple rules.

  • Overall the biggest mistakes people make:
  • Not keeping sleep schedule 
  • Screen time whole flight with no limits
  • Drinking sugary drinks/juice—not enough water
  • Not bringing healthy food 
  • Not practicing air travel before flight 
  • Not bring enough thing to keep the kids busy or older children, not giving the child power to make own choices in packing activities.
  • Not bringing enough diapers, change of underwear and clothes for child. And extra clothes for the adults too. Accidents happen.

 

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