Fly, Fly Away: 12 Activities to Keep Kids Entertained at Airports

Boy in airportEditor's note: Even the most well-behaved adults have been known to have meltdowns during long layovers at the airport. So we asked Bill Richards and Ashley Steel, travel bloggers and authors of  Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids, if we could excerpt their tips on how to keep kids happy and entertained at airports, train stations or other in-between spots.

1. The Airport Game. Our kids love this game, and it can be as elaborate as your kids can handle given the space and the crowds. An adult give instructions to the kids. “Go around that pole twice, then do four jumping jacks, hop backward, go around the pole again, and then run to that line of trash cans, jump up and down four times in front of the blue one then…” Following a list of eleven silly directions is actually pretty good brain training!

2. Make a travel bingo card (two ladies in hats, child carrying a stuffed animal etc).

3. Follow the Leader (don’t be afraid to act silly in public).

4. Thumb-wrestling. Theoretically this is a quiet game but we can never keep it calm and quiet enough to play in a restaurant or on a plane

5. Simon Says.

6. Yoga poses (you could bring a set of yoga flashcards).

7. A game of “school in which you sit in your airport chairs and your child tells you what to do.

8. Browse the shop and come back and tell me the silliest thing inside (no touching!).

9. People-to-People. Break into partners (two kids or one kid and one parent) and a parent calls out, for example, “ear-to-ear.” The partners must move so that they are touching ear-to-ear. Start with the easy ones and ramp up. You can imagine the fun of “knee-to-ear” or “calf-to-chin.”

10. How long can you balance on one foot? On one foot with your other foot on your knee (like a flamingo)? How long can you balance the cup on your head? On your elbow? How many hops can you make? How long can you walk on tiptoes? How high can you count?

11. Paper airplanes. Respect the space of others, of course, but there is usually enough empty space that kids can toss a plane and chase after it without disturbing anyone.

12. Counting games. Count the number of black shirts you can see. How many shoes are in this waiting area? Are there more men or women? What fraction of the people on our plane do you think will be children? (Note that the kids should get up and walk around the waiting area of your gate to collect accurate information).

Bill Richards, Ashley Steel and family Bill Richards and Ashley Steel, Seattle-based writers on family travel, blog at Family on the Loose and recently authored and published  Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids, from which this article was excerpted Their blog and book aims to help expand cultural horizons and help cultivate our next generation of global citizens through travel.

Read Next