IMG 3609Flying with a four- or five-year-old can be a precarious experience. On the one hand, they’re old enough to amuse themselves. However, they’re also still young enough to have a limited attention span. Here are five things I found helpful to occupy my four-year-old daughter on a flight.

1. Crayons and Paper and an Activity Book
Crayons are a no-brainer. Not only are they easy to pack but can provide hours of entertainment. Bring plenty of paper, as well as a new activity book. When your child gets tired of coloring or drawing, they can do some of the activities in the book. My daughter needed a little help with some of the activities but, once she got the hang of it, was able to play with the book a little longer while I was able to relax.

Note: bring non-rolling triangle-shaped crayons so you’re not bending over to hunt for lost crayons on the floor, or ask a flight attendant for a cup to put them in.

2. Window Clings
A sheet of window clings can provide several minutes of entertainment – placing them on the window, rearranging them and then figuring out how to get them all to fit back on the plastic sheet to put them away. I found a pack of fall-themed window clings at the dollar spot at Target.

3. A New Toy
Most of the “goodies” I brought to keep my daughter entertained were new to her; a new toy to play with turned into one of her favorites: a wind-up plastic tiger that does backflips. She carried the tiger with her for the rest of the weekend and then played with him again on the plane ride home.
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4. Wikki Stix
Bendy little Wikki Stix can be molded into shapes, letters or other creations. What’s more, they create no mess and are easy to pick up and put away – great characteristics for airplane toys.

5. Catalogs or Picture Books
Sometimes the best toys are free. My daughter enjoyed paging through the SkyMall catalog tucked into the seat back in front of her. She was particularly fascinated by the cat toilet training system  and even requested that I take a picture of the cat sitting on the toilet. What can I say, she’s four.

No matter what activities you bring, make sure to have gum or snacks on hand for takeoff and landing to ease the pain of ear popping. I gave a Dum Dums sucker for my daughter when we took off and landed and she didn’t complain once about her ears popping. Also, snacks are never a bad idea, especially in case of an unexpected flight delay.

Teresa J. Shaw is editor of the Free in 50 States section and also writes about Southeast Michigan for Traveling Mom. Visit her blog and follow her on Twitter at @TeresaShaw