Trina Gallop Blank from Will Cook for Shoes designed this Airplane Tray Activity Center for all of your upcoming holiday travels! Trina shares baking, sewing and more on her blog (she also shares her triumphs like running her first half-marathon last week!). And yes, she loves her shoes.

Find more from Trina on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We are coming up on the holiday season and you know what that means… Travel! Several hours on a plane with a little one may seem to be a daunting journey, but this activity center will keep them occupied for hours! It slides over the open tray table of an airplane, not only covering the tray and giving your child a surface to play on, but also providing them with multiple activities to keep them from getting bored on those long treks.

This is a quick project to pull together. Customize it with colors and special images for your child, and with games and activities they love. This would make a great gift too!


  • 4 pieces of fabric 20″ x 14″ (exterior and interior of project)
  • 2 pieces of quilting batting or extra heavy interfacing 20″ x 14″
  • 1 zipper approximately 9″ in length
  • 2 pieces of fabric 9″ x 2″ (to connect the zipper)
  • 2 pieces of fabric 7″ x 8″ for the notebook holder and the crayon holder
  • 1 piece of fabric 7″ x 8″ for the pocket
  • 1 piece of fabric 7″ x 4″ for the pocket
  • 2 pieces of fabric 12″ x 3″ for the handles
  • 4 pieces of Velcro approximately ½” length

*All seam allowances are ¼ inch unless otherwise indicated.

Sewing Instructions:
I used a basic bag construction technique for this project. Start by laying out the fabric that will be the top of your activity center on top of one piece of quilting batting or fusible interfacing.

Lightly pin together at the outside edges. Start to assemble the activity pieces and position on the front exterior piece.

Zipper Assembly:
This is not an actual pocket zipper but rather something a little one can play with on the activity mat. (Although you could make it into a usable pocket if you liked!)

Align the right side of one 9″ x 2″ piece of fabric along the right side of the zipper tape. Pin. Sew. Press open the fabric and stitch along the fabric close to the zipper teeth. Using a ½” allowance, fold over and press the fabric sides not attached to the zipper. Repeat with the second piece of 9″ x 2″ fabric. Pin in place on the front of the activity center (through the fabric and the quilting batting).

Coloring, Crayon + Snack Pocket:
Assembly the other “play” pieces of the activity center.

For the coloring paper holder, fold one piece of 7″ x 8″ fabric right sides together so it is 7″ long by 4″ high. Sew three sides with a ¼” seam but leave open at least two inches in the middle.

Use the opening and turn pocket right side out. Press flat, and press a ¼” seam where you left it open.

Pin to the front of your activity center (so the opening is on the bottom). This way it will be sewn closed when you finish attaching it to the activity center. I pinned mine on the left, bottom side (being sure to leave about a 2″ leeway on the 20″ x 14″ piece of fabric all around for seam allowance and spacing).

For the crayon holder, repeat with another 7″ x 8″ piece of fabric.

Before you pin it to the activity center, mark off ¾” sections lengthwise on the finished piece so the crayons each have a little spot for them. Pin to activity center. I pinned mine top left side.

The little pocket with the Velcro flap (which I think is perfect for holding snacks for the trip!) builds on the other pieces. The bottom half is 7″ x 8″. Fold it in half so it’s a 7″ x 4″ middle seam. Unfold. Place a piece of Velcro on the side that will be facing out when done, at the top and centered lengthwise.

Sew Velcro in place.

Fold in half right sides together and sew in the same fashion as the notepaper pocket. Position on the activity tray (mine is on the right side).

The flap for the pocket is a 7″ x 4″ piece of fabric. Fold in half so it is 7″ x 2″ to gauge the center seam on the horizontal. Unfold. Position Velcro on the bottom half of the right side and center horizontally. Sew into place to secure.

Fold in half right sides together and sew in the same fashion as the notepaper pocket (remember to leave a 2″ opening to turn right side out). Press right side out when finish and position on the activity center (with the opening at the top so that it will be sealed when you stitch across there later). Pin place.

Plush Shapes:
The last few pieces are shapes of various sizes that attach with Velcro. They are just something fun to take on and off.

To make these, cut out three different shapes (square, circle, rectangle or any shapes to your liking), two sides for each shape. Pin right sides together and stitch all the way around, leaving a 1 1/2″ opening. Turn right side out and press edges. Fill with stuffing and use a blind stitch to close the opening.

Attach Velcro to the backside of each shape and to the top of the activity center where you want to position these pieces.

Finishing the Activity Center Top:
Sew all the pieces to the top of your activity center. Using a scant ¼” seam allowance:

  • Sew around all edges of the zipper to secure.
  • Sew around the sides and the bottom of the note paper holder.
  • Sew around the sides and bottom of the crayon holder. Then sew from top to bottom of each of the individual crayon sections/pockets.
  • Sew around the sides and bottom of the bottom section of the pocket.
  • Sew the top of the pocket flap.
  • Secure Velcro with stitching if necessary.

Bag Handles:
I like these bag handles because you can fold the activity center in half and use them to carry on and off the plane (or anywhere else).

Using the 12″ x 3″ pieces of fabric, fold each in half with right sides together so each piece is 12″ x 1.5″. Stitch along long side. Turn right side out and press. If desired, stitch along each side, using a ¼” seam, to create a finished look and give the handle a little more strength.

Finishing the Bag:
Take the two 20″ x 12″ of fabric for the exterior of the activity center and place right sides together. One piece of quilting batting is already sewn to the front piece. Add the second piece of quilting batting to the wrong side of the back piece of exterior fabric. Sew the sides and bottom together using a ½” seam allowance. Fold right sides out and press edges.

Place interior 20″ x 12″ fabric pieces right sides together. Sew sides and bottom together using a ½” seam allowance, except leave a 3″ opening on the bottom (to allow you to turn the bag right side out a few steps down).

Pin handles to exterior of the bag. I positioned one set of handles on each side of the back of the activity center.

With your exterior fabric for the project right side out, take interior of the bag (still wrong side out) and pull it over the exterior piece till the top lines up (so the exterior and interior will be right sides together). Pin along the top starting at the side seams and then along the rest of the bag. Stitch together.

Turn your bag right side out using the opening you left on the bottom of the interior of the fabric.

Press the top of the bag to create a crisp edge.

Finish top of the bag with a scant ¼” seam.

Finish the interior of the bag with a blind stitch.

Add in a notebook, crayons and some treats for the snack pocket. And get ready for your next flight!