Things are quite different now. Extensive travel with children is more common these days. We often traveled by car with our kids, headed to various campgounds around the country. I'll admit we used video games, movies, music and books too keep them occupied. We would talk and play I Spy too. We had snacks and we made regular rest stops to stretch and eat. Our pets also traveled with us, and they also provided some distraction to the monotony of the trip. Keeping your kids happy and occupied during longer trips is a concern for parents, and when flying, it's also a concern for other passengers.
A social experiment led by Professor Robert Winston found that old-fashioned fun is all you need to keep children happy in-flight. You can read more about their findings via the link below. Amazingly, some classic activities occupied the top ten list! Something to be said for some good old fashioned fun that taps into the creative drive of little ones.
Flying presents more challenges, especially these days with restrictions on what is allowed on board. Airline security procedures must be considered when choosing activities to bring along. Make sure you have chosen activities that will pass TSA scrutiny and are practical to use on board. (ie. noisy, messy and activities with lots of loose pieces are not wise choices) I've posted links below detailing some parental experiences and suggestions for successful travel practices. Playdough (on the top ten list of the study) is subject to confiscation by TSA. Also, the suggested idea of wrapping toys is not going to make TSA happy either. However, there are still plenty of ideas on the list that will not pose a problem. The additional links will give you flight friendly ideas. Just remember that choosing electronic activities is not the only way to keep the little ones engaged and occupied.