By Thara Manikandan
Flying with a baby? A toddler? A five-year old? Long flights often make kids cranky, crazy and generally difficult to handle. In my eight years of traveling with a kid, here’s what I have learned about how to entertain kids on a plane trip.
The actual key is stay simple, calm and relaxed. First, do your best to get a seat on the window side or aisle. The window seat helps keep the child occupied looking out at the other planes landing and taking off, and the vehicles on the ground, but after take-off, the view will not be interesting. The aisle seat is best for easy escapes to the bathroom or getting up to move around.
Toddlers would never want to miss their best friend when traveling. Always carry your kid’s favorite toy along. Busy books, puppets, window gel stickers, wipe off cards, sticker books, doodle pads—these can keep a toddler busy. Never forget, a hungry baby is a grumpy baby so do pack their favorite snacks and make the snack time fun and happy. Make shapes with the Cheerios or create a story with the gummy bears—kids will love anything new and fun.
Once the kids hit first grade, the adventure genes start to kick in. Of course, traveling with children ages five to nine isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Introduce the kids to vacation destinations and the itinerary in advance. Travel passports are a great addition. Give them as a surprise while waiting to take off.
A story or chapter book, and comics can never be a wrong thing to add for a kid who loves reading or looking at pictures. Card games, miniature toys, Legos, activity sheets, Guess Who, word searches, sudokus, Bananagrams, travel scavenger games and tracking-your-trip, Spot It, Boogie Board, Spirograph, Mastermind—these can keep kids engaged for hours. Don’t forget funny and silly jokes and riddles, I Spy, identifying people with clues, and of course, that old favorite—storytelling.
And now, let’s talk about the most tempting and entertaining option—screens and iPads. Don’t pull these out right away when you get on a plane if your kid gets antsy. If you have a long flight and want to limit screen time then wait as long as possible. Stick to limited screen time and use it as a last resort tool or you will endure tantrums when it’s time to put the devices away. So, tire the kid out first by doing all the activities you can, enjoy a snack or a meal, read some books, visit the bathroom and when it comes time for naps, snuggle up and watch a show.
Remember to enjoy the journey and love your little ones because they won’t always be kids on an airplane!