Besides kicking the seat in front of them, here are 14 ways to keep toddlers occupied while flying.
I fly a lot with my toddler, typically coast to coast. My kid is always on the go, only stopping to eat and sleep; but still we've had great flights together. The first rule of thumb: you have to have a great night’s sleep before your travels with a kiddo. No excuses, get yourself to bed!
Secondly, attitude is everything. Go into it with a good attitude, and you may actually find yourself having fun.
Thirdly, book the window seat. All the action that happens outside the plane can buy you time during takeoff and landing.
Finally, don't worry about other passengers. You're doing your best, and if people don't understand that, you should just feel sorry for them and call it a day.
Deep breath, parent! Deep breath.
Here's 14 ways to get through your next flight with a toddler.
Buy them or create them - just have them. You can create story lines or do “tickles" - or both! Puppets will really buy you a lot of time.
KidTripster Tip: If you’re really hurting, an airplane barf bag can morph into a puppet. (Oh, but leave one fully intact. You never know.)
2/Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners
I was first introduced to Wikki Stix at a restaurant where they arrived with the kids' menu. They're absolutely brilliant! They're waxy sticks that can be bent into all sorts of entertaining figures. Don't want to buy them online? Pipe cleaners can do the trick, too.
Pack small cars, trains, figures, and dolls - anything your kid can hold or zoom around your immediate area. Draw a road on a piece of paper, so he has a map to follow. Better yet, have him draw his own track.
Stick them anywhere and everywhere, even if it's all over you! You'll have time to clean up while you wait to deplane. Sticker activity books come with all the cool scenes. You can even get ones that are related to your destination.
5/Crayons & paper or Etch-a-Sketch
It’s your choice. Know that you’ll be picking up dropped crayons over and over, while the etch-a-sketch has the pen attached. My favorite? Crayola’s Color Wonder markers and special paper that make no mess but deliver the same fun.
Engage your toddler in a new book or bring some favorites from home. Your neighbor won't mind if you do the voices. Go ahead.
KidTripster Tip: I especially like the books that have flaps that encourage your child to engage with the story.
If your kiddo is into gifts, occupy him with unwrapping a dollar store-type toy. On a long flight, do a new "present" every hour. You could wrap up any of the items that I've listed in this article.
KidTripster Tip: My kid is too young to get it, but I saw another mom giving her kids tickets. Every half hour, she handed over a ticket. As soon as the kids had 12 tickets, the 6-hour flight was over. It’s a great way to avoid hearing the relentless, "Are we there yet?” And I’m assuming that the kids then got to turn in their tickets for some kind of surprise.
Photo courtesy: Annie Spratt
8/Cell phone photos
Play “who's who” with pictures on your cell phone. It’s a great way to review your closest friends and family, especially the ones you may be visiting.
Photo courtesy: Oliur Rahman
9/Memory card game
Buy a memory match game or make your own memory cards at home using stickers and drawings and then play on the flight. Your building your child's brain while keeping him occupied!
Play I-spy with the airline magazine in the seat pocket. It's a great time to develop your kid’s powers of observation. Also do this at the airport, while you're waiting to board. You'll be amazed how many times your kid can scream “plane!”
Fake tattoos are always a winner. You'll need some water, but it's not too messy. You may end up with some yourself!
Kinetic Sand is basically play dough without the mess. I don't know who developed it, but thank you!
These puzzles are another great way to engage your child. Plus they're easy to put away in a rush.
If all else fails, your kid will be fine if she gets some extra screen time. My technology limits go out the window on flights. There are some great learning apps to download as well as shows and movies. Let's be real, this is about your sanity, too.
Jackie Labrecque is a mom and journalist, living Portland, Oregon. She and her family spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to New England, where her relatives live.
Amazon links are provided for your convenience, and yes, KidTripster makes a few cents, too. You'll pay the same price as you would going to Amazon directly.