One of the more stressful parenting endeavors is getting on a plane with small children. If you have a baby or toddler who doesn’t understand the importance of the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign and can’t yet read "Harry Potter," you need to come prepared with distractions.
Here are a few ideas to keep small kids entertained – gleaned from my own flights with small children.
1 | Magazines in the seat pocket in front of you.
My husband and I spent a good chunk of time on one flight playing a game of, “Let’s find the dogs and cats in the the SkyMall magazine" with our one-year-old. As an added bonus, you may also find that cat hammock you never knew your pet needed.
2 | Plastic cups, napkins, and straws.
There is some novelty to be had in these basic objects – and the good news is they hand them out for free on a plane. Stack the cups, play peek-a-boo with the napkin, or let your little one spend some time crinkling a cup.
3 | Snacks that take some time to eat.
Puffs (doled out one at a time) for small kids, or lollipops for older ones, can be good options because they take some time to eat.
4 | Let other people hold the baby.
When our first son was young, we were sometimes lucky enough to sit by people who were happy to hold the baby for a little bit. On one flight, a flight attendant offered to walk our crying baby up and down the aisle for a little while. We let her. Take advantage of people who are willing to help.
5 | Your smartphone camera and photo album.
Take a video or picture of your kid with your smartphone and then let him see it. Or just let him scroll through your photos and videos. Yes, it can be this simple at this age.
6 | Stickers.
Toddlers can spend some time working to pull them off the sticker sheet and then decorating some paper, clothes, or your forehead with them.
7 | A new toy wrapped as a present.
Unwrapping it will take some time and playing with it will take up some more. Something like these Squigz can be a good option since they can suction onto the tray table in front of you.
8 | Apps.
All screen time restrictions should be lifted on an airplane. It’s an unusual occasion and if it makes your life easier, then use it. We like Duck Duck Moose and Night and Day Studios apps for really young kids, and LEGO DUPLO and Toca Boca apps for older toddlers or preschoolers. My kids have also gotten a lot of mileage out of ZOOLA Animals – one version is just pictures of different animals and the deluxe version allows you to feed and dress animals (a giraffe can don purple butterfly wings).
9 | Sing songs.
Pre-kids I wouldn’t have belted out a few verses of “Wheels on the Bus” on a plane. Post-kids, if it prevents a meltdown – anything goes.
10 | Walk up and down the aisles.
When young kids are getting restless, sometimes a change of scenery will help.
11 | Headphones.
Often helpfully located in the seat pocket in front of you, these can provide some distraction. Let your little one try them on themselves or you. Just don’t expect them to actually listen to music with them.
12 | Make silly faces.
Bonus points if you can get the strangers seated near you to make a few, too.