Family & Social Child Developement
Ideas to keep young kids occupied during long-haul flights
Children crave new experiences, and being cooped up in an aeroplane seat for several hours may definitely not be their definition of fun. While no amount of planning or preparedness can control children's moods and reactions, being thoughtfully prepared in a way that suits your child's personality can really help. So create a calm and enjoyable journey with these quick tips on how to keep your kids occupied during long-haul travel.
1. Stock up on snacks:
Food and drink are great entertainers for you aren't they? Ditto for your baby. It is time to get creative in the food department so that some interesting snacks can double up as play-things. Ideally you should choose snacks that will last a while and keep the kid engaged and happy! Pack in a punch of nutrition and fun with funny-shaped cereals, granola bars, string cheese packs, pita-and-hummus combos etc. Also, as babies and toddlers do not know how to equalise air pressure through their air tracts, pack in some sucking-snacks and liquid drinks in small bottles up to the 100 ml liquid limit or just carry an empty sucker-bottle and ask the attendant to fill it up with juice/water. This will help release air pressure as you gain altitude and will prevent the crankiness that arises from air pressure build-up. However make sure the snacks you carry are not too sugary, else you may have a hyperactive sugar-rushed kid to deal with!
2. Engage and Entertain:
Most long-haul flights come with in-flight entertainment, including kiddie stuff. This is great for infants and toddlers, it will give them a homely feeling and establish a sense of comfort, especially if they recognize and like TV at home. Find out in advance what kind of entertainment your flight service offers and talk to your kids about it so that they look forward to some endearing cartoon time! As backup, you can rely on your tablet or iPad and pre-load it with your kids favorite cartoons or programs. For infants the source of entertainment can be as simple as piece of jewellery or the seat buckle!
3. Carry the favorite toys:
Toys make for great play-time for your kid, especially your kids favorite ones. Whether it is the furry soft toy your baby can't sleep without, or a small drag-toy that can be tugged along the aisles, your kid should not miss his or her favorite inanimate creature when travelling. Many airlines also have a host of toys stocked up especially for kids, make use of them to entertain your child when in transit. Also make sure you buy some new toys for the journey, as they are likely to keep the little one engaged for longer. Whisk out a new toy every once a while to catch their drifting attention spans.
4. Grab some creative time:
Long-haul flights offer some precious uninterrupted together-time. Use this as an opportunity to indulge in together-activities like colouring books or creating a piece of origami art. Activity books, play dough, tiny Legos, sticker books work wonders in getting the creative juices flowing as much as the happy juices! A holiday sticker book that illustrates the place you are visiting is a great way to combine learning and fun! A travel-sized etch-a-sketch is a space-efficient tool for drawing and artwork, you can just swipe it and use it again without a bother. Research* has shown that activity-based entertainment works better than videos or TV shows. Activities that spark the imagination and encourage creativity, rather than static toys like soft toys and dolls, are proven to keep children occupied for sustained periods, according to Dr. Vivian Hill, educational psychologist from the Institute of Education*.
5. Build story-time:
Pack in some kiddie story books and read to your kid. Pick from a wide range of books to suit your child's age- picture dictionaries, language learning books, fairy tales and nursery rhyme books. Here are some great picks as per age:
a. Babies: Pat the Bunny by Edith Kunhardt Davis, Goodnight Moon by Edith Kunhardt Davis, Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman.
b. Toddlers: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
c. Older Kids: My First Travel Angelic Airline Adventures by Anna Othitis is a great one for air journeys. Other good ones are Selfish Little Bob, Selfish No More! by Joyce Mitchell and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. You can also carry along a mini-map and talk about the place you are going to, or places enroute to enhance your child's world-view, quite literally.
6. Go for a walk:
Nothing can be as frustrating for a kid who has just learnt to walk, as sitting for hours in a seat without exploring. When the seatbelt sign is off, take your toddler for a little walk through the aisles, show him or her new things, meet new people. A flight journey is like an entirely new experience for kids, as they see their favorite tiny toy planes taking life and turning so huge and powerful!
Understand what your child truly enjoys and likes and plan for exposure to those things so as to have a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Parents often worry about how other passengers would react, or how the flight would disrupt their kids sleep cycles. Often, these are minor bothers, and people are quite understanding. Keep kids engaged by feeding their curiosity and energy levels, and you will soon find joy in the journey, rather than just the destination.
Discussion with a friend and a mother who has written a similar blog for babychakra.com based on her personal experience. She had taken 8 flights in the first 6-7 months.
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