WE SURVIVED!!! Southwest Airlines will never be the same again. No, seriously, a four hour flight with an 18 month-old (in my opinion-the absolutely worst age for travel!) is never fun, but it could have been much worse.
Yes, she screeched, shrieked, whined and only slept for half an hour out of the four hour flight…but she didn’t actually cry. I felt like I ought to have offered to buy drinks for my neighbors, or perhaps I should have passed out ear plugs. But actually, I was the one who seemed stressed and bothered the most I think.
Pilot trick: when you have a screechy kind of child that you must take on an airplane, sit as close to the engine as possible since that is the noisiest part of the plane. Screechy child=bad, lots of ambient noise to help drown it out=good.
My two oldest kids were fabulous. I would take them around the world without batting an eyelash. Even while travelling, they remain unplugged. Many people nowadays wonder how it is possible to travel with children without hauling along a stash of electronics to rival NASA. Unplugged children don’t have portable DVD players and Gameboys, but there is plenty out there to keep them occupied, and you don’t even have to worry about fresh batteries! Your fellow travellers may actually want to thank you for unplugging your children on public transportation.
Now is the time of year when many family vacations happen. So, how do you travel and keep your kids entertained, yet unplugged?
My two oldest are now 5 and 6. They each pull their own little rolling suitcase packed with their activities, as well as a favorite stuffed animal or two. Note: I supervise the packing of the suitcase, or better yet, pack it for them when they are not there. This avoids us finding a suitcase full of rocks, scraps of paper, bits of string, and other “toys” that simply could not be left behind. I always try to include a few new “surprises.”
Here are some ideas that have worked for us:
An obvious choice. Try to pack lightweight, paperback books.
- A French knitter (easy for ages 5-6+ to do on their own – makes yarn “snakes” that can be coiled and sewn into various projects)
- Modeling clay (I squish one stick into a plastic Easter Egg which makes a great travel container)
- Wikki Stix (strings coated with wax, like candle wicks, can be bent into many different shapes)
- Travel-sized erasable drawing board (Magna Doodle for example)
- Pocket Etch-A-Sketch
- Don’t forget the plain old pad of paper and crayons.
- Are We There Yet
- Haba Story Telling Tin (children make up stories based on the picture cards they choose-very creative!)
- Also look for travel-sized editions of other favorite board games, there are many out there, you just have to search for them. Beware of games with too many small pieces to lose if you have young (or unreliable) children.
- Melissa & Doug Magnetic Farm Hide & Seek
- Smethport Magnetic Playboards (some examples are below, but search for “Smethport” at Amazon toys to see all the possibilities).
Choose toys that are small, light, and don’t have a lot of pieces to get lost.
- Lacing block
- Zip-lock bag full of hotwheels cars
- Peace Ring
- Piece of string or yarn (for Cat’s Cradle)
Creative Coloring Books:
I like to find coloring books that are not your typical stay within the lines type of activity.
- The Anti-Coloring Book series is wonderful with suggestions for all kinds of imaginative possibilities.
- The Taro Gomi books are also very original but have a lot of pages so may be too big to pack easily.
- Here are also a few other suggestions for coloring books featuring abstract patterns that can be colored in many, many different ways.
Wipe Clean Board Books:
Tip: Stash away an airline cocktail napkin or two for wiping these off.
- Our favorite is the Look-Alikes series of books by Joan Steiner. These feature amazing, realistic photos in which the objects are almost always something else (sidewalks made of crackers or wheels made of buttons, etc.). Kids (and grown-ups too) enjoy looking through these books over and over as there is always something new to notice. It is also a fun activity to say to kids “I see a penny” and have them find it. You will tire of that game before they do!
- Of course there are also the well-known Where’s Waldo and I Spy books, but here are also some additional ones we like that are not so common:
Not fun for all kids, but my oldest loves this stuff!
- Flash cards
- Brain Quest
Learn Some Games Yourself!:
If you are really desperate, buy a book such as Car Games: 100 Games to Avoid “Are We There Yet?”. This book offers suggestions for over 100 fun games to play in the car, airplane, or even while camping or waiting in line for example (not all games rely on spotting license plates or signs). A fun book. Parents could learn a few of these games in order to provide timely distractions at critical moments!
As for travelling by air with 18 month-olds: my best piece of advice is grit your teeth and remember that you will never see any of those people again!
I wish you all happy unplugged travels!
PS. What works for you when your kids travel? Please let me know in your comments. I am always on the lookout for new ideas!