by guest blogger Andeep Singh, documentarian and television and Web video producer
I flew my first plane at age 6. Well, kind of.
It was on a transatlantic flight to London, England. The captain invited some others kids and me on the flight to visit the cockpit, and even let me (fake) fly the plane! This was in addition to the coloring books, playing cards, pilot’s wings, and candies the airline gave to kid travelers in those days. I was occupied for hours.
Well, fast-forward 20-something years, and flying with kids isn’t so easy; nor is it filled with lessons on how to handle a 747. These days, you need to bring your own entertainment, not to mention creativity.
Recently, British Airways published an article on kids’ favorite in-flight toys. I’ll save you the read, but the number one kid-approved toy was Play-Doh—otherwise known as the messy nemesis of type-A moms and dads everywhere. It comes as no surprise that the kids chose it, but for BA to sanction it? Well, that’s just nonsense with a side of upholstery cleaning.
Quite frankly, after a several hours on a plane—hello, 15 hours to Hong Kong—the last thing I want to do is pick out dried Play-Doh from the carpet with my fingernails.
With that, here is my list for plane-approved toys for kid pleasure and parental sanity (and intact nail beds):
- Legos or Blocks: The pieces get lost in cushions and fall on the floor, but the kids will build for hours. HOURS! What’s a few missing bricks to make it over the ocean?
- Stickers: My daughter likes to stick stickers on the tray table, on her face, on the window, on my face, and on everything in her vicinity.
- Beads: Ditto the Legos resolution regarding falling and lost pieces, but stringing beads takes time and concentration, and it sucks up little minds for good chunks of time. It’s sort of brilliant.
- Etch A Sketch/Magnetic Sketch Pad: In truth, I think my 4-year-old is more frustrated than entertained by these, but since she’s not one to give up, she’ll keep working those knobs. The mini version is much lighter and less bulky than its original-size counterpart and perfect for travel.
- Crayons and Coloring Books: Never underestimate the power of a brand-new box of crayons. Once the kids have torn into the cardboard, drop everything in a Ziploc bag and go to town. A good alternative for the younger kids is the Aquadoodle.
- Mini Board Games: My daughter loves any game that she can win (she gets that from her dad). And as long as I don’t mind losing, she’ll play Memory forever.
- Books: I’m all about the paperbacks for airplane trips. The best books are the ones that have something to do with our destination. So I generally add a few new books to the library so we can discuss the location and things to see and do before, during, and after the trip.
- Toiletry Bag: My kid loves getting a new toothbrush or tube of toothpaste with a cartoon character. So before the flight I put together a new kit for her, complete with eye mask, lip balm, and hand sanitizer (her favorite, not mine).
Beyond that, I’ve picked up a few more quick tips:
- I try to dig up old toys and items that she already has, but I also buy one to two new items and wrap them up. Nothing expensive, just something my kid has never seen before—and not too heavy.
- Bring snacks…lots of snacks. The healthy and the not so healthy. Pack some extras for yourself, too. Be sure to bring along a spillproof cup. Tray tables and children in the midst of airplane drinks do not make for a good combination.
- Comfort items are a must. Blankets, pj’s, slippers, socks—anything to make the kids comfortable. My daughter will sleep anywhere with her blankie. Even on airport floors. Gross, but helpful.
- The iPad! Most parents don’t want to admit they need electronics, but they can be a huge savior on cheap flights without entertainment systems and even during long waits for luggage and customs. Just remember to power up and download some new apps.
- Give them a kid-approved backpack or suitcase so they can lug their own stuff through the airport. It’s inevitable that you will have to carry it at some point, but until that point, it’s a fun thing for them to do.
Any other suggestions for things to pack on a plane? I’d love to hear them!
Andeep Singh works at the Rodale Video Network and has produced nonfiction television, film, and digital video content for some of the biggest networks in the country, including ABC, NBC, PBS, CBC, and A&E. She recently completed producing her first feature documentary film, titled Living the Fantasy, which follows the lives of six high-stakes fantasy football players. Originally from the Great White North, Andeep has a serious case of wanderlust, is afflicted with perpetual food envy, and is mildly obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.