19 Expert-Approved Tricks to Keep Kids Calm & Happy During Flights

Flying with small children can be a daunting experience, especially during peak travel seasons. The thought of being stuck in a confined space with no escape can cause many parents to break out in a cold sweat. However, fear not! With a little preparation, you can keep your kids entertained and avoid major meltdowns. Here are 19 family travel tips from veteran parents and Dr. Harvey Karp, the pediatrician and author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” to help you keep your little ones calm and happy during flights and other public outings.

Stock up at the dollar store.

The dollar store is your new best friend when it comes to keeping kids entertained on flights. Spend $9 to $12 on toys and books that your child has never seen before, and don’t reveal them until you’re on the plane. Hide them in different places to make it more exciting for your child. Each $1 item can buy you anywhere from five to 20 minutes of engrossed playing time.

Plan unexpected surprises.

Create mind-blowing distractions using odds and ends you already have at home. Fill little plastic eggs with random nuggets of distraction, such as balled-up, colorful paper or cut-out pictures from magazines and coloring books. Flipbooks, coloring books, slinkies, stickers, and sticker books are also great options.

Be a master storyteller.

Craft tales about where you’re going, whom you’ll see, and what you’ll do when you get there. Bring a mix of new, never-seen-before books along with favorite standbys. Hand puppets can also dazzle your child with stories and running commentary about the flight.

Don’t blow your arsenal all at once.

Pace yourself a little bit and spread your ammunition out between you and your travel partner. Remember, you’re putting them under very unusual circumstances. Give them time to adjust to their surroundings.

Speak their language.

Empathize with your little ones and speak “toddlerese” to them. Dr. Karp teaches parents how to nip tantrums in the bud by acknowledging how kids are feeling. He also recommends “gossiping” with others nearby about what a good job your child is doing.

Time feedings correctly.

To keep kids happy, keep them fed and watered. Delay feedings for two to three hours before the flight takes off, if feasible. Once you’re seated, pull out a mini-feast of foods your child loves. Avoid sugary treats and caffeinated drinks, as they can cause hyperactivity.

Create a scavenger hunt.

Make a list of items to find on the plane, such as a pilot’s hat or a certain color suitcase. This game is especially fun if you’re traveling with multiple children.

Download games and movies.

Download games and movies on electronic devices to keep kids entertained during long flights. Make sure to bring headphones and a backup battery.

Pack a sensory bag.

Pack a small bag with sensory items, such as playdough, pipe cleaners, or a fidget spinner.

Take breaks.

Get up and walk around the plane with your child to stretch your legs and burn off some energy. This will help prevent restlessness and boredom.

In conclusion, traveling with small children doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With these tips, you can keep your kids entertained and avoid major meltdowns, making your travel experience a more enjoyable one.

Bring familiar foods from home.

If you think your child will turn up their nose at airport or airplane food, make and bring their favorite items from home. Avoid having a battle of wills with your child over eating by preparing ahead of time.

Go a little crazy with the foods you bring.

Splurge on gimmicky foods and drinks that you don’t usually buy to make the experience more exciting for your child. Just make sure the snacks aren’t too sugary or caffeinated.

Hydrate at the right time.

Let your child have a drink whenever they need it, but reserve high-value liquids, served in a favorite cup, for takeoffs and landings. Swallowing can help alleviate ear pain during these times.

Book the right seat.

Choose a window seat for privacy and a leaning wall if you’re a breastfeeding mom. An aisle seat is better for a toddler who loves to move around and explore.

Time the flight with sleep in mind.

Try to avoid traveling during your child’s most challenging times of the day. Fly when your child is most likely to sleep, and consider a red-eye flight if necessary.

Bring a pillow and blanket.

Comfort your child during the flight by bringing a pillow and their favorite blanket.

Enlist help from allies.

Make new friends on the aircraft and have them help keep your child entertained with puppets and toys.

Get creative with toys.

Pack a variety of simple toys, such as pipe cleaners and plastic eggs filled with surprises, to keep your child entertained.

Give them responsibilities.

Empower your child by giving them small tasks to complete, such as holding onto tickets or counting suitcases.

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