After a bit of delay, here is the next post in my series of traveling with Under 2’s. People regularly ask me how I keep Ayrton entertained on the plane – especially now that he’s so active. Obviously the easiest time to travel with an under 2 is before they can move around on their own. I highly recommend travel with babies that are not even crawling yet. It will be the easiest travel with an under 2 you ever do. That said, even crawling and walking hasn’t stopped us, so here are the things we have done with him depending on his mobility status:
Pre-crawling (~ 0 – 6 months):
Like I said, easy. We pretty much just held him, had him sleep in the bassinet or in our arms, or we played games like patty cake or peek-a-boo – which are apparently hysterical.
Crawling (~ 6 – 12 months):
This is perhaps the only time I might lean toward getting a window over an aisle seat (but not necessarily). I would usually put a blanket on the floor along with some of his toys. It gave him a little more freedom than being held on our laps, but he was still pretty well contained from crawling away. He also really still enjoyed the patty cake and peek-a-boo games and thought it was heaps fun to stand on our laps and make faces at the people in the row behind us. Snacks are also good, and things like teething rusks will last a while. At this age they are usually still sleeping a fair amount on long flights, so it’s still fairly easy to keep them entertained.
Walking (~ 12 Months+):
This is when it gets to be lots of fun (for the Sheldon’s in my audience, yes, this is sarcasm). Usually the biggest struggle is trying to keep him on our laps, since we are avoiding buying him his own ticket as long as we possibly can. Hopefully we manage to get a row to ourselves which makes this a bit easier once we are in the air, but if we don’t, the next challenge is trying to keep him from kicking the seat in front of us. Unfortunately, I don’t have any great tips for this other than trying to keep him turned sideways.
On long flights he loves playing with the built in entertainment system. Which is great as long as there is no one sitting in the seat in front of us (him) – but he’s not exactly gentle with it, so if there is someone in front of us this becomes more of a hindrance than a help. We also try to keep him entertained by the plane itself as long as we can before we break out the stuff we brought with us - there are plenty of new things for him to explore, so we save things like movies for when gets completely bored. Here are all the things we have done/do to keep him entertained on the plane:
· Playing with the infant seat belt. Ayrton finds clipping and unclipping the seat belt amazingly entertaining. Once we are in the air and he no longer has to have his seat belt on, we let him click it together and pull it apart. We usually end up with a good 10 – 20 minutes out of this. On flights where he either had to keep his seat belt on or they didn’t provide an infant seat belt, we’ve asked the flight attendant if he could play with the one they use for the safety demonstration – usually they’ve let us, but that may not always be the case.
· Reading/tearing the in flight magazine. Ayrton loves books, pictures, words etc. He usually spends a few minutes turning pages and “reading” it before the tearing begins. I don’t worry about the destruction since they have plenty more, and it will get replaced for the next passenger. The main thing is containing the mess. So far we’ve managed to convince Ayrton that giving the torn pieces to us are part of the game, then we just toss them when they come around collecting rubbish.
· Looking out the window. Ayrton LOVES looking out the window. We usually get lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs” from him as he points at things. This may be because he is the son of an engineer, but there is definitely some entertainment value in it.
· Bottle and cap. We still give Ayrton a bottle at take off to help with equalizing his ears but usually by the time we are in the air he is more interested in just taking the cap on and off of the bottle. He also thinks it’s funny when we narrate. “On!” “Off!”
· Books and toys. We bring a few, but they can get heavy fast, so mostly just bring the ones we know he really likes and we can get a decent amount of time out of. Even though he loves balls, we avoid anything that can roll when he drops or throws it.
· Snacks. We make sure we have plenty of his favorite snacks and he usually gets spoiled with at least one snack that is a special treat he doesn’t usually get. We try to save that one for if he starts to get fussy and then make sure he knows he doesn’t get it unless he calms down first. Although, it has backfired when we ran out and he wanted more.
· Coloring kit. Using some kind of latchable container (Tupperware, an old wipes container etc.) I put a few crayons and a stack of sticky notes in it. The coloring keeps him occupied and the sticky notes keep the drawings from going everywhere.
· Buddha Board. These are AWESOME if you’ve never seen one. They are in the category of a zen garden for meditation etc. for adults, but they are perfect for in flight art for the kiddos. They come with a paintbrush, and all you need is water and they can paint to their hearts content. As the board dries, the drawing disappears and they can start all over. No mess, the worst they can do is spill some water (which dries amazingly fast on the plane anyway) and you never run out of paper. We have a miniature one that is perfect for traveling, but they do come in several sizes and colors.
· Songs and games. Even at this age, Ayrton loves patty cake, this little piggy went to market, peek-a-boo and plenty of others. Especially anything that has motions he can do too. We do lots of If You're Happy and You Know It, 5 Little Ducks Went Out to Play, 5 Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed etc. For peek-a-boo, I like to have one of my silk scarves/handkerchiefs that I just put over my head. It’s lightweight, easy to pack and is fun for him to pull off my face instead of just waiting for me to uncover mine. Plane blankets work well for this too.
· Go for a walk. On long, international flights, we will walk laps around the plane. This is harder to do on domestic flights that only have a single aisle, but sometimes just a change of scenery can be enough to get Ayrton to calm down if he gets fussy.
· Our phones. Ayrton absolutely loves playing with our iPhones. Just make sure that you know how to child lock it if you’re just going to hand it over or you end up spending half your time trying to figure out what has been deleted or reopening the app. iPhone has a great Guided Learning feature for this in settings. He also thinks watching videos of himself is the best thing ever and he’s usually happy to spend quite a bit of time flicking through the camera roll on my phone.
· iPad. We load it with movies and apps that he enjoys, but we try really hard to make this the last option because it will usually hold his attention the longest. We’ve bought volume limited kid headphones for him so that he can hear the movie and the games without disturbing the people around us or accidentally blasting his ears with too much volume.
The last thing I would say about being on a plane with under 2’s is try to stay patient and calm even if your kiddo freaks out. Just like at home, most of the time they’ll stop a tantrum within a couple of minutes if they think it’s not getting them what they want. Getting stressed about it and trying to force it to stop can just make it worse. Let it run its course and try not to worry too much about what the people around you are thinking.