Back in the day, you used to dread getting an airplane seat next to a feisty toddler. You might have even given said toddler’s mom more than a few dirty looks after her kid knocked you in the head with his toy for the fifth time.
Fast forward a few years and you are now that mom boarding a plane with a wild-eyed, mischievous kid, and you’re well aware of the terrified stares you’re getting from the other passengers.
Traveling with your kids can be a great experience for the whole family, but it all starts with surviving the flight. When you’re faced with a multi-hour flight with your little ones in tow, rely on these nine tactics to help keep them happy and entertained while flying high.
1. A deck of cards
Uno is the jack of all trades when it comes to cards. Play the game the classic way, or for younger children spend time sorting them by color or numbers.
2. Reusable stickers
Let your littles put these repositionable stickers everywhere — from the windows to the trays to your body — for hours of fun that you can peel right off once you’ve reached your destination.
3. Long-lasting snacks
When packing snacks, make sure you pick ones that you know take your child a long time to eat. String cheese is a great example of something that can be eaten little by little, even making a game out of it by peeling off the tiniest strings.
4. Audio books
Make sure you charge up the iPad before you leave, because you’ll definitely be relying on entertaining audio books to keep your kid zeroed in on the screen.
5. Interactive books
Bringing books on a flight is a given, but not just any regular book — make sure you opt for ones that aren’t finished in just a few minutes. Choose versions that will keep your child occupied for a longer time and have interactive elements like a "Where’s Waldo” book or one that asks a lot of open ended questions.
6. Magnetic blocks
Loose blocks are typically a mom’s worst nightmare; remedy the situation by opting for magnetic blocks, which are the perfect toy for building on the go.
Stash a tiny tub of this colorful, classic activity in your carry-on and you’ll thank us later; besides keeping your child’s hands busy, it’s also super easy to clean up and can even be shared amongst multiple children. They even make themed Play-Doh kits to best fit your child’s interests, like Star Wars or My Little Pony.
8. I Spy with SkyMall
Worst case scenario: you’ve boarded the plane and realized you’ve somehow forgotten to pack any of these ideas. Never fear, simply reach for the trusty SkyMall magazine and play a riveting game of I Spy with your little one. For older children, play a game of “what would you buy?” off of every page.
There are tons of innovative apps specifically made for keeping toddlers’ attention; from dancing farm animals to classic nursery rhymes, there’s an app to suit every child. Load up your phone or iPad with several of these in order to buy yourself a little more time up in the air.
10. Hand puppets
When your kid tires of the interactive books, whip out the next level of interaction with hand puppets that’ll keep you, your kids and maybe even your seatmates entertained the whole flight.