Keeping Young Kids Occupied on a Long Flight: Tips for Parents

Feb 11, 2024 | Featured, Travel Info

Kids on a plane
Young girl at an airport

Travelling with young children can be a daunting prospect, especially when facing the challenge of a long flight. Believe me, from personal experience, my daughter Sienna was 8 before I was brave enough to take her on a long haul flight. The whole thing filled me with dread. The confined space, lack of freedom to move around, and the boredom that can quickly set in for little ones can make the journey seem endless.

However, with some careful planning and creative thinking, you can make the experience much more manageable for both you and your children. Here are some tips to help keep young kids occupied and entertained during a long flight.

CHOOSE FLIGHT TIMES WISELY

Yes the 6am flight might be cheaper, or the flight that lands at 3am, but do you really want to add tired, grumpy kids to your airport and transfer stresses? Depending on your place of arrival, night flights are great as the chances are your child will get a couple of hours sleep. Or pick a good daytime flight that lands in the destination at a good time, one that allows you to go straight to your accommodation without hanging around.

Pack a Flight Survival Kit:

Before you even step foot on the plane, ensure you have a well-equipped flight survival kit. Include essentials like snacks, drinks, wet wipes, tissues, and any necessary medications. Additionally, pack entertainment items such as colouring books, crayons, small toys, and a tablet loaded with their favourite movies or games. Having these items readily available will help you handle any unexpected situations that may arise during the flight. Usually on a long flight you’ll all have a good hand luggage allowance – my advice – use it. I always pack a spare set of clothes for Sienna – we flew to Italy last year and withing 20 minutes of taking off she had spilled a whole can of coke over herself and was sopping wet, fortunately I had spare leggings, knickers and a t-shirt in a ziplock bag in the hand luggage, which also meant I had somewhere to put the wet stuff.

Engage in Interactive Play:

Encourage your child to engage in interactive play to keep them entertained and stimulated. Bring along small, portable games like travel-sized versions of board games or card games that you can play together as a family. Interactive storytelling or creating your own stories together can also be a fun way to pass the time while fostering creativity and imagination. A great tip is to pop to Poundland, B&M, Lidl or your local supermarket and buy a load of different things, mini games, colouring books, a pack of pens, fidget spinners, magazines etc and wrap them all up like gifts, get something new out every hour and let them upwrap it. 

You have of course on most long-haul flights, in-flight entertainment. This was most exciting to Sienna last year when we flew to Mexico. Every flight she had ever been on had been European, so no in-flight entertainment. She spent hours playing the online games, and watching movies.

Bring books

Books are a fantastic way to keep children entertained and engaged during a flight. Pack a selection of their favourite books or introduce them to new stories that capture their interest. Consider interactive books with flaps or textures to keep them entertained for longer periods. You can also download e-books onto a tablet or e-reader for easy access to a wide range of reading material. Books like Where’s Wally are great and can keep them engaged for a decent amount of time.

Use Technology wisely

While it’s essential to limit screen time, a long flight is the perfect opportunity to leverage technology to keep your child entertained. Load up a tablet or smartphone with educational apps, games, and movies that are suitable for their age. Be sure to bring headphones to avoid disturbing other passengers and consider investing in child-friendly headphones that are comfortable for little ears.

SNACKS, SNACKS AND MORE SNACKS

Hunger can exacerbate restlessness and boredom, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks to keep hunger at bay. Opt for healthy snacks like fruit, crackers, cheese, or granola bars to provide sustained energy without causing sugar crashes. Avoid overly sugary or caffeinated snacks that can lead to hyperactivity and make it challenging for your child to settle down when it’s time to rest. You’re probably well aware that kids need to eat and snack a lot more often than adults, and aeroplane food can be sparse and somewhat hit or miss. I always pack a mini cool bag in my hand luggage with sandwiches, breadsticks, mini crackers, small bags of sweets (but not too many), and cheese strings etc. To be honest I usually delve in to them before too long too. Keep them hydrated too, avoid lots of fizzy drinks, keep water and juice handy, I always carry a mini bottle of Robinson’s squash to squeeze in to water bottles to make it more interesting.

TAKE REGULAR STRETCH BREAKS

Encourage your child to stretch their legs and move around the cabin periodically to prevent stiffness and restlessness. Take advantage of any opportunities during the flight when the seatbelt sign is turned off to walk up and down the aisle together. Additionally, simple stretching exercises or mini yoga sessions can help your child relax and unwind during the flight. If you’re on a flight with lots of kids, go and say hi to other parents and kids. Often a new face can distract a child for ten minutes and is a great way to help other parents keep their kids occupied too. I’ve been known on many a flight to go and say hi to parents struggling with over excited kids, it’s always nice to know you’ve got support and someone understands what you’re going through.

CREATE A COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT

Make your child’s seating area as comfortable as possible to promote relaxation and sleep. Bring along a small pillow and blanket to create a cosy nest for them to curl up in. Consider investing in a travel pillow designed specifically for children to provide adequate support for their neck and head. Creating a familiar sleep environment can help your child feel more at ease and facilitate restful sleep during the flight. There are different pillows and sleep aids available now to help your kids stretch out and sleep – always check with your airline to see what they allow onboard.

ENCOURAGE QUIET PLAY

In addition to active play, encourage your child to engage in quiet activities that promote relaxation and calmness. Colouring books, sticker books, and simple puzzles are great options that require minimal space and can be enjoyed quietly without disturbing other passengers. Encourage your child to use headphones when listening to music or watching videos to keep noise levels to a minimum. We’ve all been there with the kid behind kicking your chair and screaming. No one likes it, but if you’re the parent it’s even worse. Be considerate to others, but at the end of the day – kids are kids, and they are excited!

STAY CALM

Travelling with children can be stressful, but it’s essential to stay calm and patient throughout the journey. Be prepared for unexpected challenges and delays, and approach them with a positive attitude. Use humour and distraction to diffuse tense situations and keep your child’s spirits up. Remember that your attitude sets the tone for the entire experience, so stay positive and focus on making the journey as enjoyable as possible for your child. Failing that, remember, most long haul flights come with free wine! 

CELEBRATE MILESTONES

Long flights can feel endless, especially for young children who may struggle with the concept of time. Break up the journey by celebrating milestones along the way, whether it’s reaching a certain altitude, completing a leg of the journey, or simply making it through a challenging moment. Reward your child with small treats or praise to acknowledge their patience and resilience during the flight. Many inflight entertainment systems have flight maps installed, allowing you to track your progress, this is a great way to teach your kids about the world, how about saying that when the plane is over Africa they can have another treat – or when you’re next flying over the sea, get them to point it out to you and they win a prize (bags of sweets are great for this).

In conclusion, keeping young kids occupied on a long flight requires careful planning, creativity, and patience. By packing a flight survival kit, engaging in interactive play, utilising technology wisely, and creating a comfortable environment, you can help make the journey more enjoyable for both you and your child. Remember to stay calm and patient, celebrate milestones along the way, and focus on making the experience as positive and memorable as possible. 

Happy Travels

Emma x

 

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