1) Plan your flight in 15-minute slots
For a three-hour journey, you need around ten activities to keep young kids entertained (as the first and last 15 minutes you can occupy them by looking out the window for take-off and landing). Kids’ magazines, a favourite storybook, drawing, Snap, and snacks are all good activities to keep them entertained. It’s unlikely you will need all ten (especially if you manage to get them to sleep) but better to have too many than too few.
2) Get a portable DVD player or tablet
Without doubt, the one thing all parents seem to agree on is investing in some sort of video tech to keep your kid occupied – either a portable DVD player or, increasingly, a tablet computer. DVD players are a bit bulkier and obviously require a set of DVDs to go with them, whereas tablets are much smaller but often have limited storage space for videos. You’ll also have to make sure to download all the videos you need before getting on board. Cartoons and movies can help to while away a sizeable chunk of the flight and allow parents some downtime too.
3) Present your child with presents
Wrap up small toys that you can present to your child as a reward for being good every half hour or so. These don’t have to be expensive and can even be your child’s old forgotten about toys. Small soft animals are ideal, as are little wind-up toys that can travel across the fold down table – although there is always the possibility that they may end up ‘driving’ into nearby passengers or a passing steward. A good idea is to wrap up your various activities as presents, like snacks or stickers.
4) Download some kids’ games or apps
Before you board, download some kids’ games or kid-friendly apps to your smartphone or tablet (make sure to switch it to Airplane mode for the flight). Some good ones include Bubbles (where you simply have to pop bubbles with your finger, an endlessly fascinating pastime for toddlers), Toddler Cars (animations of all sorts of vehicles, complete with noises – make sure to bring headphones) and Peppa Pig Happy Mrs Chicken (chances are your child is obsessed with Peppa Pig, so anything starring the pink one will inspire awe, but this is actually a pretty good game).
5) Get sticking with stickers
Stickers are great for keeping children entertained for a while – just give them an empty water bottle to decorate or some scrap paper. Bear in mind that you will probably end up having to unpeel stickers from the back of the seat in front and from various parts of your child’s body, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping them quiet for 15 minutes.
6) Take a pillow
Small children can sit on a pillow so they can see out of the window better, while older children may find sleeping more comfortable with a pillow. A blanket is also good as its familiarity will comfort your child as well keep them warm if it gets chilly onboard.
7) Take some sweets
Landing can cause painful ears – babies are often given a bottle to encourage them to suck and therefore swallow. The same principle will work if you give your child a lollypop (ideally sugar-free) for take-off and landing, which will also distract them from the potentially scary sensation.
8) Bring longer lasting foods
Offer foods that take longer to eat which will occupy your child for longer. A box of raisins is great because it contains natural sugars, while strawberries, grapes, and cherry tomatoes are similarly healthy and fun to eat (although potentially messier than raisins). Sweets can be a great bribe, but be warned: trying to contain a child in their seat once they have eaten an excessive amount of sugar can present a challenge.