BackpacksKids like being in charge so give them something to be in charge of. A backpack is perfect because it stays put, unlike a bag which can slip off their shoulder and you end up with one more thing to carry.
Put all your favorite ideas from the list below and let them take charge! One advantage to this idea is you have built in In-Flight Entertainment as well as stuff for them to do once you reach your destination.
BooksThere's never enough time in the day to read to the kids so take the opportunity of the long plane ride for some one-on-one. Pack your kids' favorite books for you to read or easy reader books for them to read by themselves. There's no reason to plug their brains into electronics for the whole flight. Expand their imagination through the endless possibilities in a good book.
Car seat on the planeOne way to rein in a squirrelly toddler is to take their car seat on the plane. This has worked really well for our kids. They behave much better - which keeps everyone happy. They actually are able to rest and fall asleep easier in their car seat just as they often do when riding in the car.
Check with your airline for any requirements as to where you can place the car seat on the plane. We had one flight attendant tell us it should always be at the window seat. That provided one more source of entertainment - the great outdoors!
Coloring BooksColoring books can be a great distraction and can help get out a little scribbling energy. One of my favorite coloring tools for my kids is Crayola's Color Wonder markers and paper. They're great because the markers only write on Color Wonder paper which means your little ones leave no evidence behind!
The downside with any small, round object is it rolls if you drop it and then it's gone. You're left with one unhappy camper. Even a sippy cup can create problems but you'll probably take your chances with that one.
So, if coloring is your child's favorite pastime then pack in the coloring books, but go easy on the crayons, and keep an available hand to help hold the ones he or she's not using.
Comfort Toys for Small ChildrenThrow in a favorite blanket or stuffed animal for small children. It may help them snuggle down for quiet time or just help get through a bumpy patch of air.
You can never have enough props for entertaining that last 20-30 minutes of the flight when everyone is ready to get off. Some of our favorite games to play with a blanket or cuddle friend are peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.
Divide and Conquer - Don't Lose the Kids.Decide ahead of time who is in charge of which child. This will eliminate the question "Where is so-and-so?" with the answer of "I thought you were watching him." Miscommunication and lost children are not a good way to start a vacation.
DVDs/movies and personal DVD playersThese have been our saving grace on long car rides and airplane flights. A laptop with a DVD drive works just as well as a personal DVD player. Bring a long a set of earphones (or a splitter so you can have two sets of earphones) so your showing of your child's favorite movie doesn't interfere with the comfort of others.
Sit an adult in between two children to be in control of the DVD player. This eliminates power struggles between the kids. It sounds like a scary place to be, but it sure beats having to control upset children. We always bring the movies we know they will watch and stay occupied with. If we're lucky they may even fall asleep.
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