Entertaining a Baby or Toddler on Board a Flight

If you’ve spent any given time with a small child, you’ll quickly agree that they’re active and curious little things – which is great when you’re on solid ground, but what about when you’re in an aeroplane thousands of metres in the air with only a teeny tiny amount of room? It always niggles at the back of my mind when I’m preparing for a trip – “How am I going to entertain my daughter for the duration of the flight?”

We’ve done plenty of flights and the very short ones (1 – 2 hours) are always the best (of course). These type of flights are generally over before you know it, and a couple of toys will get you through or, if you’re super lucky, your child will sleep. Any flight longer than this generally requires some thought and preparation. I’ve done quite a few 8-12 hour flights with my daughter, and I’ve even done a marathon 24 hour London to Melbourne. Here are some of my tips for keeping your little person entertained during those awake hours on board a flight:

– Make the most of your immediate environment. A plane ride is an interesting experience, and most young children are intrigued by where they are, this initial curiosity will keep them entertained for some time. My small person enjoys the take-off and landing, and just the general knick-knacks around her such as the seat belt clip or an empty paper cup. She also loves looking at the safety brochure and in-flight magazine. We flick through the magazine and look at all the pictures, I give explanations and make-up stories (she also likes to rip the occasional page…).

– Suitable toys are a fantastic distraction. With toys I try and get as much use out of them as possible, so we bring them out one at a time rather than all at once. I always pack a favourite book and favourite soft toy (good comforters) and a new toy that’s never been seen before, as well as a few other entertaining pieces. You can also get creative and make your own toy, my daughter loves opening boxes, so a small gift box filled with ribbons and tissue paper can keep her busy for a least half hour. I also try and avoid taking toys that make really loud noises so as not to upset fellow travellers. Some toys that we like to take are: picture books, a sticker book, a mini-scribbler/magna doodle, finger puppets and hand puppets.

Very young babies (1 – 4 months) are likely to sleep for much of the flight, and the times that they are awake they are often happy to be held or fed. Toys that are great for this age are picture books, finger puppets, teething toys (such as Sophie the Giraffe), a favourite teddy and also a Fun Arch, such as this, that can be clipped onto the sky cot.

– In-flight movies and games.  As much as I try and limit TV time for my daughter in real life, when I’m on a plane I throw this rule out the window. My daughter is still relatively young so she can’t wear headphones (without ripping them off or chewing on them) so she just prefers to look at the TV screen. I’m sure in due time she’ll enjoy the many in-flight movies and games available for young children.

– Walk around the plane.  Once the flight is in the air, go for a walk. Babies and toddlers like to see where they are and you can talk to them about what’s going on around them. Plus this allows you to stretch your legs and reduces the risk DVT on a long haul flight.

– Utilise airline staff. If you’re brave enough, hand your child to a member of staff (preferably not the pilot). When I’ve travelled on my own, the staff of the airlines that I have travelled with have been more than happy to take my daughter off my hands for 10 – 15 minutes so that I can have a short break.

REMEMBER, 15 minutes here and there eventually adds up, combine that with a few long naps and, before you know it, you have arrived at your destination.