With Christmas holidays ever-looming, many of us will embark on long flights, often with kids in tow. Of course, there are a million travel hacks for when the children become hungry, restless or unruly on the plane. Snacks and lollies? Check. Pixar movies? Yep. Toys? For sure. Portable games console? At the ready whenever the parents need some downtime. So that’s everything covered, right? Not necessarily.
Where our parents played Hangman or I Spy with us and solved Sudoku puzzles while we were asleep, these days we rely on videos and games apps mid-air. Yet there are still ‘analogue’ alternatives out there. We won’t discount the benefits of pre-loading a tablet with kids’ movies for the flight, but we can attest that non-electronic ways of entertainment are just as effective, if not altogether more useful.
Why is analogue entertainment worthy of a go, when digital is so simple to use, you might ask? Because it:
(a) doesn’t require messy charging of devices;
(b) can be more socially engaging;
(c) teaches them valuable skills.
Smart ways of keeping your kids busy in the air
When it comes down it to it, travelling together is as good a time as any to get involved in your child’s development. Naturally, keeping them busy during a flight can be a mission, however it’s far from being mission: impossible. If your kid won’t settle down in their seat, you can rely on these tried-and-true – and useful – methods to keep them occupied.
- Tic Tac Toe – the king of logic-developing games never gets old.
- Scrabble Junior – another time-honoured activity for the whole family. Also fantastic for improving your child’s language skills (make sure the letters don’t get everywhere!).
- Jigsaw puzzles – we were enthralled by solving them, and your children will be, too (the above rule for Scrabble letters also applies to puzzle pieces!).
- Battleship – a classic learning stone for strategic thinking.
- Uno – a card game that’s hard to beat for developing working memory skills.
- Hangman – rather self-explanatory if you grew up in Australia. All you’ll need is a pen/cil and a piece of paper.
- Colouring – why not host an impromptu colouring contest? You might like to check out our colouring page below!
Download our sandy fun colouring sheet
Skills to teach
- Using chopsticks – you can either teach your child this excellent skill, or learn it together. For best results, start with using the clothes peg mechanism with the chopsticks.
- Shuffling card decks – excellent for hand dexterity, even if you’re not a gambler or planning to raise one!
- Motor skills – few activities can boost motor skills like several rounds of Patty Cake or a similar clapping game (only you might need to be as quiet as you can!).
- Construction – Lego is a great development tool, but it may be terrible on a plane if it goes everywhere. Try alternative travel-size construction sets. If your child is new to them, you can host a demonstration – chances are they’ll be in awe. Also make sure your child understands the danger of swallowing a detail!
- A new language – lots of inflight entertainment bundles include basic language learning courses, so perhaps learning a new language is something your child could take on?
- Orientation – if you’re taking your children to an overseas destination, why not educate them about it? Something like a travel map or a pocket-size world globe will do wonders for expanding your kid’s worldview. You can even track your plane’s flight path together!
- Get a spill proof travel mug/sippy cup. Ask the flight attendant to pour your kid’s drink in their cup; this will prevent spillage.
- Have a pair of travel-size colouring books handy. Kids love drawing, and there are more colouring books available these days than you can poke a stick at.
- Likewise, pack a travel tray into your carry-on. They’re light and multi-purpose – voila, instant desk!
- Critique the plane food with your kids, or continue to produce new snacks and have them critique those.
- Hand out chewy lollies for takeoff and landing – the change in air pressure on planes during those times can give children sore ears, and chewies can help with that.
- Ensure the kids are comfortable when they fall asleep – all parents value downtime when the kids are worn out.
Armed with these, your trip will be a lot easier, and you won’t need to resort to warning the minors of “airplane police”.
Also, before you set out on a family trip, you might revise your travel insurance to ensure you and your loved ones are covered every step of the way!