My husband and I are thankful to have remained avid travelers now that we are parents. Our little girl’s first flight was to Miami when she was just three months old…this new mama HAD to get away to the beach and we chose the quick and convenient JetBlue direct flight from Austin to Ft. Lauderdale. We look back on that trip where our new family dynamic finally gelled. Dada became confident in soothing the baby, my postpartum fog was lifted by that crystal clear saltwater, and the little one absolutely loved dipping her toes in the ocean.
My main go-to in flying during the baby stage was breastfeeding: make sure she’s feeding during ascent & descent; keep the Boppy on my lap & my Udder Cover in place; just let her nurse for as long as possible. Mine was a marathon feeder at the time — she’d go for an hour if I allowed it! So I’d let her nurse and hope she’d doze off at the breast. If she did happen to emerge, an iPad app called Infant Faces LITE: High Contrast Visual Stimulation for Babies kept her attention astonishingly well.
As she grows and we continue traveling — we returned to South Beach again this spring and decided it’ll be an annual family tradition– we’ve discovered flying with a toddler is a whole new ball game. Now, at 17-months, we’re in that tricky stage where her attention span is too short for a movie, multiple books are bulky to lug in a carry-on, and her newfound mobility commands that little body to squirm. Let me tell ya, flights are EXHAUSTING at this stage and more than once, I’ve glared at my husband and declared, “Cancel that trip next month because I’m never doing this again.” Call me crazy, but we just can’t stop ourselves…we’re still go-go-go this summer. These family trips really do create memories that are well worth the trouble of traveling with a toddler.
Here are my favorite in-flight activities to keep ’em busy:
- Stickers: Stickers are pretty new to her — we haven’t played too much with them at home just yet. The curiousness of these new pieces of bright and colorful sticky paper are probably exactly why they are keeping her entertained so well right now. I ordered a big pack of sea creature-themed ones off Amazon and they were put to good use on our recent flight to visit the grandparents in North Carolina. This particular set is all about creating faces so it’s proved educational, too…my pedi said now’s the perfect time for her to be learning to identify body parts. I’ll guide her to finding the eyes, ears, mouth & nose, and the resulting action of peeling off each and sticking down in the right place kept her busy for the entire 20 minute descent!
- Slow snacking: We usually do these puffs, but this tactic works with Cheerios or anything else thats bite-sized and dissolves easily in the mouth. Let me start by saying that eating is always a great distraction for my hungry tot, but rely on the pleasure of food too much and mile-high blow-outs can ensue (or worse…I speak from projective vomit experience). I prefer to stick with puree pouches, milk in a bottle and light snacking during our time in the sky. Anyway, stretch that snacking satisfaction out for as. long. as. possible. by being the slowest puff provider ever. They are dispensed one by one and we make a game of giving it any way we can. Hey, flights are an excusable time to forget the dinner table rules and play with your food!
- iPad Apps: I’ve found the #1 app recommendation across the board is Peekaboo Barn. It’s simply a digital game of animated peek-a-boo with farm animals…quite repetitive for us adults, but it works! However, I’d say our personal favorite is Puppet Play: a playful live-action version of Jack-in-the-Box, you never know when the puppet is going to pop out & what silly thing they’ll do next. We also downloaded the well-reviewed Fish School HD but it’s not a huge hit just yet at this stage in her development — I’m sure it’ll be perfect closer to age two.
- Other cool products:
- Water Wow! books by Melissa & Doug: No melting crayons, no markers leaving ink stains — these pads are an ingenious, mess-free way to ‘color’ while traveling. Completely reusable, too!
- Beautiful Opps! by Barney Salzburg: This one takes touch & feel board books to another level, trust me. Each page perks curiosity, engagement, and discovery.
- Crayola Color Sticks: No need to sharpen these richly hued crayon/colored pencil hybrids. Plus, they are super-long lasting and come in an anti-roll-off-the-tray-table octagonal shape.