Here are some other helpful tips:
- If your airline offers this service, pre-book the bulk-head seat. You can use the baby cot if the child is small enough and you will have space for your toddler to stand and play in front of the seat.
- Pack a change of clothes for the child and a spare top for you in case of ‘accidents’ (plus the usual necessities).
- Board the plane early and remove their street shoes; you will be there a while, might as well be comfortable.
- Many children start crying during take off and landing because the changes in pressure can be very painful for small eardrums. Give them a bottle to suck on (or breast if you are nursing) to relieve the pressure.
- If your child has a cold, use sterile saline nose drops. It adds fluids to the nose and is less irritating than nose spray. It works on adults too btw.
- DO NOT use any medicine that you haven’t used before as they may have the reverse effect. Antihistamine has been known to make children hyper active instead of producing the sought after calming effect…!
- Packing a bag of small toys and surprises to hand out throughout the flight will keep your child entertained, so will these tried and tested suggestions:
- Ask the crew if they have a child entertainment package, some airlines are well equipped. If not, you can play with items from the food tray (cups, wrapper, spoons, napkins).
- Before boarding talk to your child about your adventure. Elaborate the list of people you are going to see. What you will do. Use names of people the child will recognize and words of activities he knows. "Where are we going? Going to see Grandma? We will go in a car and drive to Grandpa’s house. We will see the dog or Felix the cat."
- Describe what you see outside the window: explain what people are doing. "Can you see the cars and the luggage trolleys? Do we see our suitcases? Our push chair? Let’s count the airplanes…" Let your child run around a little longer before boarding.
- Once on board talk about the cabin environment: draw attention to passengers, stewardesses, food trolleys, other children on the plane : "What are they doing?Oh look, there is a little girl. She is wearing pink leggings, just like you! And this little boy is looking at a book. He looks comfortable".
- The seatbelt moment: "See this? It is mummy’s seatbelt.. Where is your seatbelt? Help mummy do her seatbelt up. Let’s hear the click. Now let’s do yours up. Lift the flat, open, click. Do it again. Look, this lady also has a seatbelt. In fact everybody has to use a seatbelt".
- Explore the seat area: "Let’s see what we find in this seat pocket. Ooh, there are magazines." The airplane safety card is a good one to pick as it is usually laminated and therefore child resistant! Make up a story using words the child knows, name colors and shapes. Focus on the people in the pictures, how they might be feeling, what they are doing. "This little boy is sitting next to his daddy, just like you. They are playing a game, they look happy."
"This is the table, it is closed now. Shall we open it and put the magazine on it?" Be aware that the person in front will feel every hit on their seat, so limit the kicks to the back of the seat in front of you…
The arm rest/ TV remote control has buttons to press, make the numbers change.
But avoid the call button for the stewardess!
- Snacks such as cheerios, raisins and smarties are fun. Young children (if old enough to chew) love to pick them with two fingers to feed themselves (and you). You can play ‘guess the colour of the smarties that’s in my hand’ game. Avoid over feeding and handing out too much candy which can make the child hyper.
- Sing songs: If you worry that you cannot sing, don’t worry. No one will hear you over the engine noise and every one will be happy if it keeps your child happy!
- Use action songs with hand games.. Count, touch and massage little fingers and toes. Play peekaboo games. Sometimes friendly fellow passengers will join in.
- Make your child laugh. Do silly little games- rolling rrrs, blowing bubbles, clacking tongue. Give him/her kisses and cuddles. Avoid tickling as it will only bring over excitement.
- Go for a wander to change the scenery. Grab the moment before the food trolleys start occupying the isles and take the child for a walk. Observe the other passengers. Find the other children on the plane, wave at them.
- If your child is over tired but can’t fall asleep, pick him up and stand up. It works wonders. Don’t worry about people watching you. They’ll be sending you grateful looks if your child stops fussing!
- Flying with young children requires much patience. If you are lucky to be traveling with an adult companion and one of you is more talkative than the other, then let that person sit with the toddler and chat away. If mummy’s hugs work miracles, let the child sit on her lap for a while. Take turns. Engage with the child, ignoring doesn’t work in this situation. Your calm will pay off. The sound of your voice is soothing and reassuring. Relax.
- When you have exhausted your sense of humour and all of the above and your child is still not tired, there is always your iPhone or your preferred tablet with your child’s favourite DVD.
And just for fun, here is one couple’s original idea:
Parents of 14-week-old twin boys reportedly handed out small bags containing sweets, a kind note and an offer of earplugs to fellow passengers on board their five-hour flight from San Francisco.
The note said: "We’re twin baby boys on our first flight and we’re only 14 weeks old! We’ll try to be on our best behaviour, but we’d like to apologise in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared or our ears hurt. Our mom and dad (AKA our portable milk machine and our diaper changer) have ear plugs available if you need them."
This post modified by the author and a version of this appeared Lyliane Stewart’s site parentingeastwest.com on September 5, 2013.
Lyliane Stewart is a teacher, a positive discipline parent educator and a mother of two young adults. Originally from Switzerland, she lives with her husband in Beijing where she has been very active with the school community over the years. Her personal experience of living internationally in a cross-cultural family has given her a good understanding of the various challenges encountered by multi-cultural, multi-lingual expatriate families. Passionate about psychology and education, she founded Parenting East West to offer support to families around the world. Lyliane believes that by gaining a better understanding of ourselves, and of human relationships in general, we become better equipped for parenting. She offers weekly interactive parenting classes through which she introduces positive parenting tools and strategies.
The Mums2B group she started meets in Sanlitun weekly and welcomes new expectant parents.To get in touch, send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Lyliane Stewart