Make plane travel with kids easy peasy

With the holidays quickly approaching, many families may be making plans to fly to visit out-of-town relatives. A well-founded concern may be how to keep young children happy while traveling. Many of my students’ parents often asked for my suggestions, and I will pass these tried and true ideas on to you!

Activities for the airport

Delays are common during the busy holiday season, so keeping young children productively engaged is the key to keeping them happy. Try some of these ideas to avoid airport meltdowns:

  • Play “I Spy” while walking through the airport or when sitting at the gate. Add a twist to the game by adding specific information about the object you spot after each incorrect guess. Count how many guesses it takes for your child to correctly identify the object you choose.
  • Play “Simon Says” to keep your child busy. This game is also ideal because it allows your child to move while you set the parameters of those movements. Hopping, marching in place, touching toes, sitting, standing up, or patting tummies is preferable to running through the airport.
  • Play “Follow the leader” as you deliberately move around. March slowly, lifting your knees up high, or walk on tiptoes, for example.  Change movements every minute or so to keep your child on his toes.

Quiet games to play on the plane

Once you are in your seats, it becomes increasingly difficult to entertain children. Try some of these quiet games to help pass the time.

  • Play “Give me a rhyme” by saying a word aloud and asking your child to say a rhyming word back to you. You can make this game as easy or as challenging as you like, depending on the word you select. To make the game interesting, but not too frustrating, you can tell your child that nonsense words are acceptable answers. In this way, you can add more interesting (and silly) words to the game. For instance, if you say the word “babble” your child could possibly respond with “mabble, pabble, or wabble!”
  • Play “Rhyming pairs” by saying two words to your child and asking him to show you “thumbs up” if the two words rhyme or “thumbs down” if the words do not rhyme.
  • Play “Identify the initial consonant” by saying a word aloud and asking your child to name the beginning consonant she hears. Or reverse the game by saying a consonant and asking your child to say a word that begins with that consonant. (Of course, young children are not expected to be able to correctly spell words, so if your child says the word “car” for the letter K, she would be correct since the word “car” begins with the sound of K.)
  • Play a syllable identification game by saying a word and asking your child to repeat the word and clap for each syllable or word part as he speaks.  For example, if you say the word baseball, your child would clap as he says “base” and clap again as he says “ball.” Children just learning this skill have an easier time identifying the separate syllables in compound words, such as sunshine, rainbow, cowboy, bedroom, pancake, or snowball.  Avoid one syllable words for beginners, as these are the most difficult to identify. Children want to say one-syllable words very slowly and add an extra clap!
  • Play “Help me count” by telling your child that you will work as a team to count and see how high you can go. Point to yourself as you count and then point to your child to fill in the next number. If you start with “1, 2, 3,” your child should say “4.” Once your child gets the hang of this game, you can simply alternate turns without needing to point. When your child is ready, try counting by 10s, by 5s and by 2s.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of a Number” by telling your child that you have a number in your head. (You can even write it on a hidden slip of paper if you want to make the game a bit more dramatic.) Then give your child parameters for guessing by telling her some properties of the number. For instance, if the number is 18, you might say that this is an even number between 0 and 30. Then tell you child if her guess is too high or too low and redefine the parameters. For instance, for the number 18, if she guesses 10, you would tell her that her guess is too low and the number in your head is between 10 and 30. Keep narrowing the range as your child guesses until she is correct.
  • Play “Which One is Different?” by naming a set of four items, three of which belong to the same category and one that does not fit.  Your child must name the different item and also tell you what the other three items have in common. For example, if you name “train, car, banana, and tractor,” your child should be able to tell you that the banana does not belong with the others because the other items are all vehicles.
  • Practice naming opposites by giving your child a word and asking him to name its opposite. If you say “cold,” he could correctly answer “warm” or “hot.”

Pack a bag of goodies

Whether you are waiting in the airport terminal or sitting on a plane, having a bag of activities to keep your child quietly entertained is always a good idea. Some ideas to add to this bag include:

  • crayons and coloring book
  • sticker books
  • laces and beads in a small storage bag
  • travel versions of games
  • card games such as Old Maid and Go Fish

Happy travels!

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