Our family travels… a lot. I recently tried to count the number of flights my 16-month-old has been on, but I fell asleep before I could get through her first six months. We’ve learned a lot about traveling with a baby, and just as our homes must evolve to accommodate our little ones’ growing needs and expanding capabilities (hello, I can’t leave a knife on the edge of the counter anymore?!), the way we travel with our kids must change too.
After a three-month travel hiatus, we got on a flight to head to a friend’s wedding. To prepare, I did exactly what we’d done before — book an evening flight and pack the Ergo. Hop on the flight, bottle during takeoff, click baby girl into the Ergo, cue sleepy time. This time… no dice. We rocked, we sang, we bounced, and we chatted with the flight attendants in the galley. Still, nothing. When we landed, I Googled “calories burned while bouncing 18-pound baby.” Oddly enough, nothing relevant came up in my search.
I’ve wised up since. We’re flying again this week, and I just packed my sweet girl’s carry-on. Here’s what’s in it:
– Stickers, crayons, paper, and double-sided tape: The first three are no-brainers. Obvious stuff to pack. But the double-sided tape? You can use it to stick the paper to the tray while it’s down or while it’s up, so “please put your trays into the upright and locked position” no longer means a restless toddler! If you want to skip the hassle of taping paper while a toddler is on your lap, go for the Post-it brand paper. But since that costs more than everything in this bag combined, we stick with the tape.
– Pom-pom push: This is the only DIY gig of the bunch. Quick tutorial: I got a few leftover containers from the dollar store, poked holes in one lid (first with a screw, then a screwdriver, then a larger screwdriver), then took it outside with a lighter and made the holes the size I wanted. Then, I used one container to hold everything, stacked it with an empty container, and put the lid on. This way, you have one to keep all the goodies contained while your little one pushes them through the holes of the lid and into another container. I purchased pipe cleaners and two different sizes of pom-poms from our local craft store. This airplane time-killer offers the bonus benefit of improving fine-motor and problem-solving skills.
– Beads: Giant beads from the craft store plus pipe cleaners equals bead-stringing fun. Threading beads onto string is a great, focused activity, but it can be more frustrating than it’s worth for the under-two crowd. Pipe cleaners alleviate the need for a toddler to focus on holding the string in the right way and getting the bead onto it. (Tip: Fold the pipe cleaners to fit them in the bag, and the extra container from the pom-pom push can be used to hold the beads.)
– Feathers: For toddlers, there is something magical about blowing a feather off of your hand. I don’t know what it is, but I will take advantage of it for as long as possible on an airplane.
– Books: Old Trusty right here. I always know this is going to entertain my daughter — sometimes for 30 seconds, sometimes for three hours (OK, three minutes… but that’s three hours in toddler time).
– Walking the aisle: When in doubt — and the seatbelt sign is off — put that little one down and let ’em walk. I hate being the person on the plane who lets my kid roam, but she loves to move and she loves people! Saying “hewwo!” to everyone on the plane is way more exciting than any toy or activity I could ever buy or create!
– A new toy: I am not a fan of buying my daughter new stuff for no reason, but I consider a flight a really good reason. I want her to be entertained for as long as possible with as little as possible, and a new toy typically does the trick.
What activities do your toddlers love when they fly?