Thursday, September 12, 2013

How I enteretained my spazzy almost two-year-old on a plane for hours and hours.

I took a business trip to San Francisco this week. I had meetings scheduled all day on Tuesday. Since my brother and sister-in-law live in the bay area, I decided to take advantage of the fact that Nati can fly free for another month (kids can fly free until they are two as long as they sit on a ticketed traveler's lap) and have her go with me so she could get to know her aunt, uncle, and cousins a bit better.

Natalie is terribly awful at sitting still for more than five seconds. She is so much of a terror at church that I'm afraid our priest might ask to do an exorcism on her one of these Sundays. While shopping at Target, she and I have power standoffs as she's about to fling herself head first out of the cart. I don't think she's all that different from most kids her age, but she wears me out. So prior to this trip, I thought for a long time about how to entertain her so that fellow passengers wouldn't hate me.

It turned out that my ideas worked. She really was amazing on all four flights of the trip. At the end of each flight, my airplane neighbors, who I'm sure groaned internally when they saw us approach their area of the plane, complimented her. "She's an excellent traveler!" "So well behaved!" and, my favorite: "Wow - did you drug her?"

I did not, in fact, give her drugs. I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider it, though.

Here's what I did, and I'm compiling this list and throwing this out on Pinterest hoping that someone might find it useful someday.

I purchased a few things for the trip.

1. I bought her a backpack.


This one was $12 at Target. I chose it because she could play with the zipper and snaps. She turned out not to be interested in that, go figure, but when she was able to run free in the airport between flights, she was tickled to be able to wear her backpack. "Nati's backpack!" she kept squealing. At one point, we were walking around and she was going uncharacteristically slowly. Normally the kid bounces, skips, runs, etc. But she was kind of plodding along. I had the thought to check the backpack and realized that it was super heavy! I'd put her sippy cup full of water and another second bottle of water in there. Oops! Once I lightened it, the spring was back in her step.

2. I got her this cute neck pillow. Also from Target, but I don't know how much this was.


This probably wouldn't have been critical, but she did enjoy it and kept saying that the kitty was giving her a hug.

3. I got her a book full of stickers.


Stickers, you guys, saved my life on this trip. She has never really played much with them and she LOVED them. She spent so much time peeling them off (oh, the fine motor skill development!) and putting them on other pages in the book. She put them on the squares of paper I brought and put them on her arms and her belly. I also let her stick them to the window - these didn't have much residue on them and they peeled right off when our flight was over. Stickers were a HIT.

4. I bought some candy. Suckers and smarties, and some strawberry twizzlers, which aren't pictured.


She had one sucker on the flight out to SF, but didn't have any more, she was so interested in her crafty stuff that she generally ignored the candy. (Seriously! Ignored it!) But the smarties were a good choice because she liked playing with them before popping them into her mouth.

The rest of the items I brought along were things I grabbed from home.

5. Headphones and an ipod (or something you can watch a video on) are a no-brainer. (These were loaned to Nati from Vali.)


6. Crayons


Nati loves to color, and this was something we could do together. Usually, I'd color the page with her and she'd grab the color I was using, hand me some boring color like white or brown, and then color over what I had done. We spent a lot of time coloring. I did have to be firm on the rule that only one color was allowed out at a time. She seemed ok with that, surprisingly.

7. My ziplog bag of tricks contained the following items that I found around the house. I wanted things that were small enough to shove in a ziplock bag, and things that we wouldn't miss if they were lost or we threw them away.


  • pipe cleaners - we made bracelets and funny shapes with them.
  • strips of meshy fabric - she liked to toss these and watch them float down.
  • cupcake papers - I grabbed some regular sized and mini cups. She liked putting the smarties into these cups. I cut holes in the bottom of the mini cups so we could use them with the next item:
  • a piece of yarn - we made necklaces by stringing the cupcake cups.
  • A box that contained squares of cut up paper in many colors. Nati loves identifying colors, so we spent a lot of time with these papers. I'd ask her to get a green paper and she'd find one, put a sticker on it, and then place it in the lid of the box.

Here she is using some of these items - these were taken with my phone, so the quality isn't great. Using the neck pillow:


Watching a video: (On this particular flight, we had the whole row to ourselves. Woot!)


Playing with the cupcake papers - here she's putting smarties in the bottom of the cups - then she'd eat them and start all over.


Here she is on the plane, playing with the stickers (and holding a stick of cheese).


Some other tips that worked for us:

1. We got a window seat for each flight so that she could look outside. She LOVED this, not only when we were in flight, but during that time when you're stopped at the gate, but trapped on the plane, I could show her the people working around the planes and it kept her from freaking out, wanting to get off when everyone else was standing up.


2. I didn't mess with a stroller because she can wriggle out of one these days, so I just carried her around in my Boba carrier, which she still enjoys. A stroller would definitely have been easier if she were the type of kid who didn't fight hers.

3. I let her wear herself out in between flights. At the Dallas airport, there was a spinny structure that she loved:


She looks scared, doesn't she? She kept saying "One more time!" after I'd stop, so she definitely wasn't scared. How she didn't barf is beyond me, but allowing her to run around and get rid of some of that pent up energy seemed to work.

So that's what I did. I was glad that I spent the time to plan out what to bring because it made the trip much less stressful. I might even say that it was 'fun' traveling with her! She really was that good on the flights.

Here's proof: