We recently flew from Durban to Europe – two long haul flights – with twin toddlers.
To say I was having sleepless nights prior to the trip is an understatement. You see, prior to having my own kids, I was extremely intolerant with children on flights. I was the mean woman staring you down if your baby would not quiet, and the one tutting at parents whose toddlers threw tantrums.
I judged frazzled, overwhelmed parents without a shred of mercy… so I was convinced that my karma would come back to bite me in the rear. I imagined one (or both of my girls throwing epic tantrums onboard) and a million eyes staring me down with accusatory judgement. I mean, I would deserve it, right?
Since having kids, it’s clear that those parents were not out to get me when their kids cried on my flights. It wasn’t about me at all. It was about toddlers who were bored mindless because they’re not made to sit still for 8 hours at a time. It’s about little babies who’s ears are painfully adjusting to the altitude differences. I know that now, and am able to empathize – something I wasn’t able to do before.
But since I was convinced my kids would be monsters on the plane, I did a ton of research into activities that would keep them busy on the long haul flights.
I can highly recommend the following, bearing in mind that my children are four years old.
- Melissa and Doug Water Wow books
This was a standout winner for us. This exciting paint-with-water coloring book includes four reusable pages and a refillable water pen. Simply use the pen to color in each scene–details and vibrant color appear with every stroke! Magic! The girls played with these books for hours on the flights, and they’re still not bored of them months later!
- Play Doh
A universal favorite with kids of all ages, we packed a few cans of Play-Doh in the girls backpacks for in case of emergency (aka meltdowns). It is the perfect quiet-time activity and kept their attention just when the flights were starting to feel endless. I didn’t take any cutters/accessories, worrying the girls would lose them, but in hindsight, I should have carried a few to keep them engaged for longer.
- Dot to Dot Coloring Books and crayons
I bought inexpensive dot-to-dot coloring books for the girls, along with a pack of crayons each. Emirates Airlines provides a cute activity book for kids as well. We pulled this out when the girls started getting antsy about sitting in one place for over 6 hours. Since they were newly introduced to the dot-to-dot concept, the found it very entertaining.
- Melissa and Doug Puffy Stickers
I would recommend this for children who are slightly older (above 5, I think). These reusable stickers come with a folding board scene that can open up to create a playmate for the stickers. You can find different scenes such as Vehicles, Town, Safari and Riding Club. I bought the Fairy and Mermaid ones for the girls. I would recommend it for older kids as I found my girls didn’t fully grasp the concept of creating a “story” with the stickers, and rather stick them on the tray table!
- Wrapped surprises
I read this tip on numerous blogs, and it works! Wrap a few inexpensive toys in gift wrap, and present it to the child who’s extremely bored/on the verge of a tantrum. The excitement of opening a ‘present’ will instantly transform their mood and grab their attention. I bought 2-3 cheap toys from the Crazy Store and wrapped them up before the trip. I only had to use this tactic once, but it really does work!
Like I said, I was worried sick about their behavior on the long flights, so I prepared in earnest. You could use just one of these tips -or all- depending on your level of OCD!
If you’ve flown long-haul with little kids before, let me know what’s worked for you!