by Lisa Helenius, contributing writer
We all have to get on an airplane at some point. With a little one in tow (or two or three or more!), 30,000 feet can seem 30,000 times more challenging. With these tips, it doesn’t have to be!
1) Work, work, work.
When your child is walking through the airport, give him “heavy jobs” and let mim MOVE. Examples of heavy jobs include pulling his own little suitcase and/or backpack, helping to pull your suitcase, pushing the luggage cart, pushing a sibling in the stroller, etc.
2) Move, move, move.
Before you get on that plane, have your child move a TON. If the airport has a kids’ area, let her play there. If not, walk / run around. Climb up and over chairs (who cares if people give you the stink eye?). Have her try walking backwards for an extra motor challenge. Hang her upside down. Spin her around. Get creative!
3) Seat tent.
Yes, make your child’s airplane seat into a tent. Use that ever-socomfortable airplane blanket and rig it up, so that your kid has a little “hiding place.” Remember how fun this was when you were little?
4) Bring NOVEL toys and books for your child to play with on the plane.
Toys she has never seen before. This will keep her busier longer.
5) Bring a few COMFORT items.
A favorite stuffed animal. A favorite book. A pacifier.
6) Mouth tools.
Yes, bring something for your kid to do with his mouth. Gum is an airplane go-to. The oral-motor system is very calming to one’s brain, so get creative. Crazy straws, a vibrating baby teether, a camelback style water bottle for biting, super chewy snacks (raisins, beef jerky, twizzlers, etc.). All can be very calming.
7) Take Breaks!
Walk up and down the aisles every so often. That’s still allowed on an airplane… isn’t it?
8) Visual Timer.
Use a timer to let your child know when a movement break is coming. This sense of predictability can be very reassuring to a cooped up kid! We recommend downloading the Time Timer Visual Timer App ahead of time.
9) Move in your seat!
How do you even do that? Have your child push his flat palms against your flat palms. Thumb wrestle. Arm wrestle. Take a pillow and “squish” your kid.
10) Noise Cancelling Headphones.
They’re so much more calming than the cheapo ones you get for free. And… to the grown-ups in the mix… keep breathing! You got this!
Author’s profile: Lisa is a practicing occupational therapist with 25 years of pediatric experience. She currently is a partner at Growing Up Therapy. See https://growinguptherapy.com for more information.