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As a mother of two who loves to travel, I have a trick or two up my sleeve when it comes to entertaining a toddler on a long flight. I’ve found that the key is to pack a variety of new and interesting treasures, a couple forbidden items, and a good old standby or two. Think small. The more variety you can fit into your carry-on, the longer you’ll be able to keep your toddler engaged and out of the aisles.
1. Post-it Notes
A few packs of post-it notes go a long way. Bring a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. In an airplane seat the tight space makes these a real hit. Show your toddler how to separate one from the stack and stick it to the seat in front of you. Before you know it you and your area will be covered in tiny colorful squares.
When the initial excitement has worn off, fold little fans and triangles out of the squares. Write on them with crayons. Let your imagination soar!
2. TV Remote
When our kids were small, the remote control was a forbidden item. Every once in a while one of my kids would get hold of one and you’d think they’d won the lottery. They’d giggle, run around the living room, and madly press buttons until I caught up with them.
Outside of the house, the remote can’t wreak havoc on your electronics and will provide a forbidden joy to a restless toddler.
3. Mini Photo Album
My children love to look at pictures of themselves and other family members. Print a bunch of pictures they’ve never seen before and put them in a little album.
The ones that photofinishing shops give away are a perfect size. Don’t have a proper little album handy? I used to put my photos in zip lock bags.
Don’t underestimate the entertainment value of a good snack. Of course, you’re already thinking about what to feed your wee one. Why not try extra hard to make it fun at the same time? Especially if you are traveling to a foreign country for business. The last thing you want is a cranky child. Flights to those can take HOURS.
Bring a few new finger foods that you haven’t tried before, but stay away from sugar! You don’t need them running down the aisle in a sugar rush. Bring paper cupcake cups as a fun way to serve them. They will love it!
5. Index Cards & Crayons
I like index cards for the plane because they are small and durable. Let your toddler draw, but don’t stop there. You can use these supplies to work on your shapes, letters, numbers, colors, etc.
You know the board book that drives you crazy because your child wants you to read it again and again? That is the perfect one to bring. Once you’re done reading it to your toddler have them ‘read’ it to you, then go through and find all of the things of a certain color, then count certain objects… you get the idea.
7. Four-Wheeled Fun
A little car, truck or train is the perfect item for stationary play. Your body, the armrest, and the window sill become a mountainous roadway with enough bumps and turns to keep your wee one cruising his way through the flight.
8. iPhone, iTouch or iPad
There are oodles of entertaining apps for toddlers in the Apple store. Stock up before the flight. The nice thing is that you’ll have your device on ‘airplane mode’ so there won’t be any accidental overseas phone calls or iffy YouTube videos popping up from the chair beside you.
9. Letter from a Loved One
Ask Grandma to write a letter, complete with little hand-drawn pictures and colorful stickers and seal it up in an envelope. Your toddler will spend a few minutes trying to crack into the envelope and then explore the hidden treasures inside.
10. Wrap it up
Wrap up a new gift or two. Do a full-on job with a little box, paper, ribbon and a bow. What should you put inside? Get your brain in stocking stuffer mode. Finger puppets, 6-12 piece puzzles, and animal figurines come to mind.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.