Before kids, I was leery of sitting near kids on planes. Having two of my own now, I am committed to NOT being the one with the annoying kids! The very best way to keep kids amused on planes is to give in to giving them your full attention. I’ve skipped their naps and let them have bottles on planes, and that has worked. But they are 9 and 13 now! Set them — and you — up for fun.
Travel time doesn’t have to be an annoying waiting game, even if your flight is cancelled. It’s a great time to talk and bond! Here is my list of tech-free strategies — no mind-numbing beeping or squeaky little voices:
*Look for unusual signs. Read them aloud, imagine why they are there (hilarious accidents leading to “one way” signs, for example), or imagine what they’d serve at this public supper, and photograph them. Look for and try regional, unusual, or new foods.
*What’s in there? Trucks, cars, buses, wagons, warehouses. To simplify for younger kids, make crazy suggestions like penguins, pingpong balls, or bean bag chairs when you see those cargo planes or big trailers on the runway. For biggers, figure out the system that it’s part of: shipping, luggage transfers, food access?
*Uno is a great card game for the plane, and in general the plane is a great place to capitalize on having your kids’ undivided attention to teach them card games or practice a foreign language.
*Tell the kids’ stories: one of mine came out with a small peep; one came out screaming her head off! Haha. The first one stayed in the hospital for a while; with the second one I said bring the car seat and winter coat tomorrow, and Running Mate said “It’s not like they’re going to just send her home with us.” But they did! haha. One kid got a first bath from Nanny, one got a first bath from Running Mate (dad). They had different baby songs, we lived in different places.
*Keep lists: when my son was small, on road trips we kept a list of mighty machines; my daughter likes animals. You could adapt this for plane travel and your family’s personality: plaid pants? someone traveling with a pet? a bird, flying dragon, or good witch out the plane window? Spot a necktie or fuzzy hat in the airports or rest stops, keep track of your points. At takeoff and landing, look for back yard swimming pools, parks, parking lots full of school buses.
*Mad Libs! Filling in the blanks is great practice for learning nouns and verbs.
*Rock paper scissors – we’ve found that if you do this often enough, the competition goes out of it. We also occasionally throw a new sign, the “thumbs up” sign might be a grenade, the wick of which scissors and sharp paper can cut. We did one with Chinese food – two fists beside each other for egg roll, two fingers for chop sticks, and thumb between the pointer and middle fingers (like “I’ve got your nose”) for fortune cookie. Just make up the rules as you go.
*Cat’s cradle – another cooperative game for the kids.*Sound effects game – make a noise and have the other players build a story around it. Creaking or clapping are good to start with, and using props like ruffling book pages is encouraged — but be warned, preteen boys and dads tend to deteriorate into body sounds. And this one is better for the car.
*With pen and paper, you can play tic-tac-toe, hangman, draw your pet and let the kids color it in, play an impromptu drawing-and-guessing game similar to dictionary, draw the head (or spikes) of a dragon and let them finish it.*Hum-a-song — one person hums and the other guesses. Itsy-bitsy spider, happy birthday, holiday songs.*Origami — teach your child one simple construction. My 5-y-o made penguins till the paper was gone! Then we gave them away everywhere we went.
When I drive, my mind always wanders back to the Native Americans that lived here before the highways, and I imagine if one could come up this hill and know exactly where they were, or if they followed a river up to it’s source, or could fish out of my Dad’s pond. I talk about it with my kids, but I don’t know yet if they really “get” it. They indulge me, mostly. I think Pioneer Culture, with wagons and paths, are more imaginable for them, and we do talk about that, too.
I’d love to know what kinds of games YOU play that aren’t on this list; please do add them in below and share with us.
And if you’d like to chat about making the transitions from vacation to home to school, shoot me an email at Funnermother [at]funnermother.com. Happy dog days!