Keeping Your Toddler Busy When Traveling

Last week I hopped on a plane with my very active 13-month-old baby/toddler. Desmond and I took a 4.5 hour flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, just the two of us (well, and everyone else on the plane). We flew back home yesterday.

I will come out and say this for all to read – I was terrified to take this trip on my own. But that’s how most adventures in parenting start, right?

Airport baby wearing

Babywearing at the airport

To prepare, I scoured the internet for ideas for keeping small children occupied on airplanes. I found a lot of suggestions that work for kids over the age of 2 years – those kids that are less likely to eat the crayons or throw the blocks at other passengers. Dez is still not 100% accurate with putting food in his mouth – there is no way he would have luck drawing on a magnedoodle!

Having very little luck with my search on the internet, I proceeded to tear through my house looking for items that I wouldn’t normally let Dez play with but that also aren’t dangerous while supervised. I came up with quite a few things to put in my “forbidden items grab bag.” I then hit up my Facebook parenting groups to gather more ideas before heading to Target. (I came out spending way too much, but it was less than $100, which is kind of amazing for a trip to Target!)

In the end, I collected quite the mishmash of items to entertain my toddler on the plane. And thus I bring you tips for flying with a toddler (without losing your mind).

Ewokmama tips for flying with toddler

Ideas for Fun and/or “Forbidden” Items to Bring on the Plane:

  • a fun keychain with spare keys and a large paperclip attached
  • various expired membership cards
  • a bracelet
  • post-it notes
  • small, portable toys that are new to your toddler – we had Little People figurines, My Little Pony minis, a Little People clown car
  • a pill organizer filled with snacks
  • stickers
  • interactive books (i.e. a “slide & seek” book and Pat the Bunny)
  • a pack of playing cards from the $1 bin

My cell phone is the ultimate forbidden item, of course…so I also looked around the app store to find things that might appeal to a toddler. [Note: If your kiddo is closer to 2 years and above, Toca Boca makes some awesome apps.] The best app I found is called “Animal and Tool Picture Flashcards for Babies” by Open Solutions. It’s free and contains a mixture of animal photos and clip art pictures; when you tap on a picture, the app states the name of the animal and then plays a clip of the sound that animal makes.

That app was the best money I never spent! Dez LOVED it. Even aside from the animal pictures and sounds, he really enjoyed dancing to the background music. It came in handy in the hotel room later, as well.

A word of warning, though. Now that I’ve let Dez play with my cell phone, he is more demanding about it than ever. Still, it was worth it for peace of mind on the plane!

If I were to pick one item from the above list to suggest above all others (aside from the animal flashcards app), it would be the pill organizer filled with snacks. Dez thought it was great to point to the container he wanted me to pop open – over and over. The snacks were key! A well-fed kid is a happy kid!

Aside from items to schlep along with you onto a plane, here are a few more tips for flying with toddlers:

  • Opt for the window seat. Not only will your kid like the view, but you can use stranger anxiety to keep him from trying to make a run for it.
  • If you are flying with your child on your lap, upgrade to get extra legroom. You can let your kid stand up a bit or maybe even play on the floor (depending on how MUCH leg room there is). And in case of tantrums, flailing limbs are less likely to hit the seat in front of you.
  • Babywear through security.
  • Ask for an empty cup and/or water bottle for your kid to play with.
  • Make sure to nurse or give your child something to drink during take off and landing to help with eardrum pressure.

Hopefully these things will help you get through your trip without any meltdowns from your toddler OR YOU. If not and your kid has a tantrum, hang in there! And maybe buy your neighbor – and yourself – a drink to cope.

Moms and dads, what did I forget? What are your tricks for traveling with toddlers?

Oh, What A Year

Desmond is one year old.

Desmond's 1st birthday

Desmond looking handsome in a bow tie at his first birthday party.

That statement makes me want to laugh and cry and shake my head and hide all at the same time. Where has the time gone? How can I slow it down?

That seven-pound, one-ounce boy who shot into the world last September is now a real person and not just a squishy baby. He has preferences and makes them known! He has a firm place here in our lives and it’s inconceivable that there was ever a time he wasn’t around.

At his recent well baby check-up, Dez weighed in at 21lb. 12oz. and measured slightly over 30″ (they measured twice but didn’t get an accurate reading because he refuses to lay down and be still). [Side note: I've gotten quite good at putting diapers on while Desmond is on his hands and knees or standing up.]

David and I sat talking the other night (a rare moment when the house is quiet and we can both still communicate before passing out) about our second son and his future. He is a driven little guy. Dez never stops moving, seeking, daring. We already know he is going to test our limits more than Jack ever has – this kid has no fear. Not only that, but when he is doing something he knows he’s not supposed to do, he hesitates and looks back to make SURE we are watching him – once he has our attention, he cackles and goes for it! He is one cheeky little dude.

Peek a boo

Dez playing peek a boo

At a year, he is on the verge of so many things. We are hearing the beginnings of words. They all kind of sound the same, and he is very selective about using them, but I’m pretty sure he says dog and Jack. When Dez can’t see his dad, he stands at the baby gate holding the bars and yelling, “DAAAAHHH!” over and over until David shows up.

Baby yelling

Dez yelling, “Daaaahhh!”

By the end of our recent trip to the east coast, he squeaked out a “bye” and finally learned to wave (although, again, he does so selectively and often AFTER the person is out of sight). He says a lot of unintelligible things, as well – in particular he seems to love making a grand gesture by throwing his arm in the air and letting out a stream of baby babble as if he were giving a speech.

I’m hoping one day I can say, “Desmond is a great speaker” and NOT “my second son is a dictator.”

He is, in a word, ACTIVE. He is cruising on the furniture, crawling super fast (and only in the last few weeks have I noticed he’s on all fours instead of on his belly), climbing over the dog, and he took to the stairs at his grandparents’ and aunt’s houses as if he had climbed them before in a dream.

Baby climbing the stairs

Climbing the stairs at 11 months.

He loves to throw a ball and is surprisingly good at it! He digs being chased around the couch or peeking over the back at whomever is sitting there. He has recently developed a keen sense of whether the baby gate is open even when it’s out of his site and will stop whatever he is doing (often, nursing) and propel himself toward it. One of us then has to dash across the room to shut the gate just before his little fingers get in the way. Dez then wails loudly until we distract him with something else (“Dez! Look at the ball popper!”).

That kid loves to eat, as well. He waves his arms excitedly when food appears and demands to be fed – especially if others around him are eating. Yogurt melts and puffs are his favorite snacks, but he will try anything from egg salad to meatballs (making good use of his six teeth). Food makes him pretty freakin’ happy. Oh wait – EXCEPT cake! We’ve tried cake twice and he threw it on the floor both times. How in the world is this kid related to me?

Baby with first cake

Dez about to chuck his vanilla cream cheese birthday cake onto the floor.

Dez expresses love for us now and it’s the cutest thing! Yesterday Jack was upset and climbed into my lap for hugs. Dez piled on, laying his head against Jack’s back and started patting Jack’s shoulder. And when we wake up in the morning Dez likes to climb all over his dad and me and lay his head on our shoulders. He shares things – he always shows me the star map on his dad’s phone and, less awesome, he shares his food with the dog.

We have our challenges with him. Aside from the fatigue that comes with chasing an active toddler (or reading every book that he shoves in our faces), there is also the fact that he still doesn’t sleep through the night. Jack didn’t sleep through the night at this age, either, so I’m not concerned but I AM tired. Not only that, but many nights David is the only one who can get Dez to go to sleep. That usually involves holding him, SHHing, and letting him thrash and cry until he passes out. He used to fall asleep to me nursing him, but no more (except for naps). I don’t know what that’s about. There is also the fact that he won’t stay still during diaper changes, as I mentioned before.

Separation anxiety is at a peak right now, too. Dez hates it when anyone leaves the room, but especially when I leave the room. He also has stranger anxiety and had no idea what was going on when Jack came home having cut all his hair off this past weekend! Desmond could not get into my arms – and away from his brother – fast enough. On the bright side, I suppose that means he is good and attached to us. And luckily he warms up to other people fairly quickly.

So…here we are beginning the journey into year two. I find myself both excited and sad. I can’t wait to see what Dez is going to do next, but at the same time I want to savor the moments when my child is still small and roley-poley and his world is fairly simple. After all, I am keenly aware of how quickly nine years can pass.

All in all, I’m so thankful for this sweet boy and count myself as one lucky mama.

Daddy and toddler

Dez and Daddy

Little mister

Sometimes I look at Jack and can see our future, see him as a teenager.  He is so serious when he says, “Well, mom, when you said that it hurt my feelings,” or “Mom, I didn’t like that.  I’m going away from you.”  He is trying to be grown up and yet so obviously unprepared to deal with what that means.  I know how he feels.

Jack has a close friend at daycare again.  He and Sydney are often chasing each other around when I arrive to pick Jack up.  On the drive home yesterday, Jack told me, “Sydney is my best friend, mom.  She’s a nice girl.”  I’m thankful her parents have kept her in the daycare rather than moving her to preschool.  I worry about the day the two kids will be split up, though.  I wish I could give Jack the kind of childhood where he grows up with the kids down the street.  I’m not sure that kind of life exists in the city.

When we get home for the day, Jack usually runs to the front door and announces “I beat you!”  This time, he forgot to run and I got there first.  He dissolved into tears because he wanted to win.  I tried to explain that sometimes other people have to win: “you can’t win all the time but you should always try your best.”  He didn’t like that, of course.  I took him back outside to redo the “race” and halfway to the door he turned around and hit me to make sure I wouldn’t beat him to the door.  That brought on another explanation about how we don’t sabotage others just because we want to win very badly…yes, these are the conversations I have with my not-quite-4 year old child.  I’m sure I will repeat them over and over as he grows.

Lately Jack has become attached to a stuffed monster he calls Starbucks.  (How’s that for a sign of the times?)  He brings that monster to daycare every day.  Today he forgot and I was running late so I neglected to remind him prior to leaving the house.  We pulled up to G’s house and I unbuckled the carseat.  Jack started looking for Starbucks right away and my heart sank.  I saw his face when he couldn’t find his monster and when he asked me where it was, I told him the bad news.  Cue tears.  I felt like crying, too.  “I’m sorry we forgot Starbucks, honey.  I will bring him to you when I pick you up today.  I know you will miss him today.”  I considered going back home to get his toy before driving to work…  “He’ll recover,” G said.  I know she was right but still…I wish I had gone back home.

Stick and Carrot

The Feminist Breeder wrote recently about how a fish potty trained her child.  Her post really got me thinking.  I’m sure you all remember reading about the issues we’ve been having with Jack only using the potty at daycare.  Potty learning has been going on for about a year now!  And while I don’t really want to get Jack a fish in order to get him potty trained (I have a fish and two cats to take care of already!), I really couldn’t come up with any better solutions…it’s been A YEAR, after all.

Stickers, candy, games – none of it was working to entice Jack to use the potty at home.  I tried laying off completely and that didn’t make a difference either.  I bought him awesome underwear with Buzz Lightyear on them and “special” SpongeBob foam soap…no go.  But yesterday, I put a little more thought into it.  I attempted to make it more personal.  I know Jack is a lot like me, you see.  So I asked myself what I would be motivated by…what bribe will get me almost every time?  The answer is money.  Money is like magic.  Money can get things!  Money can get almost anything your heart desires!  Money is power and clearly that is what Jack wants.

I proceeded to tell Jack that I would give him money for using the potty.  I explained that he could save up the money he gets (LOTS of money for using the potty LOTS) and when he had enough, he could buy a Transformer.  He has been rather stuck on Transformers and loves robots in general, so the bribe had an immediate impact.  He started asking questions – what color Transformer?  What would the Transformer’s name be?  And that kid couldn’t get his pants down fast enough!

He’s used the potty twice, so I’m not going to go and call this success just yet…but it’s progress for sure.  Right now Jack gets to put his money in a piggy bank.  After he woke up this morning asking if it was time to get a Transformer, I decided we needed a way for him to see how much money he has.  I plan to get a clear container and pick a decent spot to mark with marker…when he fills it to the marker line, I’ll take him to buy a Transformer.

I just hope I can find somewhere that sells them…any suggestions?


Jack has suddenly regressed with the potty training.  All of these months he has been consistently peeing in the potty at daycare and nowhere else (okay, a couple times at my house, once at a friend’s, once at his grandmother’s).  As of yesterday, he is not even peeing in the potty at daycare.

I haven’t been pushing potty use at home.  I ask him every few days if he is ready to use the potty and he replies that he doesn’t want to so I drop it.  I know there have been some potty training efforts made at Jack’s dad’s place, with little success.  I’m not sure if something changed over the weekend or if this is just Jack being stubborn.

I’m not sure what to do at this point.  Go the naked kid route or lay off completely?  I’m not worried about it; I know some day he will use the potty and there is no burning need for him to do it now.  It’s just perplexing that he knows what to do and refuses to do it, even when we have been good about keeping the pressure off.