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?

Sometimes ya gotta get mean

I bought Jack some new clothes recently.  He had grown out of all of his long sleeved shirts and it’s been cold and rainy here.  I bought some uber cute shirts from The Children’s Place featuring things like guitars and monsters on the front.  Only problem?  He refuses to wear them.  He says he doesn’t like ANY of them, claiming: “Those are BAD shirts.”  Yesterday Jack ended up in a too-small shirt at daycare because it was the only old piece of clothing that was clean and his fit was monstrous (especially after I tried to bribe him with a cookie and when it didn’t work, I withheld the cookie, which led to a 30 minute tantrum).

When Jack tried to put up another fight this morning, I decided to play hardball.  I asked nicely first and then when he refused…

“Jack, if you don’t pick a shirt to wear, I’m going to send you out in the rain without one.”


“Which shirt do you want to wear?”

“I don’t like those shirts, moooooom!”

*opening the front door to show him the pouring rain* “Okay, let’s go.  No shirt for you!  You’re going naked in the rain.”

“Nooooooo, I’ll put a shirt on!”

And so he did.  He whined but I got a (pirate monkey) shirt on him and his new waterproof jacket and we got out the door without too much frustration.

Let it be known that I do not negotiate with terrorists, even (especially!) three year old ones.

Habitual Oddities

I’m kind of bouncing off of Nancy’s post at Fear and Parenting in Las VegasThe OCD Chronicles with this one.  I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while and I think about it every morning when I’m getting Jack ready for daycare but, well, between the new blog project in which I’m involved and a nasty cold (which I found out has resulted in a torn serratus muscle by my right rib cage, oh joy), I’ve been a little distracted…

Anyhoo, my boy has some odd habits. Sometimes they are great habits, and other times they are annoying.  I have to wonder at his future mental health at times, but mostly I know that he is just a typically wacky 3 year old trying to exert control over his environment and he’ll grow out of it…

  1. Any time we remove his socks, he has to make sure there is no lint between his toes. This wouldn’t bother me so much except when we are trying to get dressed in the morning and we are inevitably running late…if I stick the sock on before he is ready he will shove his hand down in it to clean between his toes even if there is nothing there.  At least I got him to stop doing this as part of the bedtime routine…
  2. Zippers must be zipped and of course they must be zipped all the way up to his neck.  This one wouldn’t bother me if he actually could zip it himself!
  3. Rockets are not space shuttles…and vice versa.  Honestly, I have no clue what the differentiation is with this but Jack apparently does.  I suspect no matter what I say, he is going to say I’m wrong and it’s the other thing.  He loves to tell people they are wrong…
  4. Picking his nose.  Probably every kid does this…right?  Please tell me yes.  No matter how many times I tell him not to pick his nose and to please ask for a tissue, he still prefers to pick.  I guess that’s why they make nostrils the size of fingers?  Blech.
  5. Standing right in front of the television.  What is up with this?  I remember doing it as a kid, too, but I have no idea WHY.  Jack does it and we have wasted a lot of breath reminding him to back up and sit in a chair or on the couch.
  6. Every day when I attempt to walk out of the door at daycare, he exclaims, “Oh, I forgot!” and runs up to give me hugs and kisses.  I suppose I need to teach him the difference between ‘forgot’ and ‘remembered’.
  7. It’s pretty cute that he is so polite with his pleases and thank yous.  The rebel in me who hated to be polite for politeness’ sake as a kid thinks it’s weird in a 3 year old, though…

I’m probably lucky.  I’m guessing there are kids out there with much stranger habits than Jack’s.  What do you think?  Is your kid wacky-doo too?

Rocket Ride

I finally caught Jack on camera with his imagination running rampant. Now you can experience the rocket obsession for yourself!

Rocket Ride

No Embarrassment

When we left the house this morning Jack was carrying a broken crab toy (last night’s bedmate), his magnedoodle (he is drawing again!), and a rammekin full of honey nut cheerios.  He was happy as can be wearing a Superman costume shirt under a red and black plaid jacket, with David’s bike helmet turned backward on his head so that the piece that normally braces the back of the head became a mask through which he breathed loudly a la Darth Vader.  He looked very “special,” especially considering that his hair stuck up out of the slits in the bike helmet.

My kid is awesome.  I love this stage where he has no self-consciousness.  I know it is too short a time in a person’s life and I rue the day it starts to fade (although I am still not embarrassed to goof off publicly…).