Freelance writer, mum and lover of all things Melbourne :)
Published August 16th 2012
Living in Australia, we are far enough away from other capital cities (let alone the rest of the world) that if you want to venture beyond your State border, a flight of an hour or more is generally required.
Travelling on aeroplanes with young children, however, particularly on longer flights, is not for the faint-hearted and often strikes fear into the toughest of parents.
Weeks can be spent meticulously organising well- structured, aeroplane-friendly (read: silent, small yet not easily lost and non-flammable/resembling weapons/inclusive of liquid/gel over 100ml) activities. Yet when you board the plane you realise that in amongst the pram, toys for the trip, nappies, first aid kit, visas, swimwear etc. You've left the 'entertain the kids on the plane' items at home.
Alternatively, when the you are mid-way through the flight, the kids decide that since the crayons rolled away, the playdough has been mushed into the side of the seat and the books aren't cutting it, when there are seats in front to be kicked and fights with siblings to be had, these are the preferred activities.
As you may have guessed, I have been through this adventure a number of times. So, speaking from experience, this is my fail-safe plan for when all else fails, using the items that are on hand to provide last minute activities for kids on planes.
1. In-Flight Magazine Treasure Hunt This may not sound exciting to an adult, but it has kept my daughter amused from the ages of 3-5, often for the entire flight! So the idea here is that each person (adult and child/ren) have an in-flight magazine each, if there isn't one in your seat pocket borrow one from a fellow passenger!
Find an object in the magazine that stands out, since these are often focused on travel and travellers, it could be all manner of things; from tigers, to bright cars, shoes, anything that is recognizable. Then the child has to find that item in their magazine. This may take some time initially, but the more items they've looked for, they will have likely seen the next one on their previous hunt.
If they are unlikely to be patient enough to search the magazine for a long time you can suggest a more common object, a person for example and say 'find me five people' for example. My daughter tends to get very dedicated to the task of finding the elusive treasure though, and very excited when she finds it.
Travel sickness bags ready for a puppet make-over
2. Sick Bag Puppets Okay, so the name of this activity is not appealing. I must stress it is an un-used sick bag, and due the the lack of cutting implements on a plane, it will remain in-tact should the need arise.
Again, it is something that is generally always available in the seat pocket in front of you. You'll also need the colouring pencils/crayons that have not been used for the well intentioned colouring book, or airline provided activities. There's a novelty in using what's around you and the less obvious items that kids enjoy.
Turn the bag upside down (noting important proviso above), and the creativity is up to the child, or adult. Monsters are generally good for this one, you could create a family of monsters if everyone wanted to join in.
3. Smart Phone Games When all else fails, technology will save us! This is something you likely won't have forgotten so pack and will have close by. Presuming you have turned your phone on flight mode and have loaded simple kids games on there for just such an emergency situation, these will generally keep kids amused for some time.
If you have any more ideas on last minute activities for kids on planes, please add them to the comments section below and I will be sure to test them out on the next trip.