The holidays are upon us, and if you're planning to fly with your preschool-aged child, you're probably already thinking about how you'll survive the trip.
Before your child was mobile, it was easy. Non-walkers might cry, but they can't get very far. And while toddlers on planes pose their own challenges, preschoolers can be especially difficult: They're mobile, they're highly verbal, and they know exactly what they want and when. And from a preschooler perspective, patience is rarely considered a virtue.
So, how do you make a flight manageable — and maybe even enjoyable — for everyone? Here are three key strategies.
Bring Both Beloved Toys and Surprises
Your child may not seem to be compelled by novelty, but at 35,000 feet it's helpful to have something new to turn his attention to. (This is as true for adults as it is for kids.) Familiar toys and books will comfort a child who's unhappy, but new items will keep his attention in the chair, rather than wandering down the aisles.
As Lynn N. shares of flying with preschoolers: "It is amazing the amount of entertainment they can get from a few new (and cheap!) toys." And Melanie P. agrees: "Now is the time to splurge on (or borrow) as many unfamiliar toys as possible. They’ll keep your tot amused far longer than the same old playthings he’s used to at home."
Alex W. suggests bringing an iPad loaded with apps, which is also a great space-saver. (Related reading: 10 Educational Apps for Preschoolers) But there's nothing like a book with real pages you can turn. Consider bringing a book you've talked up to your child without actually reading to her — if your child knows there's a surprise book coming, with new character and stories, then when it appears it will be all the more welcome.
Bend Your Rules on Media and Snacks
Flying is a very contained experience, so you'll likely be exercising more control over your child's environment than you might under normal circumstances. Giving your child freedom through choices can help you rein him in without making it feel like you're cramping his style. But to get you through a long flight you'll need a wide array of tempting choices, so the promise of the "forbidden" can be really useful. Yes, I'm saying you should try to cut deals with your child in flight.
Do you try not to watch too much TV, or eat too much sugar, at home? My son is never more quiet and still than when eating a bowl of ice cream, so I consider flying the perfect time to indulge. You can build treats into the flight at specific intervals. And though unlimited videos might be a big no-no at home, in-flight they can make the time pass like nothing else. As Debbie H. shares: "What really worked for me was a video player with my child's favorite DVD...it is worth the investment...make sure you bring battery backup."
Talk About Your Expectations for the Flight
Your child is beginning to develop serious reasoning capacity, which you can use to your advantage in flight, and before. Make her a helper in not disrupting other passengers, who might be working or sleeping, by reminding her how she doesn't like to be interrupted.
And offer rewards after you land for good behavior. If, say, your child stays in his seat except to go to the bathroom or stretch his legs, then offer him first choice of what to do when you arrive at your destination. It might cause you to rearrange your plans a bit to go to the beach first thing in the morning, instead of to your sister's for lunch, but this gesture will give your child a sense that he is participating in the larger family plan rather than just tagging along.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.