toddlers on a plane

Actually, only one toddler. Mine. My toddler who has recently discovered how to make a scream so much like a roar that my neighbor’s kid leaped out of her car with a frightened “What was that?” the last time he did it at the bus stop.

My toddler who likes sitting in a car seat as long as it’s his idea. It was not his idea during final descent last week.

This half-hour screamfest aside, I had collected suggestions from other moms as to how to travel five hours in a plane with four children, and in the interests of helping others, I’ll pass them along.

We didn’t have little DVD players for the kids, but I understand they’re helpful. We also did not have an in-flight movie. Instead I took a trip to the dollar store and Odd Lot, and I came up with the following:

  • coloring books and crayons
  • self-inking stamps
  • a kit of greeting cards you assemble yourself
  • action figures
  • trucks and planes
  • cute animal playsets (eight dogs, eight cats, eight safari animals…)

I found a roll with hundreds of stickers. Decorate the in-flight magazine. Decorate the airsickness bag. Put stickers at the bottom of the bag so that if someone gets sick, they have something nice to look at.

Play-Doh! Everyone loves Play-Doh, and if you get a party-pack of Play-Doh, you’ll have ten colors. You can pass off extra canisters to other passengers who have children. Play-Doh even smells good.

Juice boxes! The tiny juice boxes are 4 ounces, which is over the TSA limit. But if you can get them on the plane, it’s better to have a drink to give your kids right at the beginning. How did I sneak them on the plane? I followed my friend’s advice: I put them in a plastic ziploc bag and kept them right on top of my carry-on luggage. At the security checkpoint, I laid them out in the bin. They’re not resealable, so they’re pretty safe. If the security folks had said they were verboten, I’d have said, “Then please, throw them away.” But both times, I was able to get them on the plane.

Single-serving boxes of cereals. My kids don’t usually get those, so they were intrigued.

Gum for takeoff. Gum for landing. Butterscotch candies.

Sticker activity kits. Have I mentioned stickers? More stickers.

Bribery. One friend advocates paying each child a quarter for every 15 minutes of quiet behavior.

Overall, this worked like a charm. Kiddos 1 and 2 read their books the whole time, but Kiddos 3 and 4 got one new present every 45 minutes or thereabouts.

Well, it worked like a charm until final descent, when the folks in the back of flight 424 were drawing straws to see which of them should kill my child. But other than that, I mean, it worked fine. Good luck on your own flight.