My Screen-Free Airplane Adventure (with my 21 month old Daughter)

I took my very first solo airplane ride with my daughter last week and at first I was not sure how it would go. As I began to pack, I realized that I was really nervous about being stuck on an airplane alone with a toddler and for a couple of days I considered nixing my previous commitment to screen free living for my little one. I thought it might be easier to manage the trip if I brought along my husband’s iPad and chocked it full of children’s books and fun drawing apps.

But after some consideration, I decided that I just didn’t feel good about introducing my daughter to the iPad because I was scared she wouldn’t be able to entertain herself on the airplane. Instead, I came up with a solid plan to entertain and engage her with books, rhymes, toys, finger puppets, a small doll, crayons, and stickers. And it worked!

The photo at the top is only part of my airplane kit, but as you can see it contains some small animals (my daughter LOVES her toy animals), some finger puppets (yes I did use funny voices), a pad of paper, and some stickers all in a beautiful box. I took her interests into consideration when I created the kit. So if you were to do something similar, you might include toy cars, tractors, or dinosaurs. Or you’d add books about insects, birds, a small music box or whatever else interests your child. I included a list of our favorite rhymes, songs, and the story books that I have memorized due to sheer repetition. That list definitely came in handy.

We also packed a very first chapter book, “Charlotte’s Web” because I thought J was ready to listen and talk about the characters. And I had a book of Shel Silverstein’s poetry, a current favorite bedtime book. I took a couple of board books with lots of animal photographs and vocabulary to learn as well.

Essentially, I figured out what would engage us BOTH in long hours of conversation and exploration and I packed it all into our carry-on. The highlight of the trip for me was when I set her up with her toy animals and a couple of board books, strapped her into the unoccupied seat next to me, and then sat back and actually took a nap! She entertained herself for about thirty minutes, always keeping one hand on my arm to check in, and then she fell asleep too. I was shocked.

We used different items and various strategies to ensure that the entire trip was enjoyable. And if you’re thinking that this only works on a short flight, let me tell you, we missed our first connection due to weather conditions and ended up on a five airport, 20 hour long, overnight airplane adventure. She didn’t shed a tear the entire time.

I certainly can’t take all the credit for our success. I will be the first to admit that my daughter is exceptionally amiable and easy going, but I do think that we avoided a lot of potential upset when we came utterly prepared to entertain ourselves for hours and hours. Oh, and I also brought a BUNCH of yummy snacks.

So if you’re dreading air travel with a little one, let me reassure you, you CAN have a nice easy flight (or four) by engaging your child in his interests and providing opportunities for exploration and play.  One more highlight: on the flight home she was playing with her tiny baby doll while I was gazing out the window and I heard her pretending that her doll was at the park going down the slide and riding on the swings. I love her imagination!

Have you had a successful flight with a young person? What were the keys to your easy and fun air travel? Please share your story with us in the comments below.

And have a lovely week, Shelly


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