How to keep the kids amused while you’re waiting at the airport

Grumpy kids, frazzled parents, and it’s started to feel like an interminable time to wait before boarding. Relax, it won’t be that bad. You can make it fun!

Chances are you’ve already had a long journey to the airport. And keeping the kids amused sure didn’t make it feel any shorter! You’ve arrived at the airport. You probably allowed yourself a little extra time in case of unexpected hold-ups – better safe than sorry!

Check-in? Done. Security? Done. How long until boarding? HOW long? And you have to keep the kids entertained… or at least keep the tantrums at bay! Don’t worry, with just a little forward planning, and a spot of creative thinking, your kids will not only be cooperative, they’ll probably be having such a good time they won’t notice the time pass!

First thing to realize, your kids are bursting with excitement. You can’t blame them, they don’t take a plane every day. They’ll be a bundle of raw energy whatever you do about it. So treat the airport as an amazing place where great things happen. You may have been through the departures hall a thousand times but your kids probably still see it with fresh eyes. So take a moment to stand there, encourage your kids to look around, and say, “Wow! Isn’t it awe-some!” If there are different airlines handling check-in, explain to your kids that the people in line at the desks are all going to different places. Guess where, perhaps…

Explore the airport with the kids – walking is a great way to consume time and expend energy! You can play an alphabet game while you’re exploring (e.g. how many “A”-words can you see?), or you can all look out for people wearing a particular color or carrying a particular kind of bag. Just try to stop the kids staring and pointing!

Time for a game

There are other games that are good to play while you’re walking around. “I have great memories of exploring airports and railroad stations when I was young,” says Jolene Anderson, 41, a certified accountant from Ohio. “It was quality time that I could spend with my parents. We played games that I now play with my own kids. After a few rounds of ‘I Spy’1, for instance, we always switch to ‘I Don’t Spy’2 and then ‘I Hear with my little ear’3 – variations my dad invented! It’s now a family ritual!”

When the kids are calm enough to sit down, there are plenty of parlor games to keep everyone amused: ‘20 Questions’4 is a good one, as is ‘Guess who?’5.

Take a look at the destinations board… not just for your own boarding time but as material for a game! Be inventive. Which countries are all those cities in? Which are the nearest and which the farthest? Which ones have mom and dad visited? Can you remember the flights in order (hoping that the board doesn’t update in mid-game)?

1 ’I Spy’: when your child(ren) has to guess the name of the visible object in the airport that you have memorized.
2 ‘I Don’t Spy’: you choose something that you don’t see at the airport and your kids start guessing.
3 ‘I Hear with my little ear’: your child(ren) has to guess the name of something that you are able to hear at the airport.
4 ‘20 Questions’: your kids have 20 questions to guess the object you are thinking of, only using ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
5 ‘Guess who?’: where you try to guess which famous person you are… Disney characters, movie stars and schoolteachers can all come in useful.

Facilities for kids

More and more airports these days provide play areas for kids – often with ball-pits and climbing equipment and a variety of other safe and well-tested play equipment. “They’re often hidden away, out of the public gaze,” says Tina Gordon, 34, a mom of two toddlers. “In most cases, you can find information in advance on the airport website, but failing that the information personnel will point you in the right direction.”

Many major airports now offer museums and exhibition centers where you may manage to persuade older children to spend some time. Some of them cover aviation history; others focus more on the city or country. If the weather’s good, why not visit the viewing platform? Choose a plane as it taxis to the runway, follow it through takeoff and wave as it disappears into the distance. The kids will love it!

It’s in the bag

A lot of the things you’re likely to need on the plane can be useful while you’re still in the airport. You’ve probably got all possible consoles, smartphones, iPads and Kindles fully loaded with apps, games and e-books. There’s nothing wrong with putting the kids in contact with their screens before the flight. Just make sure that they won’t be bored with them by the time the flight leaves. And don’t forget the pre-electronic favorites – a game of Uno or Happy Families, or a pack of cards for Snap or Beggar My Neighbor, seldom fail.

You’re also probably taking food with you. You can also use eating creatively. Depending on how long you have to wait, and what restaurants are available, you could have a “traveling” meal: the starter in one outlet, the main in another, and the dessert in a third. It will use up a lot more time… and the treat of the dessert will be all the more worth waiting for!

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