How to keep your child(ren) entertained on a flight

Kids get bored easily, and requiring them to sit in a confined space for hours is a big request, as any parent can testify. Here are some tips on helping your child pass the time on a flight – making your trip more enjoyable too!

Pack your child a plane bag

When getting ready for your trip, prepare a carry-on backpack with a variety of things for your child (or per child!) to do that will keep her/him (or them both) busy and quiet. This could include colouring books, sticker books, mazes and dot-to-dots, fun learning exercises, puppets, playing cards – activities are preferable to static objects such as dolls or soft toys to keep them engaged for longer. Highly interactive books are good choices, such as search-and-find or puzzle books, as these require more sustained attention. Crafts are another option, although avoid things that have a lot of pieces that can get lost or are messy. Your child(ren) could help choose what they’d like to bring, but make sure to include enough different types of activities so that you can switch to something else when their attention starts to wane. Obviously, when packing, don’t forget that certain items are prohibited on board (sharp objects such as scissors and pencil sharpeners, liquids over 100 ml, etc.).

Dole out the activities one by one

A younger child - under 3 years old or a toddler - is likely to need a change of scene fairly frequently. They’ll probably be excited to look out the window at take-off and landing, but in between it’s wise to have a new way to occupy them every 20–30 minutes. Give them just one activity to do at a time, so when they start to get bored and fidgety, you can pull something else out of the bag. You can alternate the activities you brought along with visual games like ‘I spy’ or verbal games like 20 questions. One parent recommends ‘stretch-and-wiggle’, in which the child sees how many body parts they can move or stretch when you name them.

Wrap a surprise gift

Another tip from a travel-wise parent is to wrap up a couple of small, inexpensive gifts for your child to unwrap on the plane (not necessarily at the same time!). The element of surprise adds extra excitement. First you could get them to try to guess what’s inside. Once they open the package, the novelty will keep them busy for a while – newer toys entertain children for longer. You might consider buying something that’s been shown to keep kids occupied the longest on planes: loom bands (coloured bands that can be woven into bracelets or charms), modelling clay and interlocking building blocks are all tried-and-tested favourites. The airline may also provide activity packs for kids, which gives them a new treat to discover. What’s inside depends on the airline, but may include crayons and colouring books, model airplanes, card games or activity books.

Check out the inflight entertainment

Most airlines provide a variety of special inflight entertainment aimed at kids. The seat-back screen allows you to control what your child watches, with options that can include age-appropriate movies, TV programmes and games. For a screen-free break, there may also be children’s audio books or music. The selection varies depending on the airline and the route, so check out the website (see airline information below) or inflight magazine to see what’s on offer on your flight. Do this in advance if possible, so you can plan ahead if you need to bring extra entertainment.

Plug in

Digital devices are a sure bet for keeping kids entertained for a while (but make sure you bring headphones!). Before boarding, download some games, apps, cartoons, audio books, music, TV shows or movies to your phone or tablet. In case you run out of airline-provided options, it’s best to have a back-up selection so there is something available your child is sure to like. There is typically a power outlet and/or USB Port in the armrest or seat-back screen so you can keep your device charged and even connect it to the in-flight entertainment system.

Get up and move around

When your child just can’t sit still any longer, you could ask a flight attendant if it’s possible to get up and walk down the aisle with them if the seatbelt sign is off and the meal service isn’t underway. On the A380, the aisle is quite long, so unless the airline has curtained it off into sections, this should give your child a bit of exercise! There is also space at the front and back of the plane or section to stretch a bit. Before you go back to your seats, you could walk to the galley area where you can look out the portholes. While you’re there, maybe get a cup of ice and a straw or stirrer from the drinks cart – playing with ice seems to fascinate kids!

Talk to the cabin crew

Some airlines really make an extra effort to offer special treats for their young passengers. These can range from handing out kid-friendly game kits, to taking pictures of a child in a captain’s hat, to providing ‘flying nannies’ – trained flight attendants who do face-painting, magic tricks or even lead short meditation sessions. It can never hurt to ask the cabin crew what’s available!

Airline information on inflight entertainment for kids:

Book your A380 flight