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Toddlers On a Plane: Advice From One Parent to Another

If you have flown with a toddler, probably you're familiar with the looks you get from other passengers as you're boarding, and their darting eyes as they silently pray you're not sitting next to them. It's nothing personal (unless your child had a tantrum in the boarding line) - it's likely they've experienced a toddler tantrum on a plane. It's not pretty for anyone involved.

Toddlers usually have tantrums when they feel as though their needs aren't being met or they are not being understood. And unfortunately, there is no way to predict whether one will occur, but as a parent there are certain things you can control to minimize the possibility.

Before the trip, talk to your kid about what to expect on the airplane: there will be a lot of people, it will be quiet, no running up and down the aisles. Start laying the ground rules well before the flight so your toddler knows what to expect. It also helps to get children's books out from the library so they can see what flying in an airplane will be like.

To try and cover as many bases as possible, here are some ideas on things to bring and do to keep your little one happy:

Pit stops: Before you even board, make sure that diaper or pull-up is changed and your kid is clean and dry. And speaking of diapers, pack a few more than you'll ever think you need. A new diaper is the last thing you want to be without on a long flight.

Snacks: Snacks, snacks and more snacks. Giving kids their favourite snack in their favourite snack holder is something familiar and might ease their worries about flying. Plus, a hungry toddler is never a happy toddler.

Favourite blankie or stuffed animal: If your toddler wants to nap on the plane, it will help to have something from home that makes that small seat a little more comfortable.

A new toy: When my kids were younger and we traveled, I made sure to buy little toys to surprise them with on the plane. Having a new toy is exciting and gives toddlers a distraction, at least for a little bit.

Activities: In that same vein, having something to keep your little one busy on the plane makes for a faster flight. Bring colouring books, crayons, paper and little games you can play with your toddler.

Multimedia: Sometimes a little TV or video entertainment is what is needed to keep that bored toddler from breaking down.

Window Seat: Just looking outside can be entertainment enough. From watching the crew loading the bags to seeing the ground disappear as the plane takes off, flying can be really exciting for a toddler to be seeing for the first (or even the fifth) time.

Flight attendants: If it's not a full flight or during a lull in drink service, ask a flight attendant if he/she can show you and your kiddo where the drinks and snacks are stored. Maybe your toddler will score an extra bag of animal crackers!

Hopefully these tactics will help you make it through the flight tantrum-free.

And hey, if your kid does have an episode on the plane, take a deep breath and get through it. Chances are, your fellow passengers are a lot more understanding than you think. If they have kids of their own, they probably at one time were in the same situation and know exactly what you are going through. 

By Jeanna Lee Tahnk
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