Keeping small children seated, quiet and entertained on a car or plane trip seems an impossible task for most parents. However, with a little planning, travelling can be made into a fun experience for children and a relaxing one for parents. Here are some ideas on how to keep your child occupied and happy on the journey.Keeping children occupied
• Avoid packing sugary snacks as this could lead them to become hyper. High protein foods such as slices of fruit, cucumber and cheese are ideal snacks as they keep them fuller for longer.
• Start your trip an hour before your child’s normal nap time and allow them to run about and let off steam before getting in the car. The chances are that they will amuse themselves for the first part of the journey and then fall asleep for the rest of it.
• If you are on the road, frequent stops will make the journey more bearable for your little one. They will enjoy stretching their legs, getting some fresh air and having a change of scenery.
• Comfort is key on a long trip. Clothes made from natural fibres are more comfortable than synthetic ones. Bring a soft blanket for them to snuggle in to or use it as a pillow.
• If your child is potty-training, put a training pad or small towel on the car seat so any accidents will be contained. You may be unable to stop for a toilet break on demand.
• A pull-along suitcase will keep your child entertained and serve as a resting place when they get tired. If you are travelling with a baby put them in a metal-free sling, so that they can sleep without being disturbed during the security check-in.
• Airport regulations permit up to 100ml in the way of milk and drinks, although exceptions may be made for the under-twos. If your baby is bottle-fed, take powdered formula milk and buy bottled water in the secure area. Ask the cabin crew to top it up with boiled water during the flight.
• Changes in air pressure can make little ears pop. Sucking and swallowing helps to relieve air pressure in the middle ear, so keep drinks or pacifiers available for take-offs and landings.
• Strap children in on long-haul flights in case they wander off if you fall asleep. Seat straps will also keep them safe during air turbulence or in the event of an emergency.
• The best travel toys are quiet and compact and don’t break easily. Toys with small, moving parts are bound to end up under the seat. Favourite soft toys and books are essential, but have some new toys to provide interest and excitement. Wrap these up in paper to keep little hands busy.
Different activities for different ages
• Containers that fit together are fun to play with. They can be stacked, nested or used as hiding places for toys.
• A fabric scarf offers endless play and learning opportunities from hand-eye coordination to peek-a-boo, tickling and texture exploration.
• A rattle is a must, but keep it in reserve for a difficult moment. It could save the day!
• Sophie the Giraffe, a phthalate-free rubber toy that can be gripped, squeezed or mouthed is a popular baby toy.
• A familiar book can be comforting and your baby will enjoy turning the pages to find her favourite characters. Texture books that contain hidden surprises also provide entertainment and amusement.
• If you are on the road, put on a nursery rhyme CD or sing a song. A Baby Sensory baby will be instantly calmed by Say Hello to the Sun.
• A reusable sticker book will keep little hands busy. Stickers can be stuck on the window or the seat without any harm being done.
• A toy catalogue is great fun to look at and toddlers can colour in the things they would like to have. Activity books, which include dot-to-dot, mazes and patterns, will provide entertainment and distraction. If crayons are a problem, try an Etch-A-Sketch. Simply draw on the wipe off mat with the magic pencil and start again without having to change the paper.
• Chunky pipe cleaners that can be transformed into fascinating shapes will provide amusement. Attach them together to make animals, bracelets and necklaces.
• Small strips of masking tape stuck to your toddler’s legs and arms will provide endless fun. It can be removed easily (unlike a plaster) and gives a pleasant sensation.
• An interesting way to entertain your toddler is to provide a straw and a drinking cup filled with ice cubes. The straw can be flicked, bent and twisted in a number of different ways and the melting ice will promote the development of many scientific concepts.
• Older children may sit quietly listening to their favourite music on an MP3 player with headphones.
• A favourite book will keep them entranced for some time, but avoid books with small print in the car or you could end up with a sick child. Books about the geography, history, customs, animal and plant life of your destination will also keep them busy. A map and compass is great fun for children who want to help navigate the route.
• Classic travel games such as connect the dots, hangman, tic-tac-toe and magnetic games such as checkers, chess and snakes and ladders can make the time fly by.
• Scrabble is an ideal game for two players, but children can invent their own crossword puzzles too.
• Electronic games are very popular, but make sure that they are turned off during take-off and landing or they may interfere with the aircraft’s navigational system.
Try some of these tips on your next trip and you and your family may get to your destination in a more relaxed and happy frame of mind!
Dr Lin Day is the founder of Baby Sensory, which is the only provider of baby development classes designed specifically for babies from birth to 13 months. The classes are run in over 200 locations throughout the UK and in 12 countries including the US, Australia and Spain and has most recently launched in China. The Baby Sensory programmes have been developed in the UK by Dr. Lin Day (PhD Dip. Ed. BSc. PGCE M. Phil), who has worked with babies and young children throughout her career. All activities are excellent for developing physical, social and emotional, and language skills, co-ordination, awareness of the world, a love of music and the concentration needed for further development. The programme is also suitable for babies with physical or learning impairments. See www.babysensory.com