How to travel screen-free with kids

By Simone Crighton, Shapeeze

No one wants to be that family. The one whose children kick the backs of the seats of the passengers in front of them because their device has lost power. The one whose children fight with their siblings and race up and down the aisles knocking into people and creating havoc in their path… cringing under the ‘hate’ from other passengers. We’ve all been there: either as the fellow passengers, or the harassed parents.

As with many things in life we can follow the travel 'P's: Positive Prior Planning can Prevent a Poor Performance when screen-free.

Be prepared. Start with the basics. Ensure your kids are well rested the day before and try to avoid timing your journey over the witching hour of early evening when everyone’s blood sugar is at their lowest and children are usually at their worst.

If flying, protect their ears from the changes in air pressure by bringing something for them to suck on (dummies, bottles, gummies) during take-off and landing. Try to sit near the toilet to make those last-minute dashes to the loo less fraught and bring plenty of healthy snacks, nappies and changes of clothes.

Once the essentials of tiredness, hunger and sore ears have been sorted, the next priority is keeping them occupied. For parents keen to avoid screen-time induced melt-downs, you’ll be looking for something which will completely engage them, keep them absorbed for hours and which they can get on with completely unaided and learn something at the same time!

Giving your pre-schooler a responsibility that requires regular jaunts up and down the aisle can ease the fidgets as well as kill time, as can a bit of fun making up silly exercise routines in wider areas near the doors, or looking for then drawing the different shapes, faces or things found in the clouds.

A pack of cards can be very useful: matching pairs; adding numbers up to…; Snap; Go Fish are simple games for pre-schoolers to learn and manage independently.

Whilst requiring a bit of pre-trip preparation – travel bingo is another easy to manage game and when siblings are involved a bit of friendly competition can stave off the rivalry and bickering!

Print, paste or draw images of things your child/ren might see along the way in in a grid on an A4 sheet of paper – for example: a hat, sunglasses, trees, black shoes, a book, a car, etc. If your child is old enough or interested in writing you can also print the name of each item in a traceable font as an extra. Traceable fonts are easy to search an download either free or for a small charge online.

A friend once made a survival pack for my 2.5 year-old for a long-haul flight: this comprised a plethora of mini surprises individually wrapped and stashed in a library bag which was easy for Grace to carry. The parcels were such fun for her to unwrap and contained very simple gifts such as cards, novelty toys, packs of crayons/pencils, mini note pads, key rings, mini packets of chips/crackers, mini cereal packs (which to be honest were a god-send as she ate the plane out of Weetbix and refused all other meals!).

Who knows, with the children fed, watered, happy and fully engaged you might even get to read that magazine you’ve been carrying around for weeks!     

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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