What do we need to teach our children about traveling on a plane? We’re about to take our first holiday vacation away from home and we want to be prepared.
–Inquiring Parents, Seattle, WA
Tell children what you expect of them. A wonderful way to teach good behavior to young children is to walk them through the process of taking an airplane flight by acting out the adventure ahead of time.
Rehearse and role model by playing make believe airplane ride with them. Talk about going through security, waiting to board the plane and perhaps watching other planes taking off and landing, boarding the plane, finding your seats, storing your carry-ons, fastening your seat belts, and using inside voices at all times, because, in a whisper you say, "people like to take naps on planes."
Start preparing the day before by having them pack their own backpack (with your supervision). It should be filled with paperback activity books that include workbooks and pencils, a tablet, a change of clothes, toothbrush, and favorite comfort toy and blanket.
Older children also need a fun, surprise bag with new activity books, reading books, and a puzzle to keep them occupied.
Have everyone go to the restroom just before boarding the plane. Parents, too. Why? The less time you all spend in an airplane bathroom the better.
Because children's ears are sensitive to getting sore from the air pressure, parents should have drinks for them to sip on, from time to time, during the flight to keep them swallowing. While landing you may want to give him bites of a good quality chocolate bar to reward him for his excellent behavior -- and to keep him swallowing.
Many children are sensitive to smells and allergens, if that's your child, you should bring along a children's antihistamine to administer should he become uncomfortable. Just be sure of the timing because you want him to be able to walk on and off the airplane.
There are four things your children must NOT do on an airplane:
Kick the back of the seat in front of them. Run up and down the aisles. Use a loud voice. Play with the seat reclining button. Stand up and lean over the seat in front of him or stand up and lean over the back of his seat.
Before buckling him into his seatbelt, he should be able to discover who is sitting in front of him, in back of him and in the next row to his left or right.
Airplanes are petri dishes dishes for viruses and bacteria. Take along a container of child-friendly disinfectant wipes to wipe down the seat buckles, armrests and controls, tray tables, and the pocket in front of the child that holds the safety procedures info. That pocket is rarely cleaned and is often a receptacle for used tissues and rotting food. It is nonetheless a curious place for little fingers to explore.
You should also carry a packet of child sensitive wipes for his hands and face, especially if he plays on the floor or drops a chew toy or soother that needs to be quickly cleaned. The strong cleaning products used on airplane floors are not healthy for children. No matter the weather, it is best to dress children for as little skin exposure as possible.
Yes, it is OK for children to walk up and down the aisle once or twice, but that's it. You don't want him disturbing stewards passing out drinks and snacks or other passengers napping, reading or watching a movie.
An airplane ride is a perfect opportunity to teach children of any age to respect the space of other people in close proximity.
Your behavior will be their model. For instance, explain that you put the wheels of your carryon bag toward the back of the carryon compartment to make more room for another passenger's bag.
It goes without saying that in hearing you repeatedly using "please" and "thank-you" to the stewards and other passengers, your good manners will wear off on your children. What a wonderful classroom in which to learn modern manners!