We just took a mini family vacation & traveled just under 10 hours each way (including driving & waiting airports & plane changes). We did it without relying on screens.
And it really wasn’t so bad. Really!
But it does take a bit of planning.
Here’s what the kid’s stuff looked like:
We came armed with books (including one brand new one), sticker booklets, sketch pad, crayons, glue stick, finger puppets, waxy sticks & (not pictured) snacks… lots of snacks…
We were successful, though I had to remind myself more than once that entertaining a young child on a plane for even a short period of 5 minutes is a success.
I waited as long as I could to pull stuff out. Luckily T is happy to look at the safety information pamphlet for a long while before & during take-off. He also played pilot for a while as we taxied. I made sure to sit back & not interrupt whenever he was chatting or singing to himself… Hard to ignore him when he was being so darn cute!
The three most successful activities (aside from snacking): Airplane magazine collages, finger puppets & waxy sticks.
I didn’t dare try to smuggle blunt kiddie scissors on the plane, but I did bring a note book & a glue stick & crayons. We tore out interesting pictures from the on-board magazine & made little collages. It was relatively mess-free (we just bagged the paper scraps) & took some concentration (i.e. time). It didn’t last as long as I’d hoped but it was something.
MFA Dad is a fabulous story-teller. He takes T to a Waldorf play group & has told me that T is absolutely enchanted by the little stories that the teacher tells the children, which typically involve little dolls or puppets. MFA Dad has created his own hybrid form of story telling & T was an eager listener when Dada pulled out the finger puppets. T happily retold the story to me afterward & then played for a bit on his own.
The big hit was the waxy sticks. (I can’t take credit for coming up with this one: Thanks to Amy at Destination Paradise!) A total mess but easy clean-up. There’s a fire truck, a ladder, a cardinal & a little figure in there somewhere… Along with a bandage, crown, watch & ring. T had a blast with this for quite a while… An hour or more. Just pulling all the pieces apart was fun. It’s a one-time thing, but totally worth it.
I should also admit that I nursed T on all but one of the four flights we totaled there & back. I was (am?!) sheepish, nervous, whatever, about nursing an older toddler in public. I just am. (And I don’t think that Time Magazine’s recent cover has done me any favors…) T asked for mommy milk & I figured it was a fine way to pass a few minutes, especially since we had a whole row to ourselves.
On the ground things seemed more difficult! I was ready to plop T in front of a screen any time we had to get ready to go somewhere or eat a meal. Luckily it was still Screen-Free Week the first 2 days of our trip & after that we couldn’t figure out how to work the hotel TV.