When it comes to traveling with kids on planes, you need to start with some preparation. The same way you prepare your suitcase, your absence from work, your house and a doggy sitter, you should also prepare your child for the trip. There is no chance that a kid will behave well on a plane if he misbehaves any other place so at least try to minimize unwanted behavior. The way to do it is to build excitement and anticipation and to hold the kid in a state of “wow” throughout the trip. It depends on the child’s age, but this technique can start as early as 6 months old. As soon as the child can understand simple instructions. The preparation should start at least 3 weeks before the flight and it is composed of these steps:
– Step 1: The parent should start talking about airplanes, their noise, how they fly and such. The parent needs to familiarize the kid with the concept of what is an airplane. A good way to build an excitement is to take the child to a nearby air strip and hear the engines, feel the wind and look at the planes.
– Step 2: Once the parent has built the excitement around the airplane he should start connecting the dots between the child and the airplane. The parent should tell the kid that the plane reaches the skies, goes in the clouds, travel next to a rainbow, is up above anyone else and so forth. Try using terms that your child understands. Continue to build the excitement around this magical machine that could do all of these things. Start asking your young one questions about airplanes: how high do you think they can go, how fast, what should be its colors, what do you like best about airplanes. You may buy him a small airplane toy so he can feel and touch it. Intrigue him. Play with him. Face him with questions and issues he has never faced before. Entice him to better understand what a plane does.
– Step 3: Start asking the child if he wants to be in an air plane. If you built the excitement right, he will be more than happy to. Tell him about his upcoming flight and break into small details what is going to happen. Ask him to help you with packing the suitcase. Make sure he also has his little carry on or suitcase and ask him what he wants to put inside. Explain what can and can not go on the plane. Make sure you put in some of his favorite toys, coloring, games and any other item that you think will keep him occupied. Make sure to explain to him that on the plane we play quietly with the toys. Have him talk about his suitcase, how he helped you and about his trip. The more he talks and explains to others about the upcoming trip, the more he will better implement and understand the concept of flying.
Step 4: Several days before the flight, when your child is all excited and ready to go, call him for a “big boy” talk. Start telling him about the other passengers, how small things are on the plane, that people have to be quiet, that the flight is long and that he needs to behave. One of the tricks that I use is to tell my kids that if they misbehave on the plane, I will ask the plane to take them off the flight. It all depends on your kid. If you think that an empty threat will not work and that he will know that he can not be taken off of the plane once it takes off, do not use it but try another way to control his behavior. Make him promise you that he will behave on the plane and make him repeat this promise so he can remember it.
Step 5: At the day of the flight, give your son the lead. Give him his flight ticket, his suitcase, let him be the leader and guide him gently. Take your time. Ask him to do the check in and talk to the person at the counter. Explain everything you see around you. Ask for his help at the security check and throughout the way to the airplane. Continue to build this excitement. Upon reaching the plan show it to him, show him the engines, the wings, where the pilot sits, the wheels. Anything you can think off. Encourage him to ask questions. When boarding, call him over and remind him that from now on, he has to behave on the plane. Let him do the boarding, find his seat, tighten the belt and so froth. Ask him to get out his suitcase and toys and play quietly in his seat.
Step 6: Throughout the flight talk to him about the plane, how it flies in the clouds, close to the rainbow, above everyone else. Show him the little cars, the little houses, the mountains. Engage him in what you have explained to him before. Before too long, he will get bored. Ask him to take out his bag and take out a toy. Remind him of his promise to play quietly. Show him how to play with his toy on the folding table. When he is tired of that toy, try the coloring book or any other item he brought along with you. If he starts misbehaving, remind him of his promise. If you prepared him correctly, he should listen and behave better.
Step 7: At the end of the flight, go over it again in details. Talk about what went good and what went wrong. Congratulate him on his good behavior and suggest ways to fix bad one.
There is no doubt that the first flight will not be an easy one, but it is one step closer to having future great flights.
You have probably noticed that I have not said a word about portable devices such as TVs and computer games. I did not use them but if a parent knows his kid would be quiet using them, by all means bring them over with plenty of batteries.
If you did your homework right, you should have a pleasant flight.
One last note: The most adorable thing you can do to engage your little one with a short activity and have everyone around you smile from to ear to ear is ask the child to help push the plane. There is no preparation for this activity but it is hilarious. Tell your little one that the plane can not move without him pushing it. When you are sitted down show him the back of the chair in front of you and tell him that when the plane is ready he needs to push. Time your cue and just before the plane starts to roll ask him to
start pushing. You can not even imagine the grin he will have on his face when the plane starts to move due to his efforts.
Barack Levin was born in 1970 in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to Pittsburgh in 1996 to pursue his Master’s degree. Shortly after his arrival he met a beautiful French woman, Michelle, and fell in love. A year later, during a routine physical, he learned he had an irreversible and life-threatening kidney disease. He was 26 years old – the doctor doubted that he would see 30. But, despite this news, he refused to give up his dream of marrying Michelle and raising a multi-national family in the U.S.
Knowing he was living on borrowed time, and despite everyone he knew telling him he was crazy, he decided to become a stay/work-at-home dad and shoulder most of the responsibility of caring for his son for his first year of life (and, potentially, the last twelve months of his). “I wanted to offer him proper guidance, using some very unconventional methods, through the first steps of his journey to becoming a fantastic kid and a great man, a journey I feared I might not be around to witness much of,” says Levin.
Thirteen years later, Barack is alive and living in Atlanta, with Michelle and their two children. He is the author of the book The Diaper Chronicles- A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids, based on his experience’s, available through his website at http://www.baracklevin.com.