Easy ways to keep your kids entertained on the plane

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Easy ways to keep your kids entertained on the plane

Trips with young children can create wonderful memories, but you'll need to plan ahead to keep your kids busy for the boring bits of getting to where you want to go.

While a family holiday overseas can be a fantastic opportunity to introduce your children to new experiences, places and people, the journey there can sometimes be stressful and long. This isn't helped by short attention spans and little space to move, especially for the younger ones. However, there are simple ways to curb their boredom and keep their minds active for the long haul, even if it is 10,000m above ground. Here are a few tips on how to keep the little ones happy on the plane, so you can get your holiday off to a good start.

Get involved and read a book to your child.

A survey by BBC presenter, Professor Robert Winston for British Airways, last year involved a social experiment which showed 86 per cent of parents find it difficult to keep their children entertained on a plane. During a two-hour flight with 30 children, Prof. Winston found it was preferable to "ditch the iPad" and entertain them with craft and games, which were effective for more than 40 minutesi. He said "Old fashioned things like drawing and painting are still really important."

Favourite 'toy' is you

Educational psychologist, Dr Vivian Hill, who also took part in the experiment, said children under the age of three mostly enjoy interactive activities such as play dough, and one of their favourite playthings is you, so be prepared to pitch in or take it in turns with your partner for about 30 minutes each. The three to five-year-olds like making things, particularly Legoii. Dr Hill said, "You can't expect any child to just be involved in solitary play, whether it's with an iPhone or an iPad, for the duration of a flight." She suggested you need to mix up the activities, wrap them up as presents as a treat (bubble wrap can provide hours of fun), and remember it's essential to get involved to "make it more fun and interesting and prolong their period of engagement". You could play games such as I Spy or read an interactive book like Where's Wally?

Every child's interests are different, so pack accordingly.

Every child's interests are different, so pack accordingly. In flight, pace the entertainment you've brought: don't hand it out all at once. You don't want them having finished everything before you've even started crossing the ocean. If your child likes DVDs or interacting with noisy animations, buy a set of noise-limiting headphones, as adult headphones might not fit and could damage their hearing.

Make sure whatever you pack is allowed on flights; while each jurisdiction around the world can have different rules, as a rough guide it's usually OK to take magazines, books, games, electronic devices and blunt or round-ended scissors with blades less than 6cm longiii,iv. You can carry spare batteries for your own electronic devices.

You also need to allow for the fact your child might experience discomfort during the flight. For example, children are more susceptible to getting sore ears from changing air pressure. If this happens, ask a crew member what to do. One tip is to use the "Valsalva manoeuvre" by closing your mouth and nose and sharply breathing out to equalize the air pressurev.

If your children like to kick the seat in front, remove their shoes. Place a pillow or soft toy in the seat pocket, as they might not want to kick their toy.

If you want some relaxing time to yourself on board the flight, download apps like the ones from Fisher Price for your iPad, tablet or phone before you go, such as the Laugh and Learn series, Soothing Sights and Songs for Baby, and Color, Paint, Create! This will keep your child preoccupied while you get some shuteye.

Top toys to take on a plane

i Winston, R. 2014, Top toys to take on a plane this summer, 14 July, viewed 3 August 2015, http://www.robertwinston.org.uk/news/top-toys-plane-summer/

ii British Airways 2014, Top toys to take on your British Airways flight this summer, 14 July, viewed 3 August 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs7NxqhOCPQ

iii Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development 2014, Prohibited items (domestic), viewed 21 August 2015, http://travelsecure.infrastructure.gov.au/domestic/prohibited_exceptions.aspx

iv Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development 2014, Prohibited items (international), viewed 21 August 2015, http://travelsecure.infrastructure.gov.au/international/onboard/prohibited_list.aspx

v Flight Safety Australia 2015, 'Flying high?', 28 May, viewed 24 August 2015, http://www.flightsafetyaustralia.com/?s=barotrauma