Revolting But Effective: 5 Airplane Tricks for Toddler Travel


Revolting but Effective

Ah, summer…  Here in Arizona, it’s the magical time of year when we who so shamelessly boasted about our wintertime awesomeness Zip-A-Lip and hunker down with 1 hand in the freezer and the other on the ceiling fan remote (This can’t be as high as it goes!!).  We sport our tank tops, schedule our pedi’s, and choose “expensive & indoors” over “free & outside”.  We shake our fists at the 5AM sunrise and slather our offspring in SPF 60, lest the sun sizzle their dewy skin through a distant window.

Yes, these things we do with vigor, but there is one pursuit that supersedes their sum:
       —  Above all and whenever possible, we get the heck outta Dodge.

If your summer travel plans include: A) an airplane, B) a squirmy/handsy/curious/hyperactive/attention-span-deficient/almost-too-big-for-this lap child, and C) a desire to maintain at least a crumb of your sanity while in flight, then “Welcome!” This post is for you.  

With the cost of airfare soaring (see what I did there?), it’s no wonder that, like me, you might elect the borderline self-brutalization of holding on your lap said Squirmer for 3+ hours in a space the size of a Cracker Jack box.  You could haul your entire house’s contents of toys into the overhead bin, and it wouldn’t suffice to entertain him.  You would almost hear his little inner audio as he flings them one by one onto the heads of unsuspecting cabin mates: “Seen it.  Seen it.  Seen it.  Seen it…..”

So save your back, leave the toy box at home, and lean in as I disclose to you the 5 most revolting but wildly successful tricks for entertaining your toddler on an airplane.

Oh, and if you judge me, I will seek out your next flight and hand you my toddler.

1. The Obvious

Window shades (lightdarklightdark), tray tables (opencloseopenclose), arm rests (updownupdown), in-flight magazines (riptearshredrepeat), a veritable buffet of snack items…  Milk these for as long as you can before pulling out the show stoppers.

* Is it revolting?  (i.e., Will your neighbor think you are insane?):  Yes.

* Is your child screaming?: NOPE.

2. The Change Puzzle

You will need: 3 or 4 empty cups from the flight attendant and a palmful of loose change.  Yes, the most germ-ridden, gross thing in the world.

Stack the cups with a few coins in each and watch your toddler exercise his problem-solving skills as he attempts to get to the sweet mullah.  He will love the challenge and then the “plink” of the coins as he transfers them between the cups.  When he bores of the coins, let him play with the empty cups — they become glasses, earmuffs, gloves, hats.  Know what fits perfectly in an airplane cup?  A baby sandal.  And the shredded magazine pages from above, rolled into balls.

*Is it revolting?:  (i.e., Is it germ-infested and will you bit by bit lose most if not all of your change as it rolls to the floor in an uncontrollable fashion?): For sure.

*Is your child screaming?:  NOPE.

3. Hit the Juice

No, not THAT juice.  Unless you’re in first class.  I’m talking about CRAN-APPLE juice, no ice.  Grab half a glass from the flight attendant.  Are you a mom who is open to breaking out the binki for such a time as this?  (I know, I know… he’s too big… it’s only for nap time…….  Do you want to hold my toddler???)  Because if you can quick-as-lightening  drink the juice to within an inch of its life, your toddler will think it’s GREAT FUN to dip his binki in the little bit remaining and suck it off.  Over.  And over.  And over.  And over.

* Is it revolting?  (i.e., Is it bad for his teeth and will you both end up a little sticky and pink?): Probably.

* Is your child screaming?:  NOPE.

4. The Baby Bird

Dear friend, out of the goodness of my heart, I must prompt you to consider the afore mentioned warning once more before reading the next paragraph.  Got it?  .No judgement allowed.

Okay.  Know what airplane ice is perfect for?  Getting chewed by mommy teeth and deposited into a pursed little baby mouth.

Admittedly, this is the most revolting trick on our list.  But I’m telling you right now: it is also the most effective.  This little gem will buy you a whole cup’s worth of ice time.

On the up side, you end up with essentially a million little cold-lipped baby smooches.  And the nurse in me should mention it is an excellent hydration technique.  So, lay aside your pride….. and do it for the health of the children.

5. and finally: The Big Gun

These are kids of the 21st century, so what entertainment method will they know?

If you have an iPad, smart phone, KindleFire, or the like – Woman, you load that sucker up with apps, cartoons, Baby Einstein episodes… and when you’ve exhausted (literally and figuratively) the options, that arsenal just might be your ticket home.

* Is it revolting?: You can choose.  As for me, I’ll be sitting here with my non-screaming kid.


And, Sweet Mama, if these methods leave you with a Little who insists on hollaring all the way to Kingdom Come?  Smile, and repeat after me:

“I paid for my seat.  I’m awesome at this job.  And I’ll never see any of you people again.”

Cheers to a happy summer!


  1. I am ROLLING on the floor. This is so classic. (Also shaking in my boots at a cross-country flight this summer with my hell-on-wheels toddler.)

  2. Timely article! Flying next month for the first time with my 3 year old & 5 month old – yikes! Just hoping to get out of there alive. We will definitely be trying a few of these! (Not sure mine are the right age for the ice thing, but I like it!) 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here