Our tried and tested tips for keeping babies and young children occupied on long journeys (that don’t include screen time). We have used these on car journeys of up to 6 hours, though they are all applicable to flights too. Please note, this article contains product recommendations and affiliate links.
1) Play With Something Challenging.
Toys which have an element of difficulty, such as problem solving or using fine motor skills, can give your toddler something to concentrate on (let’s face it – there is nothing better to do) and can help the time slip away without them realising. The key is to keep it fun and are age appropriate. We don’t want them to get frustrated, just challenged enough to hold their interest for a period of time. For our (almost) 18 month old, it’s currently his beloved busy board.
Here are our top recommendations by age:
2) Sing Nursery Rhymes.
This one was the key to preventing tantrums in traffic jams. I don’t know how we managed to come up with so many verses of “Wheels On The Bus”, but needs must! They are also a great way of interacting with your little passenger, which is also a crucial part of avoiding melt downs. If you are on a flight, don’t be shy – people would rather hear Humpty Dumpty a hundred times than endure an hour of toddler tantrums! Besides, that’s what their headphones are for! This book of first nursery rhymes should give you plenty of inspiration!
3) Listen To Music.
No, I don’t mean an endless loop of Baby Shark, I mean listening to what YOU like! Not only does it help keep you relaxed, but it also provides entertainment for the whole family. Talking about what you’re listening to and dancing in your seat (if you’re not driving) can also be fun and helps your little one learn about different sounds, instruments, culture… whatever you want to talk about! For those taking flight, investing in a simple headphone splitter will prevent the need to press play on 2 devices at the same time! This handy headphone splitter is on a nifty key ring – no need to waste valuable luggage space!
4) Take Regular Breaks.
Refreshment breaks, loo stops, leg stretches… they are all an important part of the journey, and keeping everyone hydrated and comfortable is key. Plan to stop regularly if driving, every 1-2 hours depending on your family’s needs, and keep it fun. This applies to being on a flight too – staying hydrated and walking around (when it’s safe to do so) is important to keep everyone energised and preventing jetlag.
5) Maintain Routine.
If you can, plan your journey around your normal routine. Keep nap time undisturbed, and if you’re in the car, create a sleepy environment. Consider using window shades, turn off all music/devices, give them their usual sleep comforter, and tuck them in with a blanket. Say the usual things you would say as if you were putting them down for a nap, then leave them in peace. Keep snacks and meal times as close to normal as possible, and don’t be tempted to ‘treat’ them to sugary snacks and drinks. All that pent-up energy will result in tears and tantrums if they can’t physically burn it off! I love a boiled sweet at take-off as much as the next person, but there is no way my Teddy is getting one! He can suck on a flask of water instead [it’s not as mean as it sounds – he loves his ‘drinky drink’ from his favourite flask]!
What are your tips for travelling with young ones? Share your advice and experience in the comments!