I never forget this one secret when traveling with kids (at least for the under 5 ages). No, it’s not a mobile device or a board game or toys, though those can all be on the packing list.
It’s something NEW. I know, I know. That’s so abstract, but it can truly be anything. Along with the kids magazine, coloring books, chapter books and deck of cards we bring along, I always pack something small that I save and hold onto; something new that the kids haven’t seen before. That’s the key, it doesn’t matter what it is, but it has to be something they haven’t seen before, something they haven’t seen you pack.
It can be a beautiful sticker, a new book, a new pen, a toy car, a Kinder Egg or another sweet treat..but whatever it is, you hang on to it and only pull it out in the event of an emergency situation i.e. a meltdown, a long delay or layover, etc.
That’s the key, it doesn’t matter what it is, but it has to be something they haven’t seen before, something they haven’t seen you pack.
The fact that it is new will hold your child’s interest for some time, but more importantly, it will calm them down, even if it only holds their attention for a few minutes, so you can all go back to normal.
One time, I found a Jacob’s ladder in the dollar section of Target. I packed it in my airplane backpack. Our flight was hours delayed. The kids started getting antsy. I tried several things first, and then pulled it out. Not only did it keep their attention for a bit, but they were much calmer after they were done playing with the Jacob’s ladder, allowing us all to sit down read and play cards until it was time to go.
(For babies and young toddlers, I recommend a homemade calming bottle!)