How far would you travel with your kids? For me, I haven’t had the courage to take a long-haul flight more than seven hours with my family.
Blame it on my then-two-year-old daughter’s temper tantrum on a flight from Sydney back to Singapore. Bored and restless, she ended up rolling on the floor, and happily so.
Then, the seat belt sign turned on and we had to pick her up… Oh, it wasn’t a pretty sight!
Being a first-time mum, I realised too late that I didn’t pack enough items to occupy her. The in-flight entertainment also failed to entertain her.
But now, thanks to British Airways (see video below), I might just consider taking the brood beyond the regional countries for our next holiday. The airline recently polled 2,000 parents to understand their travel worries.
The biggest concern? How to keep their kids entertained, with 60 per cent of parents revealing they were unable to keep their child occupied for longer than 30 minutes.
So the airline conducted a social experiment, placing 30 youngsters on a flight for two hours with a selection of toys. (No, smartphones and tablets were not among the choices.)
The children, aged two to 10, were given 90 minutes playtime and observed by scientist and British TV personality Robert Winston and a team of educational psychologists.
The surprising findings revealed that it was actually the cheapest toys that kept the children occupied for the longest.
The most popular toy among two- to five-year-olds was Play-Doh, while Loom Bands were a firm favourite with the five- to 10-year-olds. Both toys kept more than half of the children occupied for longer than 40 minutes.
Timeless classics such as Lego and Top Trump cards also scored highly with this age group; keeping them entertained for an average of 37 and 33 minutes respectively.
Top 10 toys:
1. Loom Bands
4. Top Trumps
6. Usborne activity cards
7. Magnetic travel game
9. Finger puppets
10. Sticker book
Related: 5 ways to help my child play better
For a longer flight, it just means you should pack along more of the above recommended toys. “Bringing out a different toy at regular intervals is guaranteed to keep them quiet for longer than 90 minutes,” said Professor Winston.
Dr Vivian Hill, educational psychologist from the Institute of Education, offers seven strategies for a stress-free flight:
1. Give them drinks to sip on during take-off and landing, so they don’t focus on the air pressure; which can affect children more than adults.
2. Buy new toys and games for the flight as newer toys entertain them for longer
3. Bring out different toys at regular intervals. Wrapping them and giving them as presents works really well.
4. Concentrate on packing activities as opposed to static objects such as dolls and cuddly toys. 5. Think of games with extended play. Finger puppets and activity cards are both toys that can be drawn out to last a lot longer.
6. Think about games that you don’t need to carry. Verbal games like I Spy and Twenty Questions are good ways to pass the flight time.
7. If it’s an evening or night flight, take pyjamas. Getting children ready for bed will help avoid disrupting their sleep pattern.