We recently had the pleasure of doing our first long haul flight with Havvie. Since she was under 2, she didn’t have her own seat. Being a Montessori family, we were also planning on 0 screen time for the flights. Of course, I was apprehensive, but I was also super excited about this first plane trip. Here are some tips that helped us have an incredibly enjoyable time.
Talking about what to expect on the flight
I can’t stress how important this was for us. A lot of toddlers are apprehensive when thrown into new situations as they have no idea where they are and have no control over what happens next. Havvie is no different and the thing that helped us the most was making her aware as much as possible as to what to expect. It was as much about respecting Havvie’s discomfort with the unknown as it was about setting her up for success.
In the week leading up to the flight, my husband and I continually spoke about how we were going to be at the airport and sitting on a plane. We have a large number of planes that fly above our house on a daily basis so everytime we noticed one in the sky, we took the opportunity to tell Havvie we were going to be sitting in one shortly.
We spoke about what she would see, feel and hear on the plane. We spoke about the challenges she might face, like feeling overstimulated or tired, how she might not be able to be run around or she might not like the food on the plane. We spoke about the exciting things she would get to see, like looking down on cities from the plane windows or flying within the clouds.
Most importantly we spoke about the fact that it’s ok if she feels upset on the plane and we would be there to help her through. This I believe is the single most important thing we did. Havvie knew what was going to happen and she was just so excited that what we had spoken about was actually coming true in real life.
Reading a book about the airport and flying in a plane
If you follow this blog, you know that Havvie is obsessed with books. So there was nothing better than a book to introduce the concept of flying and to help her visualise the airport experience.
We read the book Busy Airport, in the weeks leading upto flying. It explained the whole process from getting to the airport through to sitting on the plane. The flaps in the book also added an exciting element to the story. We knew this worked for us because when Havvie got to the airport she exclaimed “busy airport!”.
Packing the activities that Havvie was focused on
If you follow Montessori, then you know by observing your child, you generally know what work your child is really focused on at that point of time. We picked those items to take onto the plane with us. For Havvie, this was books (new and old), crayons and paper and some simple wooden color matching and finger manipulative work. This provided familiarity and continuity to Havvie and also gave her an opportunity to explore exactly those things that interested her the most at that point of time.
In all honesty, we hardly used any of the materials because Havvie was happy enough just being on the plane. We passed most of our time by reading the magazines on the plane, looking out the window, doing a bit of drawing and singing songs.
Wrapping books and toys
This was a handy tip I got from a Janet Lansbury blog post. We wrapped all the toys and books we took onto the plane in paper. This added to the excitement of taking out an activity and kept Havvie occupied and even focussed on unwrapping each activity.
All in all, we did over 30 hours of flying, and Havvie embraced pretty much all of it. Her enthusiasm even kept me going when I was feeling tired. Although I was confident we would have a good flying experience, Havvie surpassed all of our expectations. We may have a globe trotter on our hands.