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Parenting blog

A blog for parents with effective techniques based on developmental psychology. 

Traveling with children

Sara Zaidi

Traveling with kids can be daunting whether it’s in a car, on a plane, or on a train. There are several ways to keep children occupied during these long journeys, however, setting expectations before getting started is the key to maintaining sanity.

The night before the planned trip, sit down with the children and go through your list of expectations. Waiting patiently in lines, speaking softly, remaining seated with the safety belt on, not kicking the seat in front of them, and eating whatever is provided are all reasonable expectations. With each of these it is important to explain the reasoning behind them or else they will appear arbitrary and children are less likely to comply.

With younger kids, show them a book pertaining to the mode of travel. For example, if you’re traveling by air read a story about airplanes pointing out the safety belt, the way passengers remain seated, the flight attendant who checks in etc. Inform the children how long it will take to arrive to the destination in time frames that they will understand to eliminate the nagging, “when will we get there” question.

Of course there are certain things that can be done to make the trip easier on everyone (without resorting to an Ipad!). Plan to travel during nap times, try to book seats in advance so that you can have the front row with the bassinet and extra room, get window seats so that they can look outside. Take a comfort toy or blanket along with some new toys that can be provided as needed. Avoid toys with small parts as losing them can lead to frustration and meltdowns. Triangular crayons (to prevent rolling) with a doodle pad, stickers, and a party pack of play doh are always helpful. Consider buying smaller versions of toys that your child might like, for example, matchbox cars or magnetic dress-up play sets. Choose a selection of books that that are relevant to vacations, traveling and the city you’re going to. Also remember to include some of your child’s favorite stories as a fail safe.

Traveling can be a great teaching opportunity if you remain calm and tempered. The journey itself is an exercise in discipline, the younger the child the easier it is to set and implement expectations (contrary to how it may appear!), children internalize these rules quickly and can distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior without having to be reminded on future trips.