On our recent trip to Chicago, our plane was delayed. And we spent five long hours waiting in the Laguardia terminal with three very excited children. Thankfully, everyone was well behaved - so much so that the very nice woman at the gate gave our children snack boxes meant for the international travelers as we were going onboard. And she commented that they deserved something for being so good. (Smile.)
Unfortunately, travel is often a hurry up and wait game. You rush to the airport only to find that you will be waiting longer than anticipated. Or the wait to get into the museum, hotel, or "fill in the blank" is almost not worth it. So how does one "Kill Time" with small kids? Here's some of my best ideas:
Get the wiggles out. You really can't expect kids to stay still forever. Even grown-ups need to stretch their legs. But kids, with all their energy, need an outlet. Knowing that I will need them to sit still on the plane, I will often "run them" in the airport. Several conditions apply: I will not run them when it is crowded. It's too easy for someone to get lost or hurt if there are lots of people around. But right after a flight departs, there is usually a lull in people traffic for a few minutes. Take advantage of that. Set up boundaries. "See that red trash can? When I say go, I want you to run as fast as you can to the finish line, and then turn around and run back. Ready? Go!" It is never a race. No one wins or loses. In most families, the oldest will be the fastest - so there's really no contest there. I do not allow Jor Man to rub it in the girls' faces that he is faster. "Of course you are faster," I tell him. "But can you be nicer?" If running gets boring, change it up and try skipping, hopping, jumping or going backwards. Get them nice and tired.
When the people start coming back, it's time to break out the snacks. I pack snacks from home rather than buying airplane food, which we all know is too expensive. Of course you can't take liquids through security, so I do buy waters, and we put some Emergen-C in it, both for health sake and to entice the kids to drink more. Being dehydrated is one of the reasons people pick up colds on airplanes. Vitamin C and lots of water helps to combat travel illness. So does Juice Plus+ which we have taken daily for 11 years. Try snacks like trail mix, bars, cheese and crackers and fruit for travel.
Often when we are sitting down for snacks we will notice other children waiting with their families. My kids have been coached to go over and introduced themselves. "Hi, my name is __________. What's your name? I'm seven. How old are you? Do you go to school? I'm home schooled." They are all quite friendly and able to start up a conversation with just about anyone. If there are no kids around, perhaps look for someone who seems interested and friendly (using your best judgement of course). Encouraging your kids social skills is a great way to kill the time, and build them up in the process.
Post snacks is time for a bathroom break. We usually take turns: First the girls will go, and then the boys, while the other watches the luggage. That kills some time. Don't miss the opportunity to teach good hygiene and hand washing in the bathroom. We put the soap on and count to 15 while scrubbing our hands. I love watching the faces of the other travelers when we do this. They are so amused.
Which brings me to the next thing: Entertainment! No, not videos, although I do bring them and a lap top. But the kids entertaining us. Beauty Mom and Big Dad sit with our feet up on the luggage (oh, the luxury) while the kids sing, dance and put on plays. They can tell jokes, make up stories - whatever. Kids love a captive audience. They want to have your full attention - and when you are just killing time, why not. Most (if not all) of the other travelers will enjoy the diversion, too. They are desperate for something to do also.
Last, but not least, read a book. Bring a few new books from the library (don't lose them!) and read aloud while the kids sit and take a well deserved rest. Following the story, perhaps the next flight has left, and, well, "Lather, rinse, repeat". It might be time to run them again.
This is how we get through long waits. What are some of your tried and true tricks? I'd love to hear them.
Wish you were here!