Friday, February 1, 2013

Traveling with a toddler on an airplane

We are on vacation! Yay! Florida is a bit chilly these days, but still awesome, comparing to Newmarket, Ontario.

I was silent for some time as we were preparing for our travel: cleaning, dealing with the last minute issues, like plumbing and a sick cat, finding ways to get to and from the airport (thanx, Dev! You are the best!), and a whole bunch of other little things that accumulated into a one big set of emergencies.

On top of everything else, I was stressing out about traveling with Santino, who is 28 months old, a very active little boy, often unable to sit still and concentrate for a long time... Well, here is where I was inspired and a bit relieved from my stress. All our sensory activities have been such an "attention grabber" for Santino, that I decided stop worrying and get ready.

I thought of everything what we've been doing, all Santino's favorite activities, and put together a little travel kit for a toddler on an airplane. Now, this may seem a little over the top, as I packed a lot of different activities. In a normal circumstance, this would take a few hours of quiet play. But. I remember how moody Santino can get, and the usual interest may change in an unusual setting, so all this doesn't seem that over-the-top.

So, here we go:

1. Doodle journals, crayons and a pencil with a dinosaur.
2. Coloring book with dinosaurs.
3. Aqua doodle.
4. Paper shapes (for building houses and flowers, and constructing other shapes)
5. 2 jars of homemade playdough (to squish and knead, and stick pasta and hippo into it)
6. An empty spice bottle with the pipe cleaners of various sizes (the holes in this bottle are perfect for sliding the pipe cleaners, a great fine motor skills exercise)
7. Some craft sticks (for balancing, breaking and also sticking into playdough)
8. Small zip lock bags with rice and hearts (for finding and counting), beans and beads (for tossing and sorting), and pasta of various shapes (to make shapes and stick into playdough)
9. Toys: a dinosaur, a hippo, a fire truck, and a bag of smaller toy cars.
10. And a "big gun": scissors and lined paper strips for cutting.

Also packed, but is not featured here (as it was a last-minute addition) a couple of books, a zip lock with a few squirts of finger paint of 4 colors (squirted into 4 corners, then folded carefully, so that the colors don't mix, leaving for Santino to mix them), a roll of masking tape (in case I need to tape something to the table), and my phone, loaded up with the fire trucks videos, Curious George and a few Russian cartoons. I wasn't planning on starting with the videos, and wanted to save this for the last resort, when nothing else helps.

Long story short, our plane travel, with all the delays, lasted over 5 hours instead of 3, and I used almost all of these activities, trying to keep Santino occupied and calm. We didn't take out aqua doodle and finger paint, and playdough, but everything else was taken, played with, tossed and some were even ...hmmm... barfed at.

All my plans went belly up, starting with the night before.

We were supposed to wake up early, like 6:00 am (this is early for us, as our usual wake up time is 7:45). Santino was supposed to sleep all night the way he usually does, but instead, he decided not to fall asleep until 10 pm, and then he woke up around midnight and wouldn't fall asleep again for the next 3 hours, all happy, active and not sleepy at all.

He slept a few hours before we were supposed to leave, didn't fall asleep in the car (as I hoped), and was active and awake all the waiting time before the plane. I let him walk through the airport with us, to make sure he would spend his energy. We were delayed big time, and he ran around a little with 2 older kids, but got tired pretty quickly.

I did let him watch the videos in the beginning, to keep him quiet and calm, because he was on the verge of screaming and crying before we even took off (being so tired and stressed).

When the flight attendant told us to turn off all electronic devices, I started with the sensory bags, and they didn't interest my tired and sleepy toddler. We tried fire truck and dinosaur. When that ran out of novelty, I made Santino sit (which he didn't want to do) by promising him the scissors (plastic ones). He was so happy! I normally don't give him these scissors at home, as he can't concentrate long enough on me explaining the rules, that he can't run around with the scissors in his hands. I had put them away for now until he is more responsive, but this was a perfect opportunity to practice fine motor skills.

No, he can't operate scissors the way adults can, but with my help holding the paper strips, and using 2 hands, he went on to cut the paper strips along the lines I prepared in advance. This was a hit! It occupied us for at least 30-40 minutes.

As we took off, Santino fell asleep pretty quickly and slept most of the travel time. After he woke up, he got sick and soiled his overalls. I was happy I was prepared and quickly changed him into another pair of pants.

Since we arrived, we have been using all our toys here, at my in-laws' house.  We've been reading books, drawing with the paint, playing with cars and dinosaurs. Sensory bags are not in demand, as we spend most of our time outside, playing with the stones, grass, listening to the birds and watching out for the gators :) Soon, after the temperature rises a bit more, we are planning to go to the ocean and play with the sand.