By Tara C.
Since my oldest son was born, I’ve flown with at least one child in tow between 15 and 20 times. Over the years, I’ve developed some habits that seem to work pretty well for me.
I have two basic tenets for feeding kids on a plane:
- Food is entertainment. My feeding philosophy on a plane is completely different from at home. At home, I’m concerned about the nutritional balance of what they’re eating. Are they getting enough vitamins? Protein? At home, I would never encourage my kids to snack just to kill some time. But on a plane? You betcha. We can worry about the vegetables later. My main goal is to keep my kids happy and entertained. I always pack more food than I think we’ll need. You never know when you’ll be delayed.
- Minimize the mess. The confined spaces on a plane are guaranteed to amplify any messes. And any foods your kids eat will probably be smeared on you as well, especially if you have a lap infant. I try really hard to clean up after my kids. I figure the flight attendants have enough to deal with without having to pick up my kids’ crushed Cheerios.
The set up:
- Each child gets an empty water cup to fill at a water fountain after we get through security. My older two children (5 and 8) now carry most of their own things, and I hold on to the toddler’s things.
- I start with a gallon-sized plastic bag. I put in this bag: a packet of handwipes, 8-10 paper towels or napkins, a vinyl bib for the toddler, a rag/kitchen towel for wiping up any bigger spills, and a couple more plastic bags for isolating any items that end up disgusting. I fold the paper towels individually so that it’s easier to pull them out one at a time than it would be if they were all folded into one big packet. I usually also include another empty lidded cup for the toddler. He now likes to get juice or milk when the flight attendant cart comes by, and he’s less likely to spill with a lidded cup.
- In your carry-on bag, pack a change of clothes for each child AND for yourself. Please learn from my experience—once you’ve been vomited on at the beginning of a 6-hour flight, you will always remember to bring a change of clothes.
- Pretzels, small crackers, dry cereal, granola bars, dried fruits, chopped grapes, and orange wedges are all good choices. I wouldn’t bother bringing anything that needs an icepack to keep it cold.
- Boxes/containers work better than bags. Bags with crackers or pretzels tend to get crushed. Bananas tend to get crushed too, in my experience. I usually fill several snack-sized containers with little crackers, pretzels and cereal.
- Try to come up with activities your kids can do with their food before they eat it. For example, bring some string or pipe cleaners along with some Cheerios. Younger kids like to string the cereal to make a bracelet or necklace, then eat it.
- I have gift-wrapped snacks before. It sounds ridiculous, but it kills a little time and the kids like it.
- Avoid chocolate. It tends to melt on kids’ hands and get smeared everywhere.
- Carry an emergency stash. When all else fails and you REALLY need to distract your kids, have some treats ready that are guaranteed to get their attention. For me, this usually includes lollipops. Sucking on a lollipop during take-off and landing can also help with kids whose ears are hurting from altitude changes.
I try to be considerate and prepared. But really, kids are not meant to sit still for hours at a time and there’s only so much you can do to placate them. If things don’t go well, try to ignore the glares of your fellow passengers as you exit the plane. With any luck, you will never see them again.
Happy travels! We took the liberty of making you a Cheerios bracelet in case you get hungry during the flight.
Now it’s your turn. What do you feed your kids on the plane? Any tricks up your sleeve?