The challenge of flying with your children

Flying from Minnesota to Florida, traveler Cindy Skrien assists a mom she met onboard in entertaining her 1-year- old son.

I was one of the last to board a spring-break flight from snowy Minnesota to sunny Florida. As I stepped from the Jetway into the galley and turned right, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw a cabin filled to the max with families.

Children of all ages were dressed in bright spring clothes, some wear- ing Mickey Mouse ears, and others waving Harry Potter wands, eager to visit theme parks and beaches. This was not the typical business-as-usual flight of coffee-carrying commuters preoccupied with their cellphones and computers.

This could be a long trip, I thought, as kids became fidgety in the second hour of the three-hour flight. Then, like magic, I looked up and our own onboard “Mary Poppins” appeared. She interacted with preschoolers in row 18, then pivoted and engaged school-age kids in 22 with a word game she created. Before long she assisted a mom by carrying her restless son down the aisle announcing it was his first birthday. Spontaneously pas- sengers and flight attendants joined in a rousing “Happy Birthday to Kyle.”

“When kids get a little antsy, that’s when I swing into action,” said our Mary Poppins, aka Cindy Skrien, mom, educator and track coach. “There are so many things to challenge kids’ minds and keep them entertained on a flight.

“New voices, faces, sounds, sights. Look at all the lights, buttons and latches that are fascinating and pure entertainment to a young child. Read numbers and letters for the seats, and match them up. Guess how many rows there are, then count on the way to the rear restrooms.

“And always remember to slide the window shade up and watch the miles fly by. Discover fascinating sites on the ground. Even when it’s dark outside.”

Planning a summer trip by plane? Take tips and inspiration from Cin- dy, and consider these two pre-flight practical strategies to set the stage for keeping kids calm and engaged from takeoff to landing.

• When two adults fly with kids and it’s time to preboard, don’t all jump
in line together. Instead, one adult should board with all the gear and get settled for the flight while the other adult remains in the waiting area to let out kids’ wiggles. Then board last.

• Always bring a wide assortment of healthy snacks and beverages. You’ll never know if you’ll be delayed in the plane prior to takeoff, or what the airline provides for in-flight food and drink.

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