Keeping kids occupied on a plane

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
what keeps kids occupied

Robert Winston researched kids on flights. Now Sandi Mann thinks she knows what will keep kids occupied on long haul flights

Keeping children occupied on a car journey can be bad enough but on a long haul flight you can get even more frustrated at keeping them out of mischief or from loudly proclaiming so that even the back of the plane can her them that they are bored.

For decades, most airlines have realised this and have had an array of toys, colouring books and gifts in an attempt to allay the boredom. Then came video games in the back of the seat in front and I-pads which could be loaded with Peppa Pig or whatever the current must-see kids show is.

Despite all this kids seem to have the attention spans of lightly boiled eggs so how can parents ensure a smooth, hassle-free journey.

Three year’s ago we ran a story about the ideas of Professor Robert Winston in keeping children occupied. Now an airline, Emirates, may have found a way to help.

According to research conducted by the airline, the three things parents worry about most are entertaining their children (64%), disturbing other passengers (43%) and keeping their kids hydrated. (23%.)

They consulted Dr Sandi Mann, a psychologist and boredom specialist (there must be lots of jokes about that role!) at the University of Central Lancashire to find a solution. She worked with the airline to create the Child Boredom Quotient (CBQ), helping parents identify the exact moment their kids will get bored so they can enjoy stress-free travel. It is based on categorising activities into Active, Passive, Interactive, Creative  or Sensoryto formulate the CBQ, and ultimately help parents mix the perfect blend of activities to catch boredom before it sets in.

She says that when children get to be aged 3-4 they get physically very active, gaining independence and they need more sophisticated things to entertain them than they did when they were younger. An I-pad may not work for all ages as younger children have less attention span than older kids. Watching a film, she says, keeps 0-2 year olds occupied for only about 40 minutes whereas 11-12 year olds can be occupied for as long as 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Dr Mann suggests a film followed by a game on a smart device or an in-flight system will occupy kids from about half-an-hour to about one-and-a-half hours for the oldest kids and then parents should adopt a creative approach such as drawing, quizzes or sticker books.

At this point I disagree with her for she also suggests singing and playing peek-a-boo. Kids playing peek-a-boo think other passengers should join in and grumpy old gits like me don’t want to. As for singing – well noise cancelling headphones help.

Will this work? Since kids, and here comes the philosophical point, are all different what works for one doesn’t work for all much as we hope that it would.

All I can say to parents is good luck. I’ve been there, tried most things and never managed complete harmony!

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