Flying with Small Children

Posted on Sunday July 13, 2014 in Travel


It’s summer, which means vacation for thousands of families. Whether it’s the North American pilgrimage to Disney, visiting family, or just seeing disparate family members, flying with kids is not easy at any age. Here are some times for making the airplane ride as enjoyable as possible for you as well as your fellow travellers.

The Airplane Ride

Our last flight was intimidating because we had to keep three very young children busy but in their seats for six hours on a nonstop flight across the continent. Our oldest was intrigued by the plane and take off, but got bored fast. The babies needed constant entertainment. Overall we were able to keep them in their seats, quietly playing with toys, and fed to satisfaction so there were no tears or bouts of yelling. If anyone else on the plane was disturbed, it was by the presence of children on the plane, not by noise or invasion of space.

Key takeaways from this excursion were:

  1. Seat Selection: It cost more to pre-book the seats but I am glad we did. As it was we took an entire row just for our family. If we had left it to chance the flight crew would have tried to arrange for us to move together once all the passengers had boarded, but it wasn’t a guarantee. That would have been messy.

  2. Seat Location: We sat as far back as possible on the plane. This was good because most other passengers try to sit near the front of the plane so the back tends to be emptier. We had a great view of the latrine which came in handy for the many in-air diaper changes (what an adventure!).

  3. Feeding: We were still on a three hour schedule for feeding the baby, but fortunately we didn’t need to give him prepared bottles. We bought milk after passing security and managed with sippy cups for the older kids. The flight crew were kind enough to warm up the youngest one’s bottle with milk for us.

    If you are traveling with smaller children, most airlines are able to warm bottles for you (but check ahead!). You are allowed to carry on as much powdered formula as you need but airport security may want to check any prepared bottles. Honestly, if you have to fly with an infant ready-made bottles are your friend assuming your baby doesn’t have an intolerance. They can be consumed at room temperature and are pretty easy to carry around.

  4. Entertainment: Three kids meant three carry-on bags, which we took advantage of to stuff full of small toys. Every thirty minutes or so we would bring out a new toy and put the old one back, keeping things new and interesting. The tactic worked!

    This was before the rise of the iPad – totally bring your iPad if you can!

  5. Time of Day: I booked the flight for nap time! Although there was a lot of excitement and distraction, all of the kids took turns sleeping on the flight. I can’t say enough how thankful we were for those down times!

Other Travellers

No matter how well behaved your kids are there will be other travellers on the plane who have their nose bent out of shape about having to share the cabin space with children. Don’t let them bother you. Honestly the engine noise is louder than any whiney kid; people need to come prepared with headphones and their own entertainment.

At the same time remember that people generally do not board a plane (or bus, or boat) looking to socialize with other travellers - they typically want to be left alone and eke out as much personal space as they can. Your child may be absolutely cute and delightful, but that doesn’t mean other passengers appreciate getting googly eyes, touched, stared at, or otherwise interacted with by uninvited children.

The morale of the story is keep your kids forward facing and entertained. You’re expected to parent your child - that can be a tough job! One day they’ll be grown enough to manage on their own and you can sleep through your flights again, but when you have small kids to take care of that’s all you need to think about doing.


Do you have any horror stories or funny tales to share from your experiences traveling with your kids? Share them below!

It's Faster Down Under

Posted on Tuesday July 8, 2014 in Home

After spending some time looking at the website analytics, I noticed two things. First, a lot of our readers are visiting from Australia! Second, the average page load time for those readers is around 15 seconds. Ouch!

I’ve changed the way this blog is distributed so it is now being served from around the world. Whether you’re in North America, Europe or Australia, the response times ought to be a lot better now.

Thanks to everyone for continuing to come back and support our efforts here. There is new content on the way!

Not What I Meant

Posted on Monday April 29, 2013 in Toddlers
Do you want to make crafts today?
What craft do you want to make?
Kraft Dinner!

In Support of the Time Out

Posted on Sunday January 15, 2012 in Parenting

Most parents have heard of the "time out" - a technique for achieving obedience and reducing bad behaviour in your children by separating them from the family group or problem activity for a short period of time. There are people who oppose time outs for children on the basis that "isolation" can harm their overall well-being by making them feel unloved and unwanted. Based upon my own experience I disagree with this assessment.

Like most children, mine are intelligent, curious, playful, good-natured and kind. Also, like most children, mine lack world experience due to their very young age. They don't know what can and can't hurt them; therefore it is my job as a parent to keep them safe while providing them an abundance of opportunity to be independent and explore their environment. It's a tough line to walk but for me the standard is "parent first, friend second".

So I warn them but let them climb the chair knowing that they don't have perfect balance and are going to fall off. I let them fight (just a little, before it gets out of control) so they learn how to resolve conflicts without adult intervention. I gently provide as much guidance as they are willing to accept and then I let them learn from the outcome of their own decisions.

But sometimes a firm hand is needed. That fight gets out of control, or they insist on climbing a less-than-sturdy table, or they're overtired and can't control their screaming and thrashing. At the end of the day my kids aren't yet stable, independent adults - they're just on their way there. Which mean it's time for me to step in and control the situation.

The time out is a terrific tool because it is calm and authoritative without being an outright punishment. When one of my kids loses control of himself, I walk him to the corner of the room - away from toys and out of sight of the television and any distractions - tell him what he did to be put on a time out, and have him sit for 1-2 minutes to calm down.

Since toddlers can sometimes get into tantrums of extreme flailing rage, I stick around to make sure he doesn't hurt himself. The thing to remember is that young children lack the mental capacity to handle their frustrations, and often the only way they can express their frustration is by crying, screaming, and being physically violent. I don't buy into people who say you can "talk it out" in every situation - children sometimes need to be given an opportunity to get their emotions out of their system before any reasonable conversation can take place. This is a major difference between a young child and a grown-up.

After he has been calm for those minutes we hug it out and talk about why we needed to take a time out. What is the underlying cause of this frustration or behaviour? If the conflict was with another child, we can get together and work through how to share, or play nicely, or whatever it was that caused the unwanted behaviour.

I'm finding as my oldest is approaching 4 years old, just warning him of a timeout is enough to have him stop and correct his behaviour, or at least have a conversation about why he is misbehaving. Very often it falls into one of three causes:

  1. Jealous over attention given to a sibling
  2. Being over-tired and in need of rest
  3. A desire to become more independent, therefore testing his boundaries

In all cases it's fine to be understanding, but as parents it is our job to maintain a safe and harmonious household. If the kids refuse to do as they're told, you need to take immediate action to correct that. It may be something as harmless as playing in the living room where you can see them today, rather than in the hallway. But tomorrow, it may be something serious, such as telling them to stay close to you in a parking lot so they don't get hit by a car. If they don't listen to you now, why would they do it in a truly dangerous situation? Answer: They won't.

So be prepared to back up what you say with discipline, and don't ask them to do anything you aren't willing to fight to get them to do because at some point your bluff will be called. That's why I try to be as laid back as possible with my kids and I try to only tell them to do things when I'm really serious about having those things done. It's hard work, but our children rely on us to be strong, consistent, and provide structure.

They're growing up really fast, and I will always be that rock, that pillar of strength for my kids. I'll pick my battles. And I'll enjoy every minute of time I get with them.

What to do When Your Child Eats a Wild Mushroom

Posted on Tuesday January 3, 2012 in Toddlers
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gonmi

We were outside raking and suddenly my daughter picked a mushroom from the ground and popped it into her mouth before we could say 'NO!'. Sometimes being within arms reach just isn't enough - those little people are fast!

Don't panic. In our case we were raking around a pine tree and the mushrooms we have a probably not poisonous. But it's impossible to tell unless you're a mycologist, and even then it is common for poisonous and non-poisonous species to grow in the same area. The toxic spores can get metabolized inside a child's body rapidly, and some fungi are capable of killing within hours.

Here's what to do when your child has eaten an unknown mushroom:

  1. Don't panic. Rushing and getting upset will not help the situation, could scare your child, and could lead to hazardous mistakes. Even the most deadly mushrooms take time to do their work, and hallucinogenic spores will make your child loopy but you will reach the hospital in time to prevent serious complications. Don't panic.
  2. Only if your child is in distress - call 911. If your child is having trouble breathing, their pulse is weak or jumpy, or they are suddenly lethargic, this is a medical emergency and you are right to call the paramedics. If your child is business-as-usual so far, you can prepare to bring them to the hospital yourself.
  3. Call poison control (not 911). Notify poison control that your child has swallowed a potentially harmful fungus and that you are proceeding to the nearest hospital. They will assess the situation and will call the hospital on your behalf to announce your arrival. If you are in Canada, the provincial poison control phone numbers can be found here.
  4. Load your child into the car and drive to the nearest hospital. Monitor your child's condition and if a medical emergency develops pull over and call 911 for help.
  5. Do not present any food or water to the child until the doctor gives the green light.

Everything worked out well with my daughter. Since we live in the country it took a good 45 minutes to drive to the hospital where they were waiting to rush us through triage and straight to see the doctor. I had to hold her down while they administered charcoal, which binds to any toxins that might have been ingested with the mushrooms so they get passed rather than absorbed into her body. It was horrible, thick, messy stuff - but despite gagging and struggling she didn't have any trouble keeping it down. Afterward we stayed for a few hours for observation and were released with no further problems.

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