Travelling With Kids Part 2 - Top Ten Toys - Not What You'd Think

31 January 2015
Read Time: 2.0 mins

iPads and other techie toys may be your immediate thought to take on a long haul flight to entertain kids but recent research recommends toys like finger puppets are far more effective.

In mid 2014 BBC’s Professor Robert Winston conducted some social research on a two-hour British Airways flight with thirty kids.

 Airports can be friendly places

The children aged two to ten were given a selection of toys and observed by Professor Winston and a team of educational psychologists during the flight.

The big winners were Play-Doh and loom bands that kept the children occupied for the longest and were amongst generally cheaper toys that did the trick for more than 90 minutes.

Dr Vivian Hill, an educational psychologist from the Institute of Education, said: 'Toys that spark the imagination and encourage creativity, rather than static toys like soft toys and dolls, are proven to keep children occupied for sustained periods.'

1. Loom Bands
2. Playdoh
3. Lego
4. Top Trumps
5. Uno
6. Usborne Activity Cards
7. Magnetic travel game
8. Aquadoodle!
9. Finger puppets
10. Sticker book

Professor Winston, said: 'Although the temptation is for parents to play a film in the hope that their child falls asleep, activity based toys, such as lego, sticker books and travel games are also a great way to keep them engaged. 'Bringing out a different toy at regular intervals is guaranteed to keep them quiet for longer than 90 minutes.'

The social experiment came about from a BA survey where the biggest concern for parents when flying was keeping their children entertained. Most parents felt that they failed dismally to go beyond 30 minutes before reaching for the iPad or Gameboy.

Keeping children entertained was also a big issue as a significant number of parents surveyed said they worried about their children if not properly entertained and occupied would disturb other passengers.

Some other tips from Dr Vivian Hill to consider when preparing working what and how to take crucial toys for the trip:

• Buy new toys and games for the flight as newer toys entertain them for longer
• Bring out different toys at regular intervals. Wrapping them and giving them as presents works really well
• Concentrate on packing activities as opposed to static objects such as dolls and cuddly toys
• Think of games with extended play. Finger puppets and activity cards are both toys that can be drawn out to last a lot longer
• Think about games that you don't need to carry. Verbal games like I Spy and Twenty Questions are good ways to pass the flight time

Also taking more engaging toys and activities will be a lifesaver if you are unfortunate and experience flight delays and are holed up at an airport that aren’t known for being kid-friendly.

Other tips to make your flying time, your kids’ and your fellow passenger’s flying time much easier is to try and coordinate eating and sleeping times as close to what is your normal routine.

Familiar snacks and drinks are useful particularly for take-offs and landings as children tend to be more affected by aircraft pressure fluctuations.

Lastly, if your flight is overnight, pack pajamas and try to do dinner and then quiet time to encourage sleep and avoid disrupting sleeping patterns – although a full night’s sleep is perhaps overly optimistic, arriving at a destination with a child who has a good few hours sleep makes for a much happier landing.

(Research information and quotes from “Forget the iPad, pack the Play-Doh: The top toys to take on a plane revealed” – Daily Mail UK published 14 July 2014)

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Tara Young

The experience of travel changes a person. I see my job as highlighting what amazing travel opportunities there are to broaden your knowledge of that great big world beyond your doorstep and what you may learn about yourself on the way.