Getting a toddler to stay calm starts before you leave.
Traveling with toddlers has got to be every airplane passenger's worst nightmare, and it's no joyride for the parents either. From whining to climbing all over everything, from spilling their drinks and food to making very loud, often cringe-worthy observations about people sitting near you, toddlers make everything more complicated. Getting your child to behave calmly throughout the trip requires foresight and planning on the part of the parent.
1Kids need to know what to expect. They'll be amped up for the trip. They'll be excited and ready to party. Make it more real for them. Explain to them all the steps of traveling, from driving to the airport, parking and waiting in the terminal to getting to your seats and taking off. Since they're toddlers, you'll be able to explain this again and again. Yes, it may get boring for you, but they'll be in rapt attention, wanting to hear the next part of the story. When the time comes, they'll light up at each new step, knowing they're living what you've been telling them about for days. They'll be engrossed in the process, and less likely to make trouble.
2Engage and distract your children with their surroundings. The window seat provides changing scenery that can keep kids busy for glorious moments at a time. They'll need a new topic every few minutes, so use the different landscapes to your advantage. Point out houses, clouds, lakes and rivers -- anything that passes by. Ask questions that your child can answer. And don't get used to your aisle seat. Soon enough, you'll probably need to switch, so that your child can see the snack trays as they come down the way. Anything that can keep your little one's interest quietly will help your trip pass quickly.
3Pack a bag with coloring books, small toys and dolls, and magazines that you can produce on demand, before the volume of your child's voice turns up. As each activity loses its flair, put it away and take out a new one, interweaving the activities with conversation and observations about your surroundings. Keep a lot of snacks handy, too. Use the plane's movies and shows to distract your children when you can, but know that they won't last for the entire show time, and be prepared with the next game before your child takes the headphones off.
4That SkyMall issue you've seen a million times is all new to your child. The air vent buttons, light buttons, seat retractor and instruction booklet have never been seen before. Use them. Explain each ad in the magazine if you have to. Show the children what the vents and lights do, and explain to them what they are for (you don't want them thinking they can turn them on and off repeatedly). Go through the contents of the airplane seat pocket. Show them the remote on the armrest of their chair, and how it operates the television screen. Give them control and they won't feel forced to take it in a loud and obnoxious way.