Plane rides are normally not very fun for kids (or adults); There’s usually no wifi, no on-demand movies and tv, and not much movement. Although there are perks, like knowing you’re going somewhere cool at the flight’s end and getting free snacks and drinks. The idea of a 3, 4, even 5-hour flight seems daunting to adults, let alone small children. Luckily, basic concepts used in yoga can be used to calm down and entertain kids on an airplane, although these should not be substituted for bringing a plethora of toys and games onto the plane to keep the little ones engaged and in a good mood.
First, I’ll start with something you should avoid: excessive use of essential oils or other “smelly” stuff. Yes, different oils can help children and adults avoid motion sickness or make them tired so that they sleep on longer or overnight flights, but it could be potentially dangerous to the people sitting around you (asthma, sensitivities, etc.). Not only that but smelling an overwhelming citrus scent may not be the most pleasurable while stuck in a giant metal tube in the sky. So using a little is totally fine, but if you can do it before you even get on the plane, I’m sure the people sitting near you will be thankful.
Something you can (and should!) do on a plane is use small bits of meditation when the kids get restless or bored. In my opinion, kids love the Secret Garden meditation, and even if they’ve done it numerous times before, it’s fun for them to come up with a new garden each time. If you wanted to make it more airplane or travel-related, instead of having them picture a garden, guide them to envision their perfect vacation spot or what would be on their perfect airplane. Particularly if the kids have done Secret Garden before, you don’t have to guide them through the full thing, just pick the bits and pieces where you think they may have trouble keeping focused. But be warned, this won’t keep their focus for as long as it normally would in a controlled home or yoga class environment, as there is a lot of noise and distractions on a plane.
Kids on a long plane ride (or car ride, or walk, or boat trip…) are bound to complain a little bit about how their arms, or legs, or back, or feet hurt. In all honesty, they are more than likely to be completely honest and truthful! Airplanes are not the most comfortable things to sit in for extended periods of time, especially when you’re little and don’t fit the seat properly. Kids can stretch out their bodies by twisting around in the seat (for their back), leaning down and grabbing their legs or feet (back and legs), or doing “eagle arms” (arms). Teaching them how to help themselves when they’re uncomfortable is important because they will become self-dependent, and not always rely on you, other people, or even medication to help them when they’re not feeling great.
This one may sound obvious and simple, but printing out mandala coloring sheets ahead of time, bringing colored pencils, markers, or crayons, and then letting the kids color them in is truly very relaxing and fun for them. Bonus points if you color with them because they really do think it’s SO COOL when their parent does something with them… it makes them feel grown up and even more so a part of the family.
Of course, this isn’t a fully-exhaustive list of ideas of yoga-related activities to do with your little ones on a flight, but hopefully some of these give a jumping off point for shaping a calm and happy plane ride with the kids when heading to your next vacation or destination.