I'm a Seattle parent on the brink of a career change.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

3 Digital Distractions to Keep Kids Civilized

(Warning: baby is the director. After watching this video you'll either feel like a ragdoll or as though you rode in a washing machine.)

I've been reading a lot of online commentary about how noisy kids are and whether they should be allowed in public places like restaurants, movie theaters, or on planes where adults are trying to enjoy themselves. Seriously? One plane passenger asked if I'd considered giving my daughter Tylenol before our flight. I know it stinks to hear crying on a flight, but trust me when I say the parents are doing everything they know to provide comfort.

I'm squarely in favor of responsive, responsible parenting, and also for giving parents a little bit of latitude. Yes kids can be noisy and do need reminding to respect others. Don't adults need that reminder too, on occasion?

As a parent of very young children I make extra accomodations to reduce our noise. We watch our movies at home, though there might be a special daddy-daughter trip to the theater on the horizon. Our kids are usually in bed by 8:00, not hanging in romantic restaurants. When we are out in public, I almost always remember snacks, books, or toys to keep little minds busy.

But even the best among us forget the snack, book, or toy. And maybe you're not up for I Spy games or telling stories. Here are a few distractions you might already have that could buy you a few minutes when you can't remove a cranky child from the scene:

1) iPhone. My friend credits the iPhone for teaching her daughter to read. She's an attentive mom and I think she meant the phone was a great opportunity to practice! We like these alphabet flashcards. I found a terrific post by Travel Savvy Mom naming her favorites.

2) Digital camera's video function. Our point & shoot has proven very durable to rough handling by toddlers, who are fascinated to see their own image on the screen. The video above was taken by my daughter on the airplane. That camera got her through at least 30 minutes of a 5 hour flight; not bad.

3) Bring a laptop, DVD player, or, on Alaska Airlines flights, rent a digEplayer. Yes we could buy a DVD player, but our daughter doesn't know it yet and she thinks having her own player is a really special treat for airplane rides.

I think we're all doing our best to teach our children great manners. But they're children after all, and There Will Be Noise. After trying your best in a difficult situation, for your own sanity, remember that you don't have to satisfy a someone else's expectations for public behavior. I think most people will recognize that your best effort is enough!


  1. I really liked your post. Wow a 5 hour flight, I hope she did well. I loved watching her video!!

  2. How sad that our society is becoming so anti-children that it is even a question of whether or not you can or should take your child with you someplace. Tylenol? Really? Gee, why not knock-out drops. People kill me sometimes. Great tips for keeping the little ones busy and quiet though. On the non-digital front, Laurie foam puzzles (or even cheap dollar store ones) are wonderful too. The pieces are easy to handle and are quiet on a table or lapdesk. And don't forget the ever-popular coloring book and crayons.

  3. I've heard about foam puzzles & foam mosaics too; great items to pack without adding a lot of weight! Thank you for visiting.


  4. Hi Pepper, thank you for checking out the video! My baby doesn't like to sit still as long as my preschooler, but we did survive the flight. Travel is tough with kids but still so worthwhile!