It’s one of the most embarrassing experiences a parent can face: Your child has a meltdown in a public place. I daresay that when a tantrum takes place on a confined airplane at 30,000 feet, it’s even worse. The stress of dealing with high-pitched screams and flailing limbs is enough to make you want to jump out of the window (OK, perhaps not really, but almost).
Save yourself — and those around you — the agony of such a display by preparing for your trip with a toddler the way a soldier prepares for combat: With an arsenal. Your arsenal, of course, won’t be one made of bullets and rifles, but rather creative ideas and some unexpected surprises that will keep your little one so enthralled, she won’t have the chance to display an impressive impersonation of a screaming missile.
I love art. You could say that I’m drawn to it. To inspire an appreciation of art in Sherman, I not only surround him with the beauty of the masters — Da Vinci, Matisse, Picasso — but I give him the tools to create his own. I’ll never forget his first word, which convinced me that he was a budding virtuoso: Dada. There’s no better way to distract your children on a long flight — and inspire their artistic tendencies in the process — than by purchasing drawing pads, coloring books, crayons and markers to keep them occupied. The best thing is, you don’t even need to spend a lot of Monet!
Be a performer
I recall Shakespeare telling me that all the world’s a stage and we are just players in it. I daresay that applies to being up in an airplane, too, so bring storybooks to read to your child in your best acting voice. Role-play the different characters and set the scene with drama and flair. Nothing enthralls a child more than a well-told story. The Bard of Avon would be proud.
Let technology be your helpmate
Groucho Marx found television to be very educating. Every time somebody turned on the set, he went into the other room to read a book. I can’t say I disagree with his thinking, however there are times to make exceptions. This is one of them. Even if you don’t usually let your child watch much TV, load your smartphone or tablet with kid-friendly videos and games or take advantage of any available in-flight video choices.
Get up and walk around
Sherman once told me that he didn’t know anything about ancient Egypt. “Tut, tut, tut,” I said, “this won’t do,” so off we went to the Land of the Nile to investigate. While your confines on the plane won’t allow such a grand adventure, you may find that taking your child on a small airborne field trip proves to be a great distraction. The curiosities of the teeny tiny airplane bathroom are bound to fascinate. Ditto for the kitchen. It’s a great way to stretch your legs, too.
Have a secret stash
Nothing beats boredom, the father of many a tantrum, better than a pleasant surprise. Before the flight, go to a discount store and stock up on some inexpensive toys, books and healthy treats that you can entice your child with when you’re in the air. As Napoleon Bonaparte has reminded me, strategy is key — don’t reveal all the goodies at the same time. Instead, space them out throughout the trip. Your own Little General will be mightily pleased.
MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN arrives on Digital HD on Sept. 23 and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on Oct. 14.