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When news of the electronics ban broke earlier this week, I really didn’t know what to expect, especially since I’m about to take an overseas flight with my two toddlers next week — my first thought before I heard all the details was, “No iPads? Now what?!” Thankfully, my flights to and from Lisbon aren’t going to be affected, but this got me thinking about other parents who might be preparing to travel with their kids on flights that are part of it. Flying with toddlers is hard enough, and with so many parents packing iPads, portable DVD players and other go-to electronic gadgets for them to enjoy in-flight, it’s about to get much harder without them.

Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to use Etihad’s in-flight nanny service, most parents out there are now wondering how they’ll be able to cope with entertaining their little ones on board, especially since we’ve all become so dependent on technology ourselves. The good news is people have been flying with children long before iPads and electronics came along, so we already know that it’s possible. I’ve done plenty of gadget-free flights with my kids, mostly because they’ll fight over things and don’t like sharing, but that’s a different story. This ban is forcing us to rewind a bit and get back to basics, and trust me, it’s actually not as bad as it sounds. Here are four tips to ensure your toddlers stay entertained and enthusiastic on a flight that’s affected by the electronics ban:

1. Get Them Excited About Flying

First and foremost, every time I travel with my kids, I amp up the flight so much — sometimes, even weeks beforehand — and get them excited about the overall experience way before we have our boarding passes in hand. I spell out everything for them: where we’re going, the color of the airplane, where we’ll be sitting and how we’ll get there from start to finish. Doing this not only prepares them so they know what to expect on the travel day, it also reminds them that flying is a real treat and they’ll have to be on their best behavior while we do it.

Nothing entertains little ones like the view from the window seat.

2. Set an In-Flight Routine

In general, toddlers and young children need structure, and it’s up to the parents to set boundaries. When I am traveling on a long flight without electronics or in-flight entertainment, I like to pre-plan structured time for certain activities so that the kids don’t get bored when presented with everything at once. When we’re flying, I’ll designate a dedicated snack time, coloring time and story time, just like at home.

3. Bring Along Mess-Free Activities

I’m all about packing light, but also having things on hand for my kids to play with. Some of my favorite things to bring on board are Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Books — just fill the wand with a bit of water and you have a coloring book that can be used over and over again — a book or two (bonus if it’s a “Look and Find Book” where they can find specific items on the pages) and perhaps a learning toy like the Boogie Board E-Writer, which hopefully won’t fall under the electronics ban because it’s awesome.

4. Talk to Each Other

One thing that seems to have gone obsolete in general as humans continue to become addicted to electronics is human interaction. A long flight without electronics to occupy our time forces us to go back to something that’s so under-appreciated: good, quality conversation. I love talking to my kids when we fly — I usually teach them some words they may hear in the country we’re visiting, explain what’s happening onboard, and sometimes, if possible, encourage them to ask the flight attendants questions or engage in small talk with other passengers sitting around us.

See? Flying without electronics can be fun! Image by Angelina Aucello.
See? Flying without electronics can be fun!

Bottom Line

A ban on electronic devices really isn’t as daunting as it may seem — think of it as a blessing in disguise because it’ll force us to take a step back and really focus on the moment at hand. Having some downtime is not a bad thing; it allows children to be creative and imaginative on their own.

And if you really don’t think you can deal with a completely electronic-free flight, don’t fret. Most smartphones are not included in the ban and you can always load yours up with kid-friendly apps and games — I use an old iPhone 5 specifically for this — or, if the in-flight entertainment system looks good, let them tune into a movie or two with a toddler-specific headset.

What do you think about all this? How would you keep young kids entertained during a flight without electronic gadgets? Sound off, below.

Angelina Aucello covers family travel for TPG and writes the popular blog, Angelina Travels. Follow along with all her travel adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

All photos by the author.

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