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How one family is crafting kid-friendly AvGeek adventures at home

April 11, 2020
7 min read
How one family is crafting kid-friendly AvGeek adventures at home
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Most commercial aircraft are temporarily grounded, but in one Chicago household a 4-year-old’s flights of imagination are taking off daily from the family’s dining room table.Oliver Reid-Bleitner, a budding AvGeek, folds and glues elaborate, detailed paper airplanes as part of his stay-at-home routine, which began when Chicago schools and day care centers closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Ground support comes from his parents, Dave Bleitner (co-engineer for Oliver’s airplane construction project) and Casey Reid (communications expert). Like many families, they are now both working from home and coming up with ways to entertain and educate their kids while maintaining their work lives.

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TPG asked what life was like when normal scheduling grinds to a halt, and rounded up some suggestions for other activities for kids -- all about airports, airplanes and going places when you can't go anywhere yet.

Casey, director of alumni and advancement communications at a Chicago-area university, says she is becoming an expert air traffic controller for Oliver and his 2-year-old sister Bryce, who adds a little "chaos" to the household hub. Since she has been working from home, Casey says it's not unusual for airplanes made of Mega Bloks to fly overhead while she works -- but Oliver says the congestion at home is not a match for O'Hare yet. "It's not a very busy airport," says Oliver of the irregular flight patterns he generates in the family living room. Even busy pilots like a little downtime, so he eagerly anticipates the quiet part of his day -- his aircraft-ing project with his dad, a hands-on guy who is co-founder of award-winning Off-Color Brewing in Chicago. Although operations are partially shut down because of the pandemic, he still makes beer -- and paper airplanes.

Aircraft-ing with dad while grounded at home during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Casey Reid)
Aircraft-ing with dad while grounded at home during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Casey Reid)
Oliver and Bryce on a REAL plane. (Photo by Casey Reid)
Oliver and Bryce on a REAL airplane. (Photo by Casey Reid)

When Chicago’s stay-at-home orders were put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus, the Reid-Bleitner family rebooked its day-to-day itinerary.Dave and Oliver set out to the craft store in search of projects to see the kids through a month or more at home. According to Casey, about $200 later, they were equipped with Kinetic Sand, finger paints, an Easter Egg dyeing kit, tons of craft paper, Lego cars, a Crayola coloring board -- and a paper airplane model book, “Planes: A Complete History.”

'Planes' has press-out models and the history of each plane. (Photo by Casey Reid)
'Planes' has press-out models and the history of each plane. (Photo by Casey Reid)

“Planes,” which is available at Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble, Michaels and at the AirMuseumGuide website, is a two-part book with 50 press-out models of historic and contemporary aircraft and a detachable history book with information about aircraft technology.Oliver, a transportation fanatic, is also fascinated by trains, cars and boats. But his pandemic passion is airplanes. His favorite plane – just like Brian Kelly, The Points Guy himself – is the Airbus A380.

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Oliver’s own toy collection includes aircraft models with the liveries of Southwest, Jet Blue, Delta and American, as well as Air Force One and a fighter jet. His most recent arrivals are the paper airplanes he crafts every afternoon with his dad. The planes take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to assemble, according to Dave. After reading about the history of the planes they make, each one is tied to a string to soar on the ceiling of Oliver's bedroom.

The latest addition to the collection is The Spirit of St. Louis.

The Spirit of St. Louis joins the fleet. (Photo by Casey Reid)
The Spirit of St. Louis joins the fleet. (Photo by Casey Reid)
A busy airspace over Oliver’s bed at all times of the day. (Photo by Casey Reid)

In addition to the paper airplane project, Dave spends his time on other paperwork: applying for small-business loans under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in anticipation of a post-pandemic reboot. Meanwhile, as the stay-at-home days stack up and the paper airplane models proliferate, Dave has relabeled the brewery's popular Zwicklebier-style lager “You Can’t Take Me Anywhere Nice” to just "You Can't Take Me Anywhere."

Off Color Brewing's label changed to “You Can’t Take Me Anywhere” for this stay-at-home period. (Image courtesy of Off Color Brewing)
Off Color Brewing's label changed to “You Can’t Take Me Anywhere” for this stay-at-home period. (Image courtesy of Off Color Brewing)

While your family is temporarily grounded, here are some TPG travel- and aviation-themed suggestions for your crew at home:

Books about planes, airports and places to go

Games and puzzles

Don't forget: You can also check out a virtual tour of the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.!

Featured image by Getty Images/Uppercut RF

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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees