6 tips for flying with kids while learning new vocabulary!

Which language should I speak to my bilingual baby-

Is traveling with kids in the near future for you? Do you have enough tricks up your sleeve?

Traveling can be a great time for a family but there’s something about that plane ride that can be somewhat stressful for families especially on long flights.  Check out these ideas to keep you kids entertained while working on language skills!

For today’s question I am elaborating on a question from the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club forums.

The Question

In the original question, this member was asking for some resources in Spanish to use on the plane to keep her child entertained while on the flight? 

Do you have any that come to mind right away? 

I saved this topic for this episode since we are in the middle of the travel season for many parts of the world and many of you will be doing your fair share of travel round this time.  If you are not traveling right this minute, save this episode for later!

The answer

In the forums we rallied around this member and shared some of our favorite apps and videos that she could download in advance of her flight.  We also have a resources section in our forums where we share these tools.

In this episode, I expand on what type of activities you may be able to implement for your next trip that not only keep your kids entertained but also learning a little bit of language!

I have been there, getting on the plane and sweating bullets as you walk down the aisle because everyone is looking at you and wondering… “Oh great, how is your kid going to behave on this flight?”

This can be a big source of stress for parents so let’s see how I can help you relax a little bit.

1)      Apps & Videos – These can go a long way on a flight especially if your child does not always have access to them. Just make sure that the expectation and the content you have got downloaded is in the target language.  Make it a non-negotiable with your kids.

2)      In flight magazines–  Repurpose the airline magazines and have a conversation with your children about the pictures in the magazine.  Use them as a conversation starter.

  1. For babies, focus on sounds.
  2. For toddlers, select specific target words and point them out in the picture.
  3. For preschoolers, practice past tense and future tense.
  4. For older children, work on story telling with pictures.

3)      Rhyme Time – On those longs flights, you need to keep things interesting.  Rhyming is a great way to have some fun with language.  You may find that your child needs a lot of help if you are just starting to introduce rhyming to them. Start out simple and pick two pairs that rhyme with each other.  Write down each of the words on an individual line in a sheet of paper.  Tell your child the word and ask them to make a sentence that ends with that word.  You may have to model it first.  It does not matter if the sentences they come up with are silly and have no relationship to each other.  We are teaching them how to rhyme.  You could also take turns and have them come up with the words.

4)      “Yes or No” – This game was actually shared by the creator of Love Your Lingo, Una McCarthy Fahkry on the Bilingual Avenue Facebook page after I shared a podcast episode on how to play with language on those long car rides with your children. (See what you are missing out if you are not a fan of the Bilingual Avenue Facebook page? I post all the podcast episodes on there so you can provide comments and I can write you back.  Make sure to like it if you have not yet.)

But anyway back to the strategy.  In this case, tell your child that they cannot say either Yes or No when communicating with you. Not only is this fun for them but you get them to broaden their vocabulary too.  I like to take turns when playing this game.  This allows me, once again, to model alternatives to Yes or No and show my daughter more vocabulary words.

5)      What’s happening below? – For our older children and those that enjoy storytelling, one fun idea is to ask them what they think is happening below.  Look out the window and start a conversation with your child.  Let their imagination run wild even if it takes a little prompting from you.  You could also even write out what they are describing or if they are old enough, they can draw it themselves.  Remember that there are a lot of benefits to writing down the stories that your children are sharing with you.  Not only is it a powerful memory for them later on but then you also get to show them writing conventions along with how to put a story together.

6)      Describe and guess – This is essentially an alternative to “I Spy.”  Take a look around your area and see if you can find some interesting things to talk about.  The value of activities like “I Spy” is that we can teach concepts, use adjectives and have some fun while we are at it.

So what did I miss?  What other activities do you like to use when traveling that promote language and keep the kids engaged? I’d love to know.  You can comment on the Facebook page or in the comments section on this episodes show notes at bilingualavenue.com/episode132

Now here are some suggestion parent to parent on what to do when flying with your little ones.  These are not necessarily related to language but just based on my experience flying with the kids.  I’ll just share these rapid fire:

–          Stuck up on blue tape! Stickers are fun to play with until your child places them everywhere but the sticker book you nicely packed for them.  Blue tapes comes right off!

–          Sugar snacks are not your friend! Gummies may be a great negotiating tool until the sugar rush hits and it’s all over.

–          Ask the flight attendant for extra plastic cups. Babies love the sound they make when they play with it and older children love to get creative with them.

–          Drinks help little ears on take-off and landing so make sure to bring some of your own.  You are likely not going to get any from the flight attendant until you are deep into the flight.

–          A baby carrier at the other end will save your sanity.  Carriers are helpful if you have a baby and even more so if you are traveling with two or more kids.

–          Toddler headphones will save your fellow passengers’ sanity.  Make sure to get a size that fits and that is gentle on their little ears.

–          Your hand luggage is no longer your own.  Be strategic with what you pack in there it is almost all going to be your sanity savers.


Hope you found these tips helpful!



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