What to do with your kid at the airport?

by Ashley Steel /
Ashley Steel's picture
May 16, 2018 / 2 comments

You've got a lot of stuff, you're tense, you're tired, you're waiting for a plane, and you have a 4 year old (or a 6 yr old or a 9 yr old - they're all restless at the airport). Maybe you have one hour to relax before the first flight or, perhaps, you have 4 hours to enjoy on a layover. Yes!  "relax" and "enjoy" - I said it.

These can be some fun family moments. This really isn't the time to give your kid a snack or divert him/her with a video game. There will be a long flight for that. 

This is the time for action.

Our favorite game is called, aptly enough, "The Airport Game." Survey the available territory, and give a set of simple instructions to your kids like “run around that garbage can three times, then go over and touch that pole, and then come back to me.” 

Dodging the people in the terminal is all part of the game, but staying polite is key, too. This accomplishes the dual purposes of using up time and tiring the kids out. 

Keep your kids within sight at all times, increase the silliness and the exertion, and see how many instructions they can remember.   

Send one parent off on a hike through the airport with a follow-the-leader or a Simon-Says twist. There is usually even a spot where you can manage some relay races or quick sprints (the 10-meter dash for example) and, if you're really out of space, try balancing games. 

What to do with your kid at the airport

How long can you stand on one foot? Can you stand on one foot and hop? Touch your nose?  Wave your arms? Rise up and down on your toes? 

Try some science. Can you stand longer on your left foot or your right foot? Can you spin for 5 seconds and then stand on one foot for a minute? Spin for 10 seconds? How does holding your leg out to the side versus wrapping it around your calf change how well you can balance? Compare family members. Test whether chewing gum improves your balance?

Ten minutes before boarding, wrap it up, and start the bathroom shifts (we have to go in shifts since those little stalls are hard to squeeze into with luggage, even small amounts of luggage).  There will be time enough to catch your breath on board.




MORE articles on airport layovers (if you're stuck in an airport, and looking for something to do):

Totally Nonsarcastic Reasons Why Layovers are Awesome

Hidden Treasures: The Airport Layover (Panama City, Panama)

Four Reasons Why I Love Long Layovers

5 Ways to Spend an Icelandic Layover


Ashley Steel is the Traveling with Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. Read more at  her website and book: www.familyontheloose.com



Note: this article was originally published in 2011 and updated in 2018


Comments (2)

  • Brianna Krueger

    10 years 5 months ago

    Great advice! Last time I was at an airport, a little boy occupied himself by going up and down the moving walkways. Sometimes running, something sitting, sometimes lying. Part of me wanted to join him because I was that bored myself.


  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    10 years 5 months ago

    I'm always bored at airports, and find myself people watching (which makes me much less bored)...

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