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Kicking Children. Airplane.
October 8, 2009 2:12 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop my toddlers from kicking the seat in front of them on an airplane?

Can anyone suggest possible solutions for preventing or blocking a 19 month old toddler from kicking the airplane seat in front of them? Does some sort of shield-like contraption exist that keeps their feet from connecting?

My wife and I have flown with my kids a handful of times now, and as they've gotten older and taller, we've had to use our hands to block them from repeatedly kicking the seat front of them. That's only moderately successful. It makes every flight endless, as we (and presumably the people in the next row,) pray for them to fall (and stay) asleep.

They're too young to fly in a bulkhead seat, which would give them plenty of room. They're also still too young to be reasoned with... or bribed with a pony. (I tried.) Inexplicably, my wife still refuses let me pack them in with the luggage. ;)

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
posted by zarq to Travel & Transportation (56 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you can solve this problem, there is a Nobel Prize with your name on it.

We tried begging, threatening and the hand method. Each worked sporadically on a different child. We finally changed the configuration of the seats we asked for. We would sit one child in Window and parent next to them. In the row directly behind that, we would sit child in window and middle with parent on aisle

CP
CCP

THis way the kicks were to ourselves but for the one in the front row who was usually the one who was at that moment most cooperative. "Special treat to sit with mom if you don't kick" type of enticement. Mom would have a special treat for that one if (s)he did not kick.

Usually it ended up girls in front and hooligans (boys) next row.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:17 PM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


3 things I forgot to mention:

On US carriers, kids in car seats must be in a window seat. We take the seats next to them.

What my wife and I do now is buy four seats in two rows, one directly behind the other. My wife sits in one row with one kid, and I sit in the second row with our other child. This means that one kid will be kicking their sibling's chair, but doesn't help matters for the people sitting in front of the remaining child.

They're twins. 19 months.
posted by zarq at 2:18 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


We bring a small portable DVD player with us when we fly with our child. He very quickly learned that if he kicks, "Thomas" gets turned off. Not sure how that would work with two children in two separate rows. Maybe they could take turns, with the "kicker" getting to watch a DVD and the "kickee" reading a book with the other parent.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:22 PM on October 8, 2009


when you make the reservations, try to get the front row (no seats in front)
posted by bunny hugger at 2:22 PM on October 8, 2009


My wife and I decided that our daughter (now 25 months) flies better without the car seat, after two 6hr. trips with and now 3 trips without. She has her own seat since about 18 months where she can move around, color on the tray, put stickers on every surface, hold and put down her own juice box, and look around the plane. When she was younger we held her in our lap like a lap-child when required too, now we cinch her tight with the standard belt. There are still frustrations, such as reminding her to stay seated while the seat belt sign is lit but doesn't want to, but otherwise we are all happier. I know, I don't have twins, but feels to me that when they are strapped in a car seat they only have two movements - flail the arms and kick the legs.
posted by spoons at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2009


Yeah, this is a hard one.

Distraction has been our most effective solution when flying with our toddler son - lots of books, small hand held toys (cars, trucks, trains, anything that doesn't make lots of noise, a small flashlight was a particularly big hit) and a portable DVD player/ iPhone/PSP/something that can play kid friendly movies, although at 19months our son's attention span for movies was pretty short.

Good luck.
posted by netsirk at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2009


when you make the reservations, try to get the front row (no seats in front)

The problem with that row is there's no under-seat storage space. The diaper bag has to go in the overhead compartment, and there's no way to access it until the seatbelt sign is turned off. You'd be surprised how much harder flying with children suddenly becomes when you can't easily reach a bottle, snack trap or distracting toy. :)

Still, we do have two seats in the second row. So it's a decent idea, if we can fit the two diaper bags, dvd player, my wife's pocketbook and my carry-on in that row's under-seat storage space. :)
posted by zarq at 2:32 PM on October 8, 2009


As a flier with no kids of my own, this is something I do while on airplanes. If I happen to be seated near (in front of, behind or beside) a restless child, I will do everything in my power to distract them, from playing peekaboo through the airplane seats, to pulling out the in-flight magazine and showing the kid where we were, where we are going, and where we might be at that moment. It keeps the kid occupied and playing, rather than restlessly kicking the seat in front of them or squirming, and it gives the harassed parents a much-needed break.

One of those random acts of kindness that has repercussions well beyond the immediate family of the child in question. So if you sat in front of a kid who didn't kick your seat, thank the person sitting behind the kid. :)
posted by LN at 2:33 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


From more of a PR standpoint, it may be worth mentioning to the people in the front of you that you know it's annoying and you're trying to control the kids.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:38 PM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have two small children. There is little or nothing that can be done to totally prevent the kicking. But taking their shoes off helps. Also, we figured out pretty quickly that you don't actually need to put them in a car seat, and that helps. Distractions help, too.

Also:

two diaper bags

!?!?

Dude, you don't need two diaper bags. What on Earth are you filling them with?
posted by The World Famous at 2:42 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Contact the airline(s) and ask them for advice. After all, they deal with all kinds of problems within an airplane. They might have some suggestions or ideas. Its the age of the children that is is difficult thing. If they were older, I'd say teach them while driving in a vehicle such as a car, but 19 months is a little young to do that.
posted by Taurid at 2:56 PM on October 8, 2009


Dude, you don't need two diaper bags. What on Earth are you filling them with?

It's a diaper bag per child. They're not huge bags.

Each one contains (at minimum): A day's worth of diapers. baby wipes, tube of vaseline and/or A&D. small tube of Purell. Mini first aid kit. Snacks. Sippy cup(s). One complete change of clothes. Bib. plastic silverware. Books. Toys. Possibly crayons and a blank pad. Small pack of tissues.

During the winter, one bag might contain their winter coat, gloves and hat. If destination is snowy or rainy, it will contain their boots and a small portable umbrella.
posted by zarq at 3:00 PM on October 8, 2009


What craven_morhead said. Kids kicking the back of my seat drive me mad, but if I can at least hear the parent trying to do something about it, my rage subsides. A bit.

My kids were never 'kickers', thankfully, but they were easily entertained with a range of DVD's and books. I can't compliment airlines on much, but in-flight kids channels are an absolute godsend.

Some airlines have a reputation for fun staff, and I find they're great at keeping kids entertained and un-annoying.

(And may LN have a direct path to heaven, paved with gold and jewels, for intentionally distracting kids on planes. One huge fat gold star for you.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:03 PM on October 8, 2009


We bring a small portable DVD player with us when we fly with our child. He very quickly learned that if he kicks, "Thomas" gets turned off.

I like this idea a lot. That could work! :)

The DVD player alone didn't do much. Their attention span is, as netsirk mentions, quite short.

Not sure how that would work with two children in two separate rows. Maybe they could take turns, with the "kicker" getting to watch a DVD and the "kickee" reading a book with the other parent.

Worth trying. Thank you!
posted by zarq at 3:13 PM on October 8, 2009


If you can solve this problem, there is a Nobel Prize with your name on it.

Ha! I'll settle for getting through a flight with my sanity intact. :)
posted by zarq at 3:14 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


My wife and I decided that our daughter (now 25 months) flies better without the car seat, after two 6hr. trips with and now 3 trips without.

Is that safe, though? At what age is it safe to free them from the car seats?

I know, I don't have twins, but feels to me that when they are strapped in a car seat they only have two movements - flail the arms and kick the legs.

You're right about that. We bought special airline car seats that have wheels and an extendable handle. They're even narrower than their regular Graco seats, and all they can do is flail.
posted by zarq at 3:19 PM on October 8, 2009


How about draping a blanket in front of the car seats, and tucking it under so that they can move their feet, but can't get up a good head of steam or reach the seat ahead of them?
posted by chazlarson at 3:20 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


At 18 months, we let both of our kids fly without being in a car seat, and they did fine. It was great.
posted by The World Famous at 3:26 PM on October 8, 2009


A. You kick, your shoes come off. For some reason this works.
B. Next time, instead of the car seat, we're getting the CARES harness. I'm hoping it will make it harder for him to reach the seat in front, since he's not held up and forward.
C. Glad to hear the Thomas Threat works! That's our plan C.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:27 PM on October 8, 2009


This is a comment on the toys to bring on the plane. I always made sure the toys were new -- never seen before! The added excitment really held their attention. I stored / packed them in plastic containers that had to be opened so there was a surprise inside. Since I was right there watching every second, tiny toys worked well, tiny cars, tiny ponies etc -- they were fascinated with them. New crayons, new coloring books, etc. I worked hard at making sure their attention would be engaged throughout the trip.

Good luck!
posted by inkyr2 at 3:43 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Friends of mine swear by the judicious use of baby benadryl for this situation.
posted by crankylex at 3:50 PM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


From more of a PR standpoint, it may be worth mentioning to the people in the front of you that you know it's annoying and you're trying to control the kids.

Definitely. I do apologize. A lot. :(
posted by zarq at 4:14 PM on October 8, 2009


(And may LN have a direct path to heaven, paved with gold and jewels, for intentionally distracting kids on planes. One huge fat gold star for you.)

Seriously. I wish more passengers were like you. :)
posted by zarq at 4:17 PM on October 8, 2009


Would it work to somehow attach little toys to their socks, just for the flight? Like buy four small stuffed animals, and attach them to the socks with just a couple of quick basting stitches. And then frame it like, "Don't kick the puppy!" "Be gentle to the nice puppy on your toes!"
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:30 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


If they'll sleep in your laps, you should skip the car seats. It's much easier to let them move around. As for safety, when deciding whether to do lap-seats or car seats for our children, I remember seeing an analysis that was meant to convince me to use a car seat on an airplane because it was several times safer ... meaning that it gave a child a one-in-several-million chance of dying on a commercial airplane rather than a one-in-one-million chance. That doesn't register on my radar.
posted by palliser at 4:46 PM on October 8, 2009


Check out SeatGuru - many airlines and flights have planes that have unusual configurations that you could work with. United's cross-country "P.S." service has some 757s that have a few rows with extraordinarily long legroom in certain seats (like, 3 feet of legroom, no exaggeration) and while I don't recall if those were exit rows or not (which obviously wouldn't work with your little ones) there will almost definitely be some seats it'd be impossible to kick from.

Similarly, you could maybe buy just enough extra legroom that the kids (or at least the kid in front) couldn't reach the seat in front with his legs. On Virgin America, there's "Main Cabin Select", on United there's "Economy Plus" and other domestic airlines have something similar, with a lot of airlines that use Airbus 320s setting aside a few rows for "premium" seats. In each case, I bet the few extra inches of legroom might be enough to make it physically challenging to really whomp the seat in front.

But overall, Seat Guru will give you details about how different seats are positioned relative to one another, and while you might pay a bit more for a particular flight, you might be able to get just enough data to keep the kids from driving somebody crazy. The key thing here, is to remember to buy a seat, and think of that seat as part of a particular model of airplane, instead of just thinking like we traditionally do about buying a ticket on a certain airline or route.
posted by anildash at 4:48 PM on October 8, 2009


Just a data point: The actual kicking is something I don't mind at all. What gets under my skin is parents who think their kids are entitled to kick the back of my seat. If the parent apologizes beforehand, I can just take it in stride, as in, hey, cool, vibrating chair massage. If the parent is obviously aware of it but doing nothing to intervene and not being apologetic about it, I start thinking very bad thoughts about said parent's own upbringing and the future of civilization.
posted by bricoleur at 5:07 PM on October 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


At least you make an effort. I was on a flight to Vegas and had my seat kicked by a toddler for the entire trip. The mother didn't seem to notice or care. Truth be told, it wasn't so bad.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:12 PM on October 8, 2009


How do you keep your kids from kicking the back of your seat when you're in the car with them? Id you let them just kick you, then you've allowed them to think that kicking seats is OK.

With us, if both parents are in the car and a child kicks, then the non-driving parent reaches back and gently pushes the kicking feet down and says "No kick." Rinse and repeat a bunch of times. They get it and if they kick when only one parent is in the car, the "No kick" can be used again. Then, when you're on the plane, they already know that they're not to kick seats and they know the "No Kick" statement.

That combined with new toys, DVDs and stuffed animals have made our toddler air travel pretty good.
posted by onhazier at 5:51 PM on October 8, 2009


Please save the seats with legroom for the people who need them. I would much rather sit behind the bulkhead and have a kid kick the back of my seat than be crushed into a regular coach seat.
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 5:55 PM on October 8, 2009


Definitely new toys. Mom would always bribe me and my sister with NEW crayons (still sharp!) and colored drawing paper. She made a big deal about it being very special treats that only good little girls got. When you're under 5, that sort of thing is terribly exciting. (On the other hand, i had a particularly awful flight from Tampa to St. Louis where the mother of the 6-yr-old next to me thought the solution to that problem was "give him more candy and let him run up and down the aisles wildly". I almost ran out of dirty looks to give her...So I'll agree that as long as you're making an effort most people won't get that upset at you.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:59 PM on October 8, 2009


How do you keep your kids from kicking the back of your seat when you're in the car with them?

I drive a 2000 Chevy Astro Minivan. The kids are in the middle row, and the bench seat is always pulled back.

They don't kick the bucket seats in front of them because they can't reach 'em.

With us, if both parents are in the car and a child kicks, then the non-driving parent reaches back and gently pushes the kicking feet down and says "No kick." Rinse and repeat a bunch of times. They get it and if they kick when only one parent is in the car, the "No kick" can be used again. Then, when you're on the plane, they already know that they're not to kick seats and they know the "No Kick" statement.

That said, I wouldn't mind pulling their seat forward and doing this with them for a while, if it meant a smoother flight. Thanks for the suggestion. :)
posted by zarq at 6:05 PM on October 8, 2009


Please save the seats with legroom for the people who need them. I would much rather sit behind the bulkhead and have a kid kick the back of my seat than be crushed into a regular coach seat.

I'm 6'3". I always used to fly bulkhead. :)
posted by zarq at 6:07 PM on October 8, 2009


Friends of mine swear by the judicious use of baby benadryl for this situation.

Don't want to chance it. Their mom's highly allergic (as in anaphylactic shock) to benadryl.

Plus, I'm really not into the whole "drugging my kids for my personal convenience" thing. If it were absolutely the only way to keep them from harassing our fellow passengers, I would consider it.
posted by zarq at 6:09 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


How about draping a blanket in front of the car seats, and tucking it under so that they can move their feet, but can't get up a good head of steam or reach the seat ahead of them?

They felt restrained and completely freaked out. FWIW, I thought it was a good idea at the time, though.

Since they turned about three months old, anything that resembles a swaddle of any kind has been met with meltdowns.
posted by zarq at 6:12 PM on October 8, 2009


I'm 6'3". I always used to fly bulkhead. :)

S'up, 6'3" buddy! Sorry you can't keep doing bulkhead now - I had a three hour flight to Phoenix earlier this year that wasn't on the bulkhead and it was the most miserable flight of my life. Made damn sure that I got bulkhead for the return trip. It's intolerable otherwise...you have my sympathies for dealing with both that and restless children. Flying is stressful enough as it is.

I wish I had a solution for your 19 month old - I know how to manage a four year old (gameboy/DS/bribery), but not a child that young.

To reiterate what was said upthread - if the parents are making an honest effort to keep the kids from misbehaving, that's okay with me. I can deal with a little noise and kicking. I save the impotent fury for the inconsiderate/negligent parents who let their kids run wild.
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 6:24 PM on October 8, 2009


FWIW, the front row could still work even with diaper bags -- they would need to be in an overhead compartment for takeoff and landing, but they would let you just have them out on the floor in front of you for the rest of the trip. They would possibly make you stow them for temporary bad turbulence, but generally carry-on luggage only has to be stowed during takeoff and landing (you know, during the "seatbacks and tray tables in their upright and locked position" part of the trip).
posted by brainmouse at 6:31 PM on October 8, 2009


Taking the shoes off does help a bit -- not so much in preventing the kicking, but it makes the kicking feel lighter to the person in front. I too used to spend whole flights trying to hold my son's feet down (and once had the person in front of me turn around and yell at my then-two-year-old, who actually had kicked very little: "YOU ARE A VERY BAD BOY!" Thanks, dude). I also put those small airline pillows in the seat pocket, which dulled the kicks more. But really, I found fresh distractions -- as mentioned above -- helped the most. When they get a little older you can reason with (and bribe) them more, but at 19 months it's all about alleviating boredom with fun novel things.
posted by lisa g at 7:07 PM on October 8, 2009


I would add that offering to buy the person in the kickee seat a drink or an onboard snack can go a long way. I flew when my kids were 1, 2 and 3 and it was sort of bedlam from the screaming my middle son was doing about "Big plane too big to fly! I want to get down." (which was scaring the beegesus out of me!) over and over and over again from the moment we boarded until his batteries ran out about 10 minutes into the flight. The row ahead of us and behind us got free drinks I felt so guilty.

I also think that the particular flight you take makes a big difference. Certain flights times are going to be families and some are going to be business folks. The Friday at 5 pm from Dalls/Fort Worth to Chicago or New York is not a kids flight. But that same flight at noon will be.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:07 PM on October 8, 2009


Their mom's highly allergic (as in anaphylactic shock) to benadryl.

Plus, I'm really not into the whole "drugging my kids for my personal convenience" thing. If it were absolutely the only way to keep them from harassing our fellow passengers, I would consider it.


Oy, don't do this. Certainly don't take this risk in order to reduce some near-imaginary risk of their being injured on a commercial flight because they're not in a car seat. The risk of letting them sit in a seat without a car seat is vanishingly small, but the risk of giving babies (even OTC) drugs is not tiny.

My seat's been kicked by small children. It's not the end of the world, and as others have said, any discomfort is mostly the irritation of thinking the parents don't care that the child is doing it.
posted by palliser at 8:13 PM on October 8, 2009


Learn how to make the angry face and use it on them. That's the only way kids learn to control themselves. If you simply provide distraction after distraction, they will never learn that necessary social skill, and you end up being the proud parent of one of those people who takes their shoes off and clips their nails on airplanes.
posted by gjc at 8:55 PM on October 8, 2009


Learn how to make the angry face and use it on them.

Every time my kids defiantly make the angry face at me I regret ever having used it on them.
posted by The World Famous at 8:56 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


After enduring a ten hour flight with a very promising soccer player for the 2028 Olympics, I remembered the character slippers that my nieces and nephew looove. I suggested this to my sister, who held the slippers back until they were about to board the plane and made it a big ordeal that the kids got super special BRAND NEW slippers to wear when all the silly adults have to wear shoes! Pooey! Well, it worked, brillantly. To test my theory, I sat in front of my very squirmy, kicky, and restless. As soon as those oversized and almost creepy giant Power Ranger heads hit the back of my seat and I felt no impact, I have been telling everyone about my stroke of genius.

These are what I'm talking about: http://www.target.com/Toddler-Girls-Hello-Socktop-Slippers/dp/B0020HMQSK/ref=br_1_5?ie=UTF8&frombrowse=1&searchView=grid5&searchNodeID=690570011&searchRank=pmrank&searchPage=1&searchSize=30
posted by banannafish at 9:31 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gah! Dasterdly lack of hyperlinking! Apologies!
posted by banannafish at 9:33 PM on October 8, 2009


I've told a toddler about your kids' age who was making relentless happy squeals " When you scream, it hurts my ears" accompanied by holding my ears and making an exaggerated pained face....and he got the point and stopped.

I would try grabbing the small of your back, the pained face and a similar "When you kick the seat, it hurts that person's back" and or "the armrest hurts that person when you kick it".

I don't think that 18 months is too young to understand that actions have consequences.
posted by brujita at 11:06 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Benadryl, vodka or dilute opiates - why has no one else suggested this?
posted by BrooksCooper at 11:10 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


onhaizer has it. How do you keep your child from messing with the stereo, the toilet paper, or the electrical cords for the computer? I tell my daughter 'No' and that seems to do the trick. If she throws up a fuss when she starts doing something new that she isn't supposed to, like kicking the seat, I tell her 'No', and give her something to distract her like my iPhone, or a book, or a DVD. I guess the key is to nip it in the bud right away.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:51 AM on October 9, 2009


Speaking as a traveler who doesn't have kids, I'd much rather know that you're doing something, even if it's ineffective, than have everyone sit in silence and pretend that the "thump thump thump" isn't happening. Even just acknowledge that it's happening.

One flight I was next to a 3-year-old child (their mother was on the other side of me) and once the seat in front (occupied by a balding gentleman) reclined, the kid was fascinated by the few strands of hair remaining on his head, and was quiet for about fifteen minutes. So there's a suggestion: get someone with shiny/interesting/distracting hair to sit in front of you.
posted by alex.dudley at 6:34 AM on October 9, 2009


To the people that say "no" should be enough: unfortunately it sometimes isn't. Kids (at least our children) can vary wildly in their personalities, and a stern "no" that might send one off crying the other might laugh defiantly at.

Our daughter is 19 months old. A favorite toy for all our kids at this age has been wooden lacing beads (example). Slightly messy for a plane, but not too bad. We made a quick bag with an elastic top so they store easily. They're not loud, either. They do tend to get swung around occasionally but the confines of the seat probably prevent that on the plane.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 7:46 AM on October 9, 2009


So there's a suggestion: get someone with shiny/interesting/distracting hair to sit in front of you.

Ha! I love it. :D
posted by zarq at 10:06 AM on October 9, 2009


I didn't even know the CARES harness existed. It's a perfect car seat replacement, and at 27 and pounds my kids are within the weight range!

Wonderful suggestion, thank you. They probably won't be able to reach the seat in front if they're not in their car seats.
posted by zarq at 10:10 AM on October 9, 2009


errr... 27 and 28 pounds.
posted by zarq at 10:10 AM on October 9, 2009


Heh. I'll let you know how it works after we use it flying from Cleveland to Fairbanks and back with our tall two-and-a-half year old.

If we survive the 26 hours round trip, I mean.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:54 AM on October 9, 2009


tl; dr all of it. Put a pillow in the seat pocket in front of the kid to absorb part of the force of the kick.
posted by JimN2TAW at 5:11 PM on October 9, 2009


Kids (at least our children) can vary wildly in their personalities, and a stern "no" that might send one off crying the other might laugh defiantly at.

God, yes. You are describing our daughter and our son, respectively. I actually had to tone down the "no" after I used it on her for the first time, at 14 months or so, because she burst into immediate, inconsolable tears. Whereas he shouts "NO!" back and cackles.

In general, parents should really stop laying down the law with other parents based on their personal experiences of what "worked." (In scare quotes because it's hard to separate out their natural tendencies from what you did to shape them.) For almost every child, there's a difficult problem, where the solution ends up being merely livable, not optimal. Maybe it's sleep, or eating, or discipline, or interactions with other kids. And what's interesting is that parents always recognize that one area as being intractable for their child, but they don't extrapolate the idea and recognize that other kids have other such areas, where their awesomely foolproof practices haven't worked, and aren't going to work.
posted by palliser at 5:24 PM on October 9, 2009


This may be useless advice, but I still remember when I converted from being a kicker to a non-kicker. It was at a baseball game and I was kicking the seat of the guy ahead of me. I literally didn't think he could feel it, because I was unused to the idea of having an effect on the world around me, and also used to people telling me to do things for stupid reasons. When he got up to go to the bathroom I observed that the bag he left on the seat was hella shaking in response to my kicks, so it really must have felt like I was kicking him directly in the back. Telling me that he could feel it was not sufficient; I needed to see for myself that my actions were having a consequence.
posted by breath at 1:51 PM on August 10, 2010


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