Almost all kids will lose their cool on a long-haul flight. And an expert has pinpointed the exact time they will do it. Picture: iStock
Almost all kids will lose their cool on a long-haul flight. And an expert has pinpointed the exact time they will do it. Picture: iStock

How to occupy bored kids on flight

WE ALL whinge about kids acting up on plane - even when they're our own kids.

But when you consider how bored and irritable and poorly-behaved adults can be during a long-haul flight, we can hardly blame them.

According to a psychologist and boredom specialist, it takes precisely 49 minutes and 47 seconds before a child under 12 starts up with that all-too familiar cry of "Are we there yet?".

Dr Sandi Mann from the UK's University of Central Lancashire came up with that time frame - dubbed the "child boredom quotient" - after studying the play of 90 kids aged between six months and 11 years.

And now she's partnered with Emirates to offer advice for parents on how to keep their children occupied for longer on a flight.

The psychologist worked with 2000 British parents of children under 12 years to study the kinds of activities that kept kids engaged.

She also assessed which popular parental methods for keeping kids occupied and quiet on flights - from letting them play with a phone or tablet, through to straight-up bribery - actually worked for different age categories.


"Parents of children aged three to four will start to find that this [age] is when their children are physically very active, gaining independence and when they need more sophisticated things to entertain them than they did when they were younger," Dr Mann said.

"For instance, the 'electronic babysitter' [phones and tablets], while popular for a flight, may not work for all age groups and parents of younger children will find that they have less attention span for this than older ones.

"Breaking up this passive activity for active or creative ones will stop children becoming bored, restless and disruptive.''

Dr Mann said there were five different categories of activities, and parents of kids aged under 12 should aim for a good mix of all five categories to keep their kids occupied, happy and quiet during a long-haul flight.

Not an ideal situation.
Not an ideal situation.

Those categories are:

• Passive activities: watching films and listening to music

• Active activities: walking up and down the aisle, playing with a pack of cards

• Creative activities: drawing, colouring

• Sensory activities: giving them something to eat or drink

• Interactive activities: reading and talking to them.

"Very young children don't need very sophisticated toys for a plane journey and will be most amused by things in the environment, including people and of course their parents," Dr Mann said.

"This could be 'I Spy', while regular walks up the aisle are good for toddlers for exercise and for pre-toddlers to change the visual environment. Don't forget singing and interactive games like peekaboo are also great.

"Older children can be given simple materials like notebooks and pens, puzzle books and comics. Ensure that they take breaks every so often to walk up and down the plane and try to restrict the passive viewing just like you might at home.

"Don't be afraid of them being bored as left to their own devices with a few basic materials, they will find creative ways to engage their brains.''

Justice comes 12 years after $32,000 jewellery heist

Premium Content Justice comes 12 years after $32,000 jewellery heist

The man was identified several years after the offence through DNA

Neighbour ‘b****-slapped’ over COVID isolation

Premium Content Neighbour ‘b****-slapped’ over COVID isolation

Neighbour’s feud turns nasty during COVID 19 lockdown

Reality show would hurt  community on ‘life support’

Premium Content Reality show would hurt community on ‘life support’

Byron’s mayor has weighed in on concerns on new show