Category Archives: Kids

How to Entertain an Infant on a Long Flight

inflight_car_seat-British_air

Our son was exactly one year old when we flew from Dallas to Mumbai, India (via London).  I was pretty confident in our 4 year old’s ability to be entertained on the flights, but Mr. A was just 12 months old and not too fond of being confined to our laps for any length of time!

We didn’t know it at the time we booked our flights, but British Air has a special infant seat (like a car seat) that attaches to a foldout shelf on the bulk head seats. We found out about this just in time to call the airlines and ask to reserve the “cot seat” for myself and the baby.  Thankfully the were also able to accommodate my husband and Miss A on the same row – all for no extra charge!  It worked out perfectly.  Mr A is totally happy in his carseat and stroller, but if someone is holding him, he knows he can escape and he won’t give up until he is successful!  So the inflight “carseat” was perfect – he liked playing there when he was awake – he could see lots of people from his perch – and he slept comfortably there also.  The only downside was that he had to be removed when the “fasten seatbelt” sign came on.

I knew he would’t sleep the entire journey so I tired to plan ahead and pack a few lightweight toys that I hoped would entertain him more than just a few minutes.  So aside from snacks and baby food, I packed the following toys (these were all new to him at the time so that also added to the fun factor)

1. PipSquigz – these fun suction cup toys were perfect to stick on the wall of the airplane or trains once we were in India.  They won’t fall to the ground and get dirty and the best part is the baby loved them!

2. A Travel Magna Doodle – He was happy to “draw” with this for quite a decent time.  This was one of his favorite toys during the trip.  And I didn’t have to worry about any messes to clean up!  Sadly ours broke mid journey but we were able to replace it in India.

3.  Soft blocks that could clip onto each other or anything else to keep them off the floor!  Mr. A was going through quite the “stacking” phase (he actually still is!) So I thought these blocks would be great since they were squishy and didn’t weigh much and I could keep them clean by keeping them off the floor.

Other things that worked to entertain a 12 month old:

pots and pans

  • A box of crayons – he was not really into coloring much at the time but he loved taking the colors out one.by.one. and putting them back one.by.one.  This trick not only came in handy on the planes and trains, but also during church!  Of course the “game” was all over when he got bored and decided to start putting the colors in his mouth. But with close supervision he did remarkably well for his age.
  • Plastic Snack containers and something to “hide” inside.  He would open and close it over and over again.
  • Small cars that he cold roll back and forth.
  • Books – we tried to limit the number of books we took due to weight, we opted for paperbacks instead of board books.  Just be aware that they might get torn up – so don’t bring favorites!  I hit the Dollar Store before we left and found some good choices.
  • Water bottles – never underestimate the entertainment power of cheap plastic!  Just be careful of the lids – Mr. A had not yet mastered unscrewing the lid so we were able to give him the bottles to play with without too much worry about him getting the lid in his mouth.
  • He was given a Shape Box in India, so he enjoyed playing with that while we were there.  We chose not to bring it home with us because we already had one at home, so we passed it on to another child before we left.
  • Pots and Pans and Wooden Spoons – he loves “cooking” so we would find all sorts of steel vessels at my Mother-in-Law’s house and we would throw the shapes from the Shape Box inside and he would stir them up and just generally play with all of that for a long time. This didn’t work for the airplane but was great when we were in houses that didn’t have any “toys.”  This could be modified for the airplane with empty plastic cups, and plastic cutlery if your flight attendant will bring extras.
  • A plastic chair – again not for the flights – but he was just starting to walk (he actually took his first steps in India!) and he would push the plastic chair around the house like a walker.  Worked great on the granite floors in India!

Those are some of the things that worked for us in our travels.  What have you done to keep little ones entertained while traveling?

 

Top Things to Pack to Keep A Preschooler Entertained During a Long Flight

It is hard to believe that our big India trip is less than two weeks away! I feel like I have been planning for months, but have so much to pull together at the last minute!  One thing that I wanted to make sure of was that I had plenty of activities for our 4 year old daughter to do during our 30+ hour travel time to India.  Like most kids her age, she LOVES to play with the iPad, and she will be allowed generous amounts of iPad time throughout our journey, but at some point, the battery will die or she will get bored of it, even though I will be loading all fresh games the day before, so I wanted to be prepared!

backpack-for-traveling-with-kids

I found a great preschool sized backpack, by The North Face, called Happy Camper.

I chose this backpack for the following reasons:

  1. That she would be able to carry it herself
  2. That it have a chest clip/strap so that the straps wouldn’t fall off her shoulders
  3. That it not be too small to hold all of her activities

This backpack is perfect for our trip – and I’m sure it will last through preschool and kindergarten too!

So once I had the backpack nailed down, I had to figure out what to fill it with.  All of these things are new to her and will be a surprise, which I hope will ad to the fun factor, and help hold her attention for more than just a few minutes!

backpack-full-of-goodies-for-airplane

 

Top Row: Three different mini activity books, stickers
Middle Row: Lalaloopsy Magnetic Fun Paper Dolls, 3D Origami Sea Animals (from the Dollar Tree), Doc McStuffins Sticker Activity Playset (from the Dollar Tree)
Bottom Row: A sewing craft (with plastic “needle”), Runway Scratch Art Set, Melissa and Doug Paint with Water Book

Pictured with the backpack at the top: An iSlate Dry Erase Case with a set of dry erase markers and crayons inside, and a report cover holding several printable Octonauts coloring pages – so that she can use the dry erase markers on the clear plastic cover and color the pages over and over again.

Below: 3 Leap Frog Workbooks

airplane-busy-books

I will also add a small tub of play-doh, some individually packaged snacks, a surprise stuffed animal, crayons, a surprise set of Gup Speeders (she’s a huge Octonauts fan!), which I will give her one by one throughout the journey, and a custom mini photo book that I designed, with fun “Octonaut” activity pages – I’ll have to try and share that once it arrives in the mail!

All in all my strategy for traveling on such a long flight with a preschooler is lots of new & surprise lightweight activities and snacks that can be contained in her own bag (so that I’m not fumbling through all of our carryon bags looking for her stuff!) The iPad is a little too heavy for her bag (and I don’t trust her to carry that through the airport!) so we’ll keep that safely tucked in with our laptop until we get on the plane.

Up next, what I’m packing to entertain a 12 month old!  This one is MUCH harder than packing for a 4 year old – let me tell you!  If you have any ideas or suggestions – I’m all ears!  What activities or toys would you pack for a toddler and a preschooler for a long international flight?

My Must-Have List of Gear for Traveling Internationally with Kids

must have gear for international travel with kids

For our upcoming trip to India this summer, I have put together a list of travel gear that we won’t leave home without!  Here’s our favorites…

The Joovy Ultralight Caboose Stroller is the best travel choice for a tandem stroller.  Last time we went to India we had just one baby, who was about 18 months old.  We left our stroller at home and went with a baby carrier instead. This time the tables have turned and with a 10 month old baby and a 4 year old, we decided that a double stroller was the best option for the airport.  Once we land in India, we will probably leave the stroller at home {unless we are going to go to a mall or someplace where the stroller would be useful}. We’re planning to leave the canopy and tray at home for a more compact fold.

Baggallini Crossbody Bag – I’ve been traveling through airports for many years now, and I always take a small crossbody bag for keeping tickets, passports and other essentials handy.  There is nothing worse than having to dig around for your passport or tickets while you are holding up a line of passengers behind you!  Now that we are traveling with a family of four – we have US Passports and Indian PIO cards to keep up with – it is much easier if I keep them all right with me, with easy access.  The bag is small enough that once we are safely on board the plane, I can slip the whole thing into one of our other luggage pieces, or I can keep it across me for safety.  I usually don’t keep much cash in my bag, I would recommend a money belt for lots of cash and extra credit cards.

Littlelife Baby Backpack Carrier – We have the Voyager S2 Model of the LIttlelife Backpack Carrier.  We used this on our last trip to India – and it was wonderful!  While I’ve decided to take a stroller for the airports, a stroller within India isn’t very practical {depending on where you are going} the sidewalks are generally uneven, and crowded. As a fair-skinned baby with a “foreign” mother, our little girl got lots of attention.  Sometimes it can be frightening for a young child, and the best part of this carrier, was that she was up high – away from prodding hands! The only downside is that it can be hot for the person wearing it {my husband in our case}. Ours goes up to 44 lbs – which means that our daughter {who is now 4} can still ride in this.  It also works for our son who is just 10 months old.  While we probably won’t be offering our daughter any rides in it – it is nice to know she can still fit in case she gets too tired to walk on any of our excursions where the stroller wouldn’t be appropriate.

ERGObaby Carrier – we will be tossing one of these in our checked-in luggage, and might use it in the instance where both kids need a ride or if I go somewhere without my husband.  While the Littlelife carrier is adjustable and fits me, I feel more comfortable using the ERGO if it is just me.  However, I would say it is easier to load a child into the Littlelife Backpack Carrier than the ERGO {especially our wiggly baby boy!}  Given our son’s personality he will do better in the Backpack Carrier because, he prefers to be on his own and have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on vs. strapped tightly to Momma. But the ERGO is light and portable and will be nice to have as an option if we need it. {Plus my daughter is still able to fit in this as well! You never know!}

Northface Happy Camper Backpack – Our daughter is old enough to carry her own backpack full of goodies, but a full size backpack is still too big for her.  I also wanted a backpack with a chest strap so that she wouldn’t have to fight with it falling off as we rush through airports!  The Northface Happy Camper is a great size for preschoolers, but still big enough to hold a good amount of “stuff” {including full-sized folders – a great option for preschool or kindergarten!}.  I have quite a few ideas for activities and surprises to fill her bag with for the airplane ride.  {details coming in a future post!} Our son isn’t quite walking yet – but might well be by the time we travel – so I also have one of these that I’ll throw in our carry-on luggage, in case he wants to toddle around in the airport terminal.

BenBat Yummigo Booster/Bag – I’m super excited about this one!  On our last overseas trip, our daughter was in between being able to kneel in a regular sized chair and still needing a highchair or booster seat.  We decided not to travel with one, but I really wish we had.  Some restaurants in India have highchairs and some don’t.  For those that do – the chairs are often well used, and not too hygienic! Believe it or not, we are trying to limit our luggage for this trip… so I didn’t want to waste space with a regular travel booster, but the genius thing about the Yummigo Booster is that it opens up like a suitcase and has tons of storage inside.  Basically, if we are going out to a restaurant in India {or to someone’s house for a meal} we will use this as his diaper bag.  There is plenty of room for diapers, wipes and his food/sippy cup.  I also plan to use it at my in-law’s houses, since they don’t have a booster or highchair at home either.  I look forward to seeing how much use we get out of this product on our trip.

So that’s my list of must-have baby gear for international travel.  I’ll be sure and update you with details and photos of all of these being put to good use on our 2 month trip to India!  Have you traveled overseas with kids?  What makes your top list of necessary baby items?  Have you used anything from my list?  I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts!

Cute Apps to Learn Hindi or Bengali

Many people have asked how we kept Miss A entertained on our long trip to India and through Europe.  I planned ahead and brought some light weight toys and small books that would travel well.  We were already waaaaay over packed, so I really tried to go light.  But 24+ hours en-route with a not-quite-two-year-old toddler could wreck havoc on your nerves if you aren’t prepared.  So aside from her new love of all things Elmo and Sesame Street (I brought some cute little figures of her four favorite characters – big hit!) – I loaded up our iPad (and iPhones) with some new toddler-friendly apps.  Miss A was playing these apps just the other day when I heard it start speaking in Hindi, so I investigated and realized she had changed the settings.  I never would have known there was a Hindi option otherwise!

Jobs – Guess Who? By Ripple Digital Publishing
Animals Premium – Guess Who? By Ripple Digital Publishing (there is also an Animals lite/free version)

Both games feature animals or jobs and the child has to click through the rotating images when the written word matches the correct image. After they click correctly, the name of the animal or job is spoken.

You can choose from sixteen languages, including Hindi and Bengali, and you can set the written language to a different language from the audio language.

All in all these are cute apps and I’m all for these kinds of apps with an educational value – especially when they promote learning Indian languages!

Do you know of any good apps that help kids (or adults!) learn Hindi or another “Desi” language?  Any tips on keeping kids occupied on long trips?

DIY: Homemade Paper Christmas Star Lanterns



While I lived in India, I discovered that you can tell who is celebrating Christmas by the big, colorful star shaped paper lanterns that are hung outside homes and shops. While Christians only make up 2.3% of the total population, Christmas is becoming more and more widely celebrated.
These stars are really beautiful – they are available in every shape, color and size imaginable! I brought some home with me, however, I recently decided to try making my own. I thought I’d share with anyone who is interested how to make these beautiful lanterns and celebrate Christmas Indian style! Plus… it helps make my husband feel at home when we’re far from his home during the holidays! :-)
These stars can be made in all colors, shapes and sizes. Small ones work great for homemade Christmas tree ornaments, while large ones look great hanging from the ceiling or on your front porch! I’ll share a pattern and instructions for how to make your own 5-pointed star. If you want different sizes, just enlarge the pattern… (or you could even modify it to add more points to your star – get creative!)

You will need, glue, scissors, paper (your choice of colors, weight), string or ribbon, and a some sort of light to light up the lantern.
2. Cut out 2 identical stars from the pattern.
3. Fold the pattern along all the dotted lines & glue the flaps to the inside wall of the opposite side (leave one flap unglued until you insert your light).
4. While still folded, cut out openings in any design you like for the light to shine through. (similar to how you’d make an old fashioned paper snowflake)
5. Tie a string or ribbon to suspend your lantern.
6. Enjoy your handiwork & allow all your friends to “ooh” and “aah” over your creation!
P.S. You also sometimes see these lanterns (and similar ones) during the Diwali festival in India.


Blond, Brown and Black Hair

Trivia Question:
What is the most common hair color in the world?
Depending on where you come from, your first answer might have been brown, or blond, but if you think about it, the answer is black!
My hair is brown. My two best childhood friends had blond hair. I was always described as having “dark” hair. But while living in India, I had to get used to being described as having “light hair.” I guess it’s all relative. In fact, a few of my Indian friends would even go so far as to call my hair blond! Now I can get over the fact that I have “light hair” compared to their beautiful black hair, but come on, BLOND is a bit too far! I tried and tried to convince them my hair wasn’t blond, and finally they compromised by saying my hair was “half-blond.” sigh.
Most of my American friends get married and like to daydream about what color hair their future kids might have. One spouse might have reddish brown hair and the other spouse have blond hair. Will the kids have red hair, brown hair, or blond? Will it change colors as they get older? All perfectly appropriate questions. But it is funny, in India, no one ever questions what color hair their son or daughter will have.
Last week, I was out shopping with a friend. She has 3 young boys all under the age of 4. All of them have blond hair. My husband met us around lunch time, and since we were still trying to make a decision on what to purchase, he offered to take the boys to Wendy’s for lunch. Imagine the surprise that the onlookers had when an Indian man parades in with 3 small blond boys in tow. He managed to keep track of all of them and got them settled down to eat. When finally one woman’s curiosity got the better of her, she leaned over and smiled and said, “Now those can’t be your boys, can they?” I wonder what she would have done if he’d have said yes?!
Since my husband is Indian, I assume that our kids will have dark brown to black hair, but that remains yet to be determined. Genetics can be a funny thing I guess! If our children take after my husband (with a darker complexion and dark eyes), will I have the same reaction from onlookers when I take them places without him? That prospect doesn’t really bother me, I think I’ll be amused…


Meet MeeraMasi – Another Cool Language Aid

MeeraMasi is a company that focuses on introducing Indian language, traditions and culture through high-quality products, including books, audio CDs, DVDs, and interactive toys.  

MeeraMasi means Meera Aunty.  The idea for the company came about when two Indian sisters, who had immigrated to the USA, wanted to teach their kids the language and culture.  They called their new company MeeraMasi since they were hoping they books and products would help take the place of their beloved Aunties in India who would normally have helped teach their children Indian nursery rhymes.  They came up with picture books with Hindi nursery rhymes as well as English rhymes translated into Hindi.  The books include the Hindi script and English transliteration, and come with a CD so that non-Hindi speaking parents can get the right pronunciation! A big help for those of us in who are in intercultural Indian relationships.  

Some of their products include other Indian languages as well, including, Gujarati and Punjabi.  MeeraMasi even lets you become an “Ambassador” – by selling their products locally.  You could also host a MeeraMasi party or fundraiser to raise money for a non-profit organization.  Click here to visit the MeeraMasi website.  For other posts about learning Indian languages, click here.


Kahani Magazine


If you haven’t heard of Kahani Magazine, you’re missing out! It is a South Asian literary magazine specifically for children. (I enjoy reading it too!) Kahani is the Hindi word for story. It is a great place for South Asian kids to read and tell their stories. It is published 4 times a year and is totally ad-free! I think it would make a great gift for any kids in your family.

From the Kahani website:
Kahani is an award-winning children’s literary magazine illuminating the richness and diversity that South Asian cultures bring to North America. Completely ad-free, full of great stories, art, activities, and fun facts, Kahani is a must have for any family, school, or library seeking to empower and educate global citizens.

Kahani is a quarterly magazine (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall issues).

For $5 per issue, Kahani packs in a whole lot of value: beautifully illustrated original short stories, a biography series, a math and science page, a column for linguaphiles, book reviews, and even an original cartoon strip! In 28 pages, the magazine showcases the best of South Asia.



Baby Hindustani








Are you finding it difficult to teach your children an Indian Language?

There is a great company called Baby Hindustani which produces DVD’s for children to learn Indian languages.

So far, they have Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, and Bengali. They speak only in the Indian language, so children learn by association. Classical music in the background also provides a soothing touch.

I’ve always worried how we will teach our kids Hindi, since I am not a native speaker, and my husband admits that his Hindi leaves something to be desired. I feel it is important for our kids to learn their “father” tongue. And I know it will serve them well later in life. Everyone knows it is so much easier to learn language at a young age.

These DVD’s make it a fun process as well, I think my husband and I will also learn a thing or two. I hope Baby Hindustani continues to expand their DVD selection! Click here to visit the Baby Hindustani website.