Last week I was on the road for the Public Library Association’s annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was super excited to attend sessions on equity, early learning and chatted with fellow librarians on how they engage with their communities.

My family used to live on the east coast, so my husband decided to tag along and visit our friends and family with our daughter, Mae (not her real name) while I work. However, we hadn't flown with Mae back east since she was 3 months old and now she’s 17 months. An infant vs. a toddler is a very different travel experience. Luckily, I put on my Librarian Hat and came up with a variety of materials to help her (and us) read, sing, talk, and play on the long flight.

To assist with everything, we decided to abandon our Family Media Plan for the trip. Our tablet expanded our options when we include technology media as both education and entertainment.

Read. Mae is obsessed with books, so getting her to settle into our laps for a story wasn't difficult. Narrowing our collection of books down to a few we didn't mind reading over and over on the flight proved a challenge. We ended up packing 5 board books and 2 paperback picture books.

On our tablet, I checked out Duck and Goose and one of the many dog books from the library. I also downloaded the Sesame Street Art Maker App and Peek-a-Zoo from the app maker Duck Duck Moose. We attempted to turn the e-books and apps into a learning opportunity by interacting with Mae as we read them. However, as a toddler her executive function skills are still developing—meaning she has poor impulse control—so I’m not sure if much learning took take place or if she just enjoyed pressing the screen to make things happen.

Sing. I suspected my fellow plane passengers wouldn't appreciate back-to-back renditions of “What Do You Do with a Tiny Baby” or “Where Oh Where Are Baby’s Fingers?” To augment our (quiet) singing, we downloaded several songs and albums for free from the library’s subscription of Freegal. To use Freegal, enter your library card and PIN number. You have the option of downloading up to 5 songs per week. We opted for some Muppets, Casper Babypants, Laurie Berkner, Lullaby Renditions of Radiohead (my husband’s favorite), and Sharon, Lois and Bram.

Talk. There was a lot to talk about as we walked up and down the aisle. What color shirts were the other passengers wearing? Who had their shoes on? What foods were people eating? What were the skin tones of the people around us? I’m especially working on paying particular attention to racial differences and celebrating how great it is that we have so many similarities and differences from each other.

Play. Pinterest had a lot of suggestions for making your own toddler busy bags. I also gathered suggestions from parent friends and came up with several low-tech options to keep Mae occupied. One bag had different felt shapes in various colors for her to manipulate on a small felt board. Another had a homemade button snake (but mine is just rope and fabric, no buttons). I had post-it notes she stuck everywhere. I had water coloring books. I even bought a small notebook and crayons for her to practice holding and coloring. We really exercised Mae’s fine motor skills and imaginative play on this trip!

It takes a lot of work to travel with a little person. Hopefully, some of my suggestions and ideas will work for you as you prepare to travel for Spring Break or over the summer.

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