Carolyn: On Successfully Entertaining her Toddler Without Using Screens

 Ava, Jerry, and Carolyn

Carolyn recently posted in Club Bébé Voyage about a “box of treasures” that she made for her nearly two-year old daughter on her cross-country (U.S.) flight. We were all super impressed at the amount of thought and skill she put into it! Read on to find out about what’s in that box of treasures!


Your baby’s name and age:

Ava, almost two


Your nationalities:



Were you traveling with anyone?

My husband, Jerry


Where did you travel to and from?

From New York to Seattle.


What mode of transportation did you take?

Subway, cab, plane, shuttle bus, rental car… I think we did everything but boats and horses.


What airline did you fly and would you recommend them?

Delta and Jet Blue. Friendly flight attendants and no one harassed me for breastfeeding a toddler on the flight, so I am counting that as a win.


What was the most difficult part of the trip?

The first few minutes in the rental car. We are New Yorkers and we just don’t drive! Our car started fogging up from the inside, all the roads looked like terrifying freeways, and there was no GPS. Ava wanted to get out of the car seat and kept screaming to nurse. We pulled over and took a few minutes to reorient ourselves and things got much better from there.


What was your greatest success during this trip?

I am really proud of myself for doing the whole trip without using screens for entertainment. I kept thinking of how my mom used to drive from Wisconsin to North Carolina with three kids by herself without the option of a movie in the car, and that gave me confidence that I could do it too.

I packed a carry on just for entertainment, and it was so worth it. I packed a lunch box with a zipper and an outside pocket with a little painting/card from my mom and lots of little treasures (a ball of yarn, a little plastic horse, a car, a rubber ball, a little person, a bell, an empty spool), an art bag with a sketch book, crayons and stickers, an activity book that my mom sewed for Ava (it has a shoe with a shoelace to tie, finger puppets, flowers that button on and off, shapes that snap on and off, a ladybug that unzips to reveal baby ladybugs…it is amazing), several books, and a flashlight.

Ava spent a lot of time taking the card in and out of the outside pocket, then unzipping and re zipping the lunchbox before she actually got something out. The ball of yarn was the toy that provided the greatest amount of entertainment time – unrolling, looping and unloosing it over her head, pretending it was a mouse and pulling the tail, hiding it. We used it in the car too.


ball of yarn


We also sang a lot (in the car, not the plane), talked, looked out the window, played with empty cups and the tray table, and had a button war over turning off the screen in the back of the seat in front of us (she lost interest in trying to turn the screen on after a few minutes but really enjoyed pushing those buttons on the armrest). She took a nap both ways and nursed and snacked a lot.

When we got to Seattle, my sister gave us a bag of toys and books to borrow during our stay. Having “new” toys for the car and hotel really helped, and it meant that our bag of tricks seemed “new” again on the flight home.


What is the best tip you have for fellow traveling parents? 

My mom used to tell everyone who would listen that we were good travelers and I think we really lived up to that. I think it helps to be optimistic about how your child will handle the trip and how people will respond to you. Our fellow passengers and flight attendants couldn’t have been nicer, even when Ava squawked.


What is your favorite travel app/ item/ accessory?

I was really excited about the bag of toys, but the ergo was probably the most practical item. We never bring our stroller when we travel, so the ergo is really useful for the whole trip.


Anything else we should know?

I sporadically blog  at If you like to read about food and cooking dinner with a small human, check it out.


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