In what ways can we nurture Creative Thinking in young children at 30,000 feet?

by Matthew Worwood

I get a little anxious before flying, I don’t know why, but it’s something that I’ve had for a while. However, since flying with my boys it’s certainly become less of an issue during the actual flight. As you can imagine, or have perhaps experienced, the preoccupation of crying toddlers, or needy little ones, in such a small confined space with little chance of exit, turns out to be the perfect distraction for any fear that might manifest during a period of light bumps – in fact I’ve actually began to feel a sense of excitement before each flight, as I’ve come to appreciate how this time can provide an opportunity to be at one with your family, absent from everyday distractions, and with a sense of adventure. You’re in the moment, where the Internet is (currently) non-existent, and your little ones are about to experience something new and exciting. They look to you for answer about the clouds, and geography, and space, and aerodynamics, and everything else that engages their curiosity during flight – I find it a magical time, that no longer has to be associated with panic and anxiety.

There’s also the opportunity to begin or complete planned activities that can stimulate creative thinking around your destination and journey. Sadly, this is not a post filled with completed examples, but does have six ideas that were partially tested prior to the interruptions of the 17-month old younger brother.

SEE ALSO: Doing a long drive this summer? Five Creative Thinking Games for the Car

  • Get a window seat! The take off, the landing, the clouds, the stars, it’s all new stuff that will generate a variety of questions.
  • Use Play Doh to model famous landmarks that relate to your destination. This will help build knowledge and heighten anticipation for the trip.
Activity lasted about 20 minutes, but during this time Lucas modeled Big Ben, and other London buildings that he remembered from his past trips.

Here my eldest modeled Big Ben, and other London buildings, which he remembered from his past trips to the UK.

  • Create a map of the journey using paper and crayons. This activity actually expanded to include a paper plane that was used to help answer the question – ‘how long until we land Daddy’. You can also bring up the flight map on the seat monitor if it’s available.
  • Load up new apps on the iPad – one of my favorites for toddlers, is the Seek & Find Activity Book from WonderKind. They create one called Tiny Airport and I highly recommend this app to introduce young children to the interactivity of today’s mobile devices.
WonderKind offer a variety of artistic interactive books. The average price for each app is $2.99.

WonderKind offer a variety of artistic interactive books. The average price for each app is $2.99.

  • Take photos of your journey and ‘begin’ to create an ebook of your trip.
  • Books, books, and more books. Reading cannot be emphasized enough.

Obviously these six activities can be used intermittently and/or in-between the movies and video games, but it certainly adds a little bit extra to the journey.

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Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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