How to keep a baby quiet on an airplane

I was travelling yesterday on an airplane with a 28-month-old baby sitting right next to me. I was in the window seat, the baby in the middle, and the mommy in the aisle seat.

Even before the crew could start telling us about safety procedures on the plane, our little kiddo started jumping around saying Hi to the people sitting nearby.

The people were very sweet and said hello back.

But they did not know that saying hello meant that they were no longer allowed to go back to their newspapers or their earphones.

If someone said hello, our kiddo would start telling them about his stuffed lion or his toy giraffe. And the moment they broke eye-contact with him, he would start bawling.

The horror!

The mommy tries to calm him down, tries to read out a story from a picture book, tries to show him what’s happening outside the window. But our kiddo is unconsolable.

So what does one do now?

I knew from a few things I have read here and there that kids his age are just starting to get the hang of stories. They are just starting to understand the stories we tell them and also figuring out how to make up their own stories.

So, I tried something. I picked a few things around me and started making up a story.

The first one was about Earphones.

The Story of the Earphones

Once, there was a [name of kid] who had a LOT of things to say. 
(Point at the kid)

LOT of STORIES that he wanted to share with a LOT of PEOPLE.
(Point to the people on the plane.)

But everyone on the plane was VERY BUSY. 
(Make mock stern face)

So, they asked a MAGICIAN to turn the kid into…huh…EARPHONES.
(Show a pair of earphones)

Now the kid could only talk to ONE PERSON at a time.
(Play an audiobook/monologue. One bud in their ear, one in yours.)

But he was also a good MUSICIAN. So he started playing TUNES for people.(Play instrumental music)

And slowly he learned how to SING.
(Play a song)

Then he became FRIENDS with a SCREEN.
(Show a smartphone/tablet screen)

And together they could show CARTOONS to CHILDREN.
(Play cartoon)

And they could show MOVIES to the GROWN-UPS.
(Play movie)

And then EVERYONE wanted to TALK to him. To listen to his STORIES.
(Get a few co-passengers to nod)

(Clap and get others to clap)

Our kiddo was totally quiet throughout the telling, eyes wide open, taking in all that was going on.

At the end when people clapped, he started giggling and clapping too. And then climbed on to his mommy’s lap and went all mushy-mushy with her.

We also made up stories about the water bottle, and seat-belts, and trays. In these stories we learned about safety and responsibly disposing trash.

By the time we were doing the third story, the kid himself was making up the lines. He loved telling these stories to his mother.

And his mother, like everyone else around her, loved listening to him.