It’s an experience dreaded by most parents – trying to keep a child entertained on a long haul flight without any tantrums. But while some families avoid the experience altogether, that simply isn’t an option for many parents. So when you do have to face a gruelling long haul flight with your little one, new research from Emirates could help make the experience a lot easier.
Working with Dr Sandi Mann, a psychologist and boredom specialist at the University of Central Lancashire, the Dubai-based airline has carried out a study involving 2,000 British parents with children aged under 12 to help make even the longest of flights a breeze.
Hardly surprisingly, parents said their biggest worry when travelling was keeping their children entertained during the journey, while the risk of their little ones disturbing other passengers also played on their minds. Nearly a quarter of parents also worried about keeping their children suitably hydrated in the dry environment of an aircraft cabin.
“We understand that parents often dread the idea of travelling on a long-haul flight with bored children,” explained Jade Cobbs, a member of Emirates cabin crew who says flight attendants are happy to help parents when things got too much.
And that normally happens just 49 minutes into a flight – the point at which Emirates says under-12’s are most likely to get bored. To battle the ‘boredom threshold’ Emirates and Dr Sandi Mann have devised the Child Boredom Quotient (CBQ) – a simple table that provides a list of activities that should keep children entertained for the duration of a long flight.
It works by breaking various activities into categories that Dr Mann calls Active, Passive, Interactive, Creative and Sensory. So, for example, a Passive activity is something like watching a film or listening to music. An Interactive activity might include reading a book and a Sensory activity could be refreshments in the form of an in-flight meal or snack.
Many parents will of course already be well versed with many of these techniques. In fact, 41% of parents said they had bribed their children with sweets and snacks to encourage good behaviour and a third of parents had used ‘electronic babysitters’ like iPad’s loaded with children’s films and games in the past.
What the CBQ does, however, is to suggest the correct order to introduce new activities to entertain children of various ages for the longest possible period of time. Not that boredom should be considered a bad thing. As Dr Mann explains:
“Don’t be afraid of them being bored as left to their own devices with a few basic materials, they will find creative ways to engage their brains.“
And if it does get too much, follow the lead of roughly 7% of parents who admitted to wearing an eye mask to block out the disturbance their own children were making in the cabin.
If you want to use the CBQ then you can download a copy here: Child Boredom Quotient Tables
You can also download a PDF of useful tips for travelling with children created by Emirates here: Emirates’ Top Tips for Travelling with Children
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.