Flying With KIDS – Airport Security

Flying with KIDS – all you need to know for airport security

Flying with kids can be exciting and a little nerve wracking the first time! Your little one is sure to be excited and going on a real airplane and you can use this wonderful adventure as an educational experience. Babies don’t really care where they are as long as you are there with them, but all that changes when littles get a little bigger. Kiddos in the preschool range 3-5 need assurance when you encounter new things.

You’ve probably noticed that your child’s preschool teacher or day care provided has a routine. Perhaps they sing the same song each time they greet your child (I can still sing the morning song Ms. Brown sang each morning when I dropped off my youngest for preschool) or have the same morning carpet time. Your child might have a favorite lovey or favorite story before bed and you HAVE to have these things or all hell breaks lose. The reason for those routines that is children’s brains love routine. They find comfort in being able to predict what is going to happen.

Besides the obvious and very important – preventing meltdowns, this preparation also helps brain development and childhood is all about growing strong brains! As parents, we show the children how to prepare for and navigate new situations by lending them our experiences and showing them the way!

Neuropsychologist Dr. Spangenberg Postal from Psychology Today has this to say about preparing children for new experiences, 

“Parents naturally lend their children structures (experiences) that allow them to function in complex situations.”

So, knowing this, and knowing you have some big new experiences in store like an airport visit and flight, you can give the kids some background information first to prepare them. Then, when they arrive at the airport and encounter so many new sights and sounds and experiences they will feel less anxious.

Fly through airport security with kids, hacks and tips,

When you travel with kids – preparation is KEY!

Flying with KIDS – Role Play

Role playing is a great way to explain how airport security to first time flyers  – especially the kiddos ages 3 – 6. Role play is an effective way for a child to learn because they are actively participating and making sense of the world around them by ‘trying it on’. This is why you’ll find dress up clothes and small kitchens in children’s classrooms and children’s museums. Role playing is how children learn!

How to prepare children for airport security by role play: First you’ll need to gather a few items and prepare. Set up the kitchen chairs to form a line you must walk through and use an upside down laundry basket for the x-ray machine. It is NOT a good idea to surprise a child when they have to put their beloved stuffed animal on the belt and watch it disappear into the x-ray machine. You will surely have tears!

Flying with KIDS – Security x-ray machine for stuff

upside down laundry basket hiding a pair of tennis shoes, Flying with KIDS,

Practice in the kitchen or living room. Turn a laundry basket upside down and put your purse under it. Explain that the security person is looking inside for unsafe things. Take it out and tell the child that it is his turn. Ask the child to put in a stuffed animal under the laundry basket.

laundry basket over stuffed animal and tennis shoes,Flying with KIDS,

Leave it there while for a minute. The holes in the laundry basket allow the child to see it is still there. Explain it will go into a machine where they will take a picture of it and it will come out the other side for them to hold again.

Now explain the x-ray machine for people. Explain that everyone has to walk through one at a time including big kids like them!

Flying with KIDS – Security x-ray machine for people:

girl walking between two chairs, Flying with KIDS,

Set up two chairs, backs together with about two feet between them. Explain that the machine looks for unsafe things and also somestimes it finds safe things that make it beep.

Tell your kiddo that you will go first to show them what to do.

Empty your pockets into a bowl. Take off your belt and shoes and put them under the laundry basket.

sunglasses in bowl, Flying with KIDS,

******LEAVE the keys in your pocket.*****

Walk between the chairs and loudly say ‘BEEP’.

Explain you have to double check that your pockets are empty and try again. Sometimes people have to walk through more than once and it is OK.

‘Find’ your keys. Say that you forgot and then put them in the bowl with your other things.

sunglasses and keys in bowl, Flying with KIDS,

Walk again through the chairs quietly.

NOW, invite child to walk through. Praise them for acting like a big boy or girl going through security like a grown up!

Explain that sometimes people have to have EXTRA screening. Tell your child that sometimes travelers are chosen for an extra screen. This is to keep everyone on airplanes safe and it is important to mind the security people. Hopefully you will not be chosen for extra screening – because it is such a pain, but better to prepare your child just in case.

Flying with KIDS – Role play extra security screening with your child.

Explain that sometimes security people need to take an extra close look at people and bags. If they choose you or someone in your group to look at more closely someone will ask you to stand to the side. You will have to stand with your feet apart and hands up over your head while they wave a security ‘magic’ wand over your body. Explain it will not touch you and all you have to do is stand very still. It is looking for things aren’t safe.

Get a spatula (which will be your security screening wand) from the kitchen and ask child to help you pretend.  Give them the ‘wand’ and have them pretend to be a security person. Ask them to pass the wand over your body without touching you. Then, trade places. Explain that the wand will not touch them and it doesn’t hurt at all.

boy and girl pretending to go through airport security, Flying with KIDS,

Flying with KIDS – Role play leaving security.

It is time to get stuffed animal and shoes out from under the laundry basket. Fill your pockets and put on your shoes. Talk about staying together because there will be lots of other travelers doing the same thing and staying together is the MOST important thing when traveling as a family.

Now is also a good time to start teaching them not to stop in the middle of the walkway to put on shoes, etc, but to move off to the side. Don’t you wonder about the people who do that? Clog up traffic by stopping right smack in the middle of the aisle like they are the only people on the planet? Ditto for people who stop at the bottom of the escalator…seriously… move two feet to the side! I’m sure their mother would cringe. 😉 Explain that you will move to the side to put yourself back together.

You are creating a foundation for your child to learn! Preparing your child ahead of time will make the experiences smoother AND will help the child remember more about your trip. Kudos to you for raising a global citizen!

Once you are at the airport, take your time and take a deep breath! Airport security is never fun but you can get through it with your child! This is the beginning of your wonderful adventure!

jet in the blue sky, Flying with kids can be easy,

Flying with KIDS – Special guidelines for screening children from TSA

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has special guidelines for children.

*Children 12 and under can leave on shoes, light jackets, and headgear. (Be aware that if your 12 year old looks OLDER than 12 they may be questioned about leaving on these things.)

*Children will walk through the metal detector alone but just ahead of mom and dad. Children will NOT be separated from parents.

*If your child is special needs and has aids such as a wheelchair or scooter, inform the TSA agent. Children will NOT be separated from these items.

Flying with KIDS – Juice, Formula, and Breast Milk

Hallelujah, someone has come to their senses. You CAN bring juice, formula, and breast milk though airport security. What fantastic news for parents! You can even bring the freezer/ice/frozen gel packs to keep it all cool as well!

The HOW-TO – 

Separate the juice, formula, and breast milk from the other liquids you are carrying which follow the 3-1-1  rule.

Tell the TSA officer at the START of screening that you carry juice, formula, and/or breast milk in excess of 3.4 ounces.

Take a deep breath. The screening may involve x-rays.  The officers may have to open the container and have you transfer to a separate empty container (what?) or dispose of a small amount of liquid “if feasible”…. Well, no one said it would be easy.

If I were you…I’d allow extra time.

Flying with KIDS – Make it as easy as possible

If you want to make your airport security experience as smooth as possible (and who doesn’t want that?) consider the TSA  Precheck to get through security easier and quicker. Read about TSA Precheck and how it can make the journey so much easier!  Kids have to have their own number. We use it and it is SOOOO worth the hassle and fee to get. It saves money and hassle every single time we fly.

If you are traveling with an infant you’ll want to read up on how to get through security with an infant, too. Parents can never be too prepared, right?

Traveling with the kids is a wonderful experience. Yeah YOU for taking your child with you and exposing them to new and wonderful things in the world. Raising humans to be global citizens isn’t easy but the entire world will be better for it. Mom and dad – you ROCK.

Uchisar Castle near Goreme, Flying with KIDS ,


The journey only begins with airport security! Keep your kiddos happy and occupied while traveling with a travel guide written just for them! Click, download and print now one of the cool destinations listed below for YOUR little global citizen.

Adventures in New York

Adventures in London

Adventures in the Louvre

Adventures in Canada

Adventures in Nassau, Bahamas

Adventures in Austin

Adventures in Vatican City

Adventures in Spain

Adventures in France

Adventures in the Prado

Adventures in Galleria Borghese

Adventures in New York

A Kid’s Travel Guide to Rome: A New Adventure Guide by The Educational Tourist

The Educational Tourist with a bowl of paella, Flying with the kids,

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The Educational Tourist logo


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16 Responses

  1. Kristi Hynes says:

    Role playing is such a great tip! As a frequent traveler even though I know the drill, it never occurred to me to give the kiddos a heads up! Figured I’d just bark the instructions as we go…which worked…but probably wasn’t a pleasant experience for the kids!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Ha! Ha! Love the description of ‘barking the instructions’. We’ve all done it! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  2. Indrani says:

    This is such a fun way to teach children about security! Very practical, well thought out and presented. I never thought they could be taught like this.

  3. Rhonda Albom says:

    Great suggestions. I love the detail you have gone into in creating a role play for every aspect of security check. It’s the waiting that I think is the most difficult for kids, so another great idea was to get TSA precheck.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      We LOVE TSA PreCheck – worth every single penny and the long process to get. Still, little ones can really be calmed when they know what to expect. I appreciate your comment. 🙂

  4. What an interesting post. I really like the idea of the role playing to get your kids used to going through security. I fear flying with kids is going to get more difficult as the insane ban on most electronics (from some airports) comes into force.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      You know, we are affected by this ban! I bought tickets on Turkish Airlines to go to Athens. WE love Turkish Airlines and did that on purpose but I have to admit I was not happy when I realized there would be no electronics on board!! It really is only for one leg…the one back from Istanbul coming home and there are worse things. I have lots of tips here for non electronic activities for kids and they’ll sure come in handy now! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Wow you have gone into quite a bit of detail with the role playing here. Its not something we would have thought to have done with out kids but like i say what ever works is a good thing. I do like your examples though looks like it could have been a fun activity with the kids

    • NatalieTanner says:

      It can be lots of fun and a real learning experience for first timers. If your kiddos have been flying since they were itty bitty like mine – and probably yours! it isn’t necessary but if the kiddo is preschoolish and it will be the first time…role playing can be a real lifesaver!! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. chloe lin says:

    Your tips are so useufl. I will definitely use them when I have my own kids. 🙂

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