Flying With KIDS – Airport Security
Awesome Tips for Airport Security with Kids
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 daycare provider 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 loose.
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.
There will be NO routine in travel so preparing them is key to have them feel some control and safety in the situation.
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 coming 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.
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.
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
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.
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:
Set up two chairs, backs together with about two feet between them. Explain that the machine looks for unsafe things but also sometimes 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.
******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.
Walk again through the chairs quietly.
NOW, invite the 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 – Roleplay 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 or spoon (which will be your security screening wand) from the kitchen and ask your 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.
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 get your things back together and put your shoes on.
****UPDATE**** In some airports kids under 12 can leave on their shoes. Please prepare them anyway just in case. It is WAY better for them to be prepared. The more you prepare – the smoother it will go for you.
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!
Flying with KIDS – Special guidelines for screening children from TSA
*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 through 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 carry liquids through airport security.
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. Allow LOTS of extra time and take a big deep breath before this step.
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.
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.
Natalie, The Educational Tourist