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Great Waiting Games

On a Plane . . .

While it's a drag to sit on the runway, look on the bright side: You've got a tray table to play and draw on, and there are lots of distractions close at hand.

Even if you don't find a flight attendant who's attentive to your child's friendly overtures, he or she can be a source of tested advice. One handed me a bag of trail mix and told me to shake it for my 3-month old, who also loved mouthing the crackling metallic paper with her toothless gums. And I slipped a penny in the small water bottle I'd just finished with, capped it tightly, and showed her how to make the penny go round and round. Plus, I discovered a new appreciation for the metal flap on the seat belt in the empty seat next to me, which I used to click out rhythms to distract my crying baby when our fellow travelers gave us the evil eye.

My preschooler, of course, usually requires more advanced amusements  -- though we've been known to empty those snack-mix packets and spend the better part of a flight sorting out each item into its own pile and counting them up.

Of late, the headsets that are given out are our hands-down favorite. We take turns wearing them while the other person whispers messages in the plug end and the listener tries to translate. When the baby gets fussy, we turn the headset plug toward her and blow some air through it to tickle her neck.

We also invented a hide-and-seek game by tearing a photo of a person out of a magazine and taking turns hiding him within reach. He's turned up behind the pull-down tray, under the blanket, and even in the airsick bag (a surprisingly versatile toy: You can hide rattles inside for the baby or make it into a puppet with a face drawn on the outside).

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