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Staying Sane with Kids on Board

4 January 2011By Rubi McGrory

Penny snuck an hour of ironing into her afternoon as the guests lounged and snoozed off a wine-saturated lunch. Well, not all of the guests. Industrious Beatrice, age three, took the opportunity to express her inner artist, using indelible ink to “create” all over the cockpit cushions. Beatrice’s mom sat not four feet away reading a book and shrugged off the incident with a “Laundry technology is so advanced today, I am sure there is some product that removes permanent marker. Besides, you shouldn’t have left the marker where she could find it.” Beatrice helpfully noted that she found the marker in her mom’s handbag.

While children can be a lovely addition to a family, they can be very difficult to accommodate on board, especially if they come without accompanying nannies or babysitters. Frequently these jobs will be left up to the crew, who just as frequently, are not prepared. But don’t worry…as the boss insists, these kids are no trouble at all.

In order to prepare, first have a chat with the chef. Children are picky eaters. They don’t care if the chef is Cordon-Bleu-Bain-Marie-Foie-Gras-emulsion-foam certified. They want simple, simple, simple. Mac and cheese (no truffles), hot dogs, grilled cheese and pizza – not caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza with semolina crust, but cheese and pepperoni on a Boboli crust. Their favorite starter is pigs in a blanket. Dessert should contain two or more of the following: Rice Krispies, chocolate chips, peanut butter, marshmallows, graham crackers and M&Ms.

An advanced version of this involves a DIY project to get the kids involved: build your own pizza bar, cookie decorating or ice cream sundae party. Not for the faint of heart or yachts with white wool carpet.

Having the right amusements on board can be tricky. Most children travel with a hand held video game and dvd player with a variety of movies. But, just as when you were a kid, you were more interested in the toys at somebody else’s house, you will want a small supply of movies, games and crafts. Don’t be scared of having art supplies on board. Kids really like crafting and many companies sell project sand products which won’t destroy your interior. Stock up with kits that don’t involve paint – stitchery, scratch boards, beads…and get plenty of pipe cleaners. Stay away from model airplanes with glue and paint, but find a good book on paper airplanes. In a pinch, challenge your little guests to see how high they can stack poker chips.

Kids are gross. Even the most well behaved tykes will challenge your ability to keep up with cleaning. Freshly made beds will be rumpled, every glass surface will be smeared with gooey fingerprints, mysterious stains will bloom on fancy cushions and remains from food you never even had on board will appear in crevices for months afterwards. Don’t fight it or it will break you. Be strong, use the Force…and a lot of elbow grease.

Children are a complex species, like cats, they know when they are getting to you and will work to push you over the edge. Try to find a common ground with your age-challenged guests. Do you both love Harry Potter? Do you hate Justin Bieber or root for the same sports team? Collusion and coercion are equally helpful tools to win over this demographic and make their time on board a bit easier for you.

Do you have any great kid tips and techniques or do you just want to share a brilliant child induced disaster?