Four Ways to Keep a Toddler from Kicking the Airplane Seat in Front of You

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toddler flying in airplane seat with CARES harness
Providing maximum leg room (and support) by using CARES is just one way you might help keep your toddler from kicking the airplane seat on your next flight.

Worried your toddler will not stop kicking the airplane seat in front of you on your next flight? You are not alone. Chances are there are a half dozen parents on your same flight worried their child may do the same, not to mention passengers on your future flight who may be seated in front of you.

Fear not. There are some steps you can take to help prevent this from becoming a problem–at least where your child is concerned. 😉

1. Book seats for toddlers on the bulkhead row? Eureka! (Well, maybe…)

The easiest way to keep a toddler from kicking the airplane seat back in front of her is to simply choose seats on the bulkhead row. Let’s face it, you can’t kick a seat that isn’t there!

Just remember, the arm rests are usually fixed in place on bulkhead rows. So they can’t be raised out of the way in case you need the extra wiggle room to install a car seat for your child.

If you do want to use a car seat, make sure you bring one with a narrow footprint or plan to use the CARES harness instead (more below). See recommended Toddler Car Seats for Travel here and don’t miss How to Travel with a Car Seat (Without Losing Your Mind).

2. Turn around testy flights with your toddler — before they begin.

In this scenario, she can kick the seat in front of her all she wants! Are you flying with a toddler that is still fairly small (up to 20 mos and older for some children), and a convertible car seat?

If so, you may be able to install her car seat rear-facing on the airplane instead. which will avert the kicking-seat crisis altogether. It may also help her focus on other, more constructive activities (see 5 screen-free favorites to keep kids busy in flight in this post).

Installing car seats rear-facing on airplanes will not work in all situations, however. And some airlines simply won’t allow it (I’m looking at you, Ryanair). For more, see Five Things You Should Know Before Flying with a Car Seat.

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3. Maximize leg room for your toddler with CARES.

2 year old child using CARES harness in airplane seat
My daughter at 2.5 years using CARES in an airplane. Photo: Shelly Rivoli

Another way to help keep a toddler from kicking the airplane seat is to use the CARES safety harness on airplanes instead of a car seat.

Virtually all FAA-approved car seats will position the toddler closer to the airplane seat in front of him. Yet the CARES harness will allow him the maximum sneaker-to-seat back distance.

And another benefit of the CARES harness over car seats? It can be used in virtually all seats on non-emergency rows in the airplane. Yes, middle seats! (Save the window for yourself for a change?!)

Be sure to read my full review of CARES here if you’re considering it.

4. Don’t leave little legs dangling!

Toddler using airplane leg rest or foot hammock
A toddler relaxes on an airplane seat with a leg extension support. Photo: UNARK

When’s the last time you spent hours on end with your legs dangling from a seat unsupported? (You might be tempted to kick something–or someone, too!) Fortunately there are *so many* products on the market to support little kids’ legs on airplanes these days, and it may be with good reason.

Some call them a leg support, foot rest, airplane seat extender, kids airplane foot hammock, and all sorts of creative terms. (Click photo above for UNARK’s product or see more listings here.) But what they have in common is creating a continuing support at airplane seat level over the open space.

If your child is using a low-profile car seat like the WAYB Pico foldable car seat, or the CARES kids airplane harness, or the airplane seat belt alone, their legs can rest on the extension right in front of them.

BONUS: Many parents report these leg rest / airplane seat extenders were helpful in keeping toys, snacks, books and more from (constantly) ending up on the floor!

More help with toddler travel logistics:

Helpful toddler travel gear:

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby   facebook   twitter   about the author   

Curious about this content? See my editorial content disclosure.

READERS NOTE: An earlier version of this post was first published February 11, 2014. It has since been updated, revised, and expanded.

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