Googly eyes, family travel & the TSA

Take note TSA: We're watching you -- with our googly eyes

Once upon a time, I’d have packed a whole slew of arts and crafts supplies in a backpack and hoisted it over my shoulder for holiday airline travel with my children.

Things are a tad more complicated these days so I jumped on the TSA website to see what will or won’t fly with kids nowadays.

I found some pleasant surprises — like the fact that kids can still enjoy crafts with scissors (even those with pointed tips) assuming that the blades are less than four inches long.

This opens up a whole new world of options. In addition to origami, that lovely art of folded paper, kids can enjoy kirigami — the fine art of folding coupled with cutting (think snowflakes).

Scissors make string crafts more accessible too. Think tying together bundles of short pieces to make a yarn doll, or braiding embroidery floss for friendship bracelets.

The glue situation may be a little stickier. The TSA notes that non-flammable liquid, gel or aerosol paint is acceptable in a 3.4 oz. (100 ml) or smaller container — but I’m still researching the exact properties of Elmer’s white glue.

If you can’t take the glue in your carry-on, check on what’s allowed for check-in baggage. You’ll need to check TSA, FAA and airline regulations.

A bit of glue coupled with furry multi-colored pom poms and googly eyes can make for some mighty cute creatures (choose holiday colors to elevate them to place decorations for dinner guests).

The trio of simple construction paper, small children’s scissors and a glue stick that meets all the rules and regs has endless possibilities — including the tried-and-true favorite: paper chains.

Your biggest challenge here will be resisting the urge to wrap your child’s artwork around unruly fellow passengers. There’s probably a law against that on the books somewhere too.

Crayons and markers with a hefty supply of paper and/or coloring books is another easy way to go. Bring enough to color along with your child, but don’t cry when his purple trees turn our so much prettier than your green ones.

Buy a bit of card stock or pre-made blank bookmarks before your trip and you’ll have an easy distraction in making custom-decorated bookmarks or personalized thank you notes for friends, family or teachers.

Punch a whole in the top to add ribbon or yarn to a bookmark. But make sure you use a simple whole punch (which will set off the metal detector) rather than prohibited items like drills or ice picks.

Stamp pads are handy for making fingerprint art, but I’m still reading the fine print on these as well. I don’t see them expressly prohibited on the TSA list, so I’m still keen on using thumb prints with markers to create curly-tailed pigs and such. 

Sometimes having oodles of a single type of item, like pipe cleaners, can go a long way. Think shaping letters or numbers with preschoolers or challenging older kids to make new jewelry forms or holiday decorations.

Favor craft supplies that are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to use in a variety of ways depending on your child’s whimsy and imagination.

Think pre-cut thin wooden ornaments and other items you child can color or decorate, then give to friends and family who meet you at the gate or put you up at their place for the holidays.

Consider bringing extras to share, since your child might encounter fellow artists while flying the friendly skies.  A bit of art therapy might make us all less jumpy about the whole jet travel thing.

Toy, art and museum stores sometimes offer good airplane art options — including Colorforms, paper dolls and more.

When buying ready-made craft kits, be sure contents are TSA and FAA approved before taking them onboard. You don’t want get the pat down over something like a simple sewing needle.

A few final tips on the fine art of airline travel: Engage your child in helping to choose supplies and projects. Save some special supplies only for travel time so the novelty factor weighs in your favor. Bring a special apron that’ll keep your child clean and up that “I’m an artist” feeling.

You may find air travel frustrating, but most kids can still find it fun with simple supplies for engaging their brilliant little minds and busy little hands.

— Lynn

Note: Arts and craft supplies are often available at hobby shops, art supply stores, arts and craft retailers, museum gift shops, toy stores, teaching supply shops, book stores and larger general purpose retailers. Be sure and check TSA and FAA regulations before packing any arts and craft supplies in your carry-on or checked baggage.

Coming up: Black Friday shopping — museum-style