Surviving a Car Ride With a Young Child in the Car Seat

Driving around with a toddler or infant in the car seat can be a real nightmare for some parents. If your child is one who become as stiff as a board the moment you attempt to strap him or her into a car seat and cry non-stop to the point of throwing up, then you might find some of the following tried and test tips for surviving a car ride useful.

1. Timing

For some toddlers, there is an optimum time after a nap where their disposition and mood is most accommodating. It might be a window of two hours after waking up in the morning when your child will be most willing to tolerate a car ride in the car seat. Determine what this window is for your child by making note of all the times when your child has been most accommodating in the car seat.

2. Be Ready

Make sure you have everything you need for your outing packed and loaded into the car before strapping your child into the car seat. The last thing you wan to do is leave your toddler waiting in the car while you run back to the house for an extra diaper or snacks.

If your child is a breastfed toddler, make sure you nurse your child sufficiently before getting into the car. Sometimes a little nursing time is just the thing that your toddler needs to survive the journey.

3. Getting into the Car Seat

For toddlers who immediately adopt the “plank position” when they spy the car seat you need to keep them distracted with an activity while you carry them out to the car. It might be a favourite toy, book or a really special treat reserved only for very special occasions – you know your toddler best.

4. Distractions in the Car

After getting a toddler securely into the car seat, surviving the journey is the next task. The best thing you can do to prevent the crying is distract, distract, distract. As each toddler is a unique individual, each child will respond differently to different distraction objects. Additionally, different ages and stages of development will require different distraction tools. Here are some possible distractions you can use depending on your child’s interest and stage of development:


  • Keep a bag of interesting objects for a young toddler to examine. For instance, toy keys, catalogues with lots of pictures, board books, cloth books, etc.
  • Generally objects that your toddler can manipulate will occupy his or her attention for longer. For instance, toys with lots of buttons, lights and sounds will be more interesting and engaging than a cuddly soft toy. A popular toy is one of those car seat steering wheels that attach to the car seat. The problem with loose toys is that they can be dropped, after which your child will have nothing else to do. A home-made alternative is to offer your toddler an old wallet with lots of old cards that you no longer need inside it. Your toddler will enjoy pulling cards out one by one. Another alternative is keeping a CD case with old CDs that your toddler can pull out one by one. Encouraging your toddler to practice tearing up scrap paper is also a good activity, albeit a little messy to clean up after.
  • Listening to your toddler’s favourite music, playing a favourite audio book on CD, singing favourite songs, or telling stories can be an effective distraction for an older toddler. Talk to your toddler about the interesting scenery outside the car or about anything in particular that interests your toddler.
  • Small doodle pads that can be easily erased and drawn over again are also great for toddlers who love to scribble.
  • Keeping a stash of favourite books that your toddler can flip through. Talking books or those books with buttons, lights and sounds are also great.
  • Favourite snacks or special treats for toddlers who can self-feed are an excellent distraction.

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