Google+ Authentic Parenting: Make Car Rides Easy with a Toddler

Friday, September 21, 2012

Make Car Rides Easy with a Toddler

For various reasons, strapping a toddler down in a car seat can be a tricky question. They don't like to be retained at an age where all they want to do is explore, and they don't yet understand the safety issue. Now how can you make car rides easy, or easier, if you have a toddler?

Find the right car seat

Image: Eric Hamiter on Flickr
If you're looking to take the stress out of putting your child in the car, there are a number of things you can do, but begin with picking the right car seat. With an uncomfortable car seat, getting your toddler in the car is never going to be easy. Buying an age/weight and height appropriate seat isn't only safe, it's also much more comfortable. A seat that fits your child is less likely to be squirmed out of while driving.
Nowadays, there is a range of car seats now available that are safe and comfortable, with some higher-end models even looking like plush lounge chairs. Consumer Reports, a non-product sponsored website and publication, provides a comprehensive buying guide here, though some advice is specific to the US.  

Explain the safety issue
As mentioned above, the issue of safety can be quite abstract for a small child. Do try to explain to your child why they have to be restraint. You can facilitate comprehension by watching some crash tests on youtube. There are some with kids who are not attached, try looking for that, or kids who are not in a car seat.
You can also show your child what velocity is about, though it is paramount that you do this safely!

ALWAYS wear your own seatbelt
We've discussed it over and over how important it is to lead by example, and nothing is less true when it comes to wearing a seatbelt. Adults tend to be sloppy with seat belts, telling ourselves it's "only a short drive", or tending too the kids requiring a bit more mobility. The message is that the rules don't apply to you, that there are exemptions, or that somehow it doesn't matter if YOU are safe.
A nice way to remember to wear your own seatbelt is to ask if everyone is strapped in before setting out.

NEVER make an exception!
Though I am not fond of the words always and never, they do apply when it comes to road safety, and being firm on this topic eventually makes it easier on the whole family, because exceptions will be tested!!

Wait it out
After having explained and having the right seat, it is still possible to encounter some rebellion. Try to wait it out.
Tell your child where you want to go (obviously this works best when your child is equally enthusiastic to leave) and then wait until they get into their seat and willingly get strapped in. Obviously this may take a while, but wait it out. If you feel you're getting frustrated, walk around the car.
If your child squirms out, pull over and wait it out again.

I did this with my daughter when she was about three and all it took was two wait outs and pulling over twice. Since, she has always been willing to strap in.

Make it fun
Having a special car fun bag, with lots of goodies you only use in the car (and when your child is strapped in), will make the journey more enticing. Put some favorite toys in there, maybe coloring supplies, some cookies and juice boxes. When your child is old enough, you can place this within their reach, so they can use it at liberty. There are special storage bags available for kids which you attach to the front seat, but a regular bag will also do the trick.
Another nice idea for slightly older children (4 and up) are foldable tablets you attach to the front seat, which enables them to draw, write etc, a bit like in an airplane.

Hopefully, these tips will help you on your trip with your toddler. What else have you found helpful when it comes to driving?




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