My son did wonderful in the car seat the first 8 months. He would sit back and just quietly stare out at the world through the rear window. Then something changed….he suddenly HATED the car seat. Getting him strapped down was like trying to give a cat a bath.
He would stiffen his whole body in a way that he would make it impossible for me to get him buckled seated. He screamed loud enough to shatter windows. Once he was finally buckled and secured he would continue to let it be known that this was the worse car ride ever by shrieking until we reached the destination…the second he was out of the seat his sheepish grin would return.
The struggle continued until he was 14 months. He is now back to being a content little car rider and I am EXTREMELY thankful that phase has ended. Here are some tips and tricks to get your little one safely secured:
create a routine
Give your little one fair warning that car seat time is upon them. Sometimes it is the transition that sets toddlers off, so making sure they know what is about to happen can help prepare them. Talk to them about how the car seat keeps them safe and is required when you want to go somewhere new and fun. Talk about getting their wiggles out before they need to sit so that they can ride in the car.
Ready….Set…..LOOK SOMETHING SHINY!!
Distraction can be a very effective strategy. It is really helpful if you have two people-one to buckle and one to put on a show! This worked best for us when my husband was along as one of us would dance a jig behind the car as the other one buckled him into his seat as fast as possible. Get creative by looking around your environment and point out something new in their surroundings for them to look at. If you have an older sibling a long, let them be the star of the distraction show.
Use your little ones favorite stuffed toy as a distraction to lure them into the car seat. My son has a stuffed puppy that he sleeps with and it seemed to keep him calmer when the puppy tagged along. Leave the toy in the car if possible when you are at your destination so that your little one has something to look forward to upon return. Once you get in the car say, “Where’s (insert favorite toy)?” While your little one scans the car for the toy, quickly get that 5-point harness on!
Sing a Song
Now is your time to crank out your best version of “Itsy Bitsy” or “Wheels on the Bus”. Singing allows you to distract your child while keeping your hands free. If singing isn’t enough add a few tricks with your voice. Sing in a soft whisper so they have to focus more intently to hear what you’re saying, or play with the speed by singing really fast or really slow. They may just pause and look at you long enough for you to get that belt buckled!
Check the Car Seat
Always check and make sure your car seat is installed properly. If it is angled wrong it could make it uncomfortable for the child and this may be why they are acting out every time you put them in it. Many cities have car seat checkpoints which can help make sure your seat is installed correctly. I highly recommend doing this before you bring your baby home and any time you get a new car seat. Also have it checked in different vehicles if you are using more than one car.
KEEP LEAVING THE HOUSE
There were times I seriously thought about avoiding the car completely hoping that this phase would just be outgrown. Being home bound 24/7 is just not an option for sanity. Avoiding difficult activities or tasks with your child does NOT help them get better. Continuing the car rides showed him that this was part of life…and actually good things came from it! It took a lot of journeys before the backseat wailing stopped.
One last tip before you go! It is always a good idea to have your diaper bag fully packed no matter if your destination is near or far. I have put together a quick checklist to make sure that you have all the essentials on hand. You can download the checklist below!
Free Packing Checklist
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