Whenever other parents see the minis settled in their car seats as we are about to drive, the first reaction I get is: “How the hell did you train them to stay put?!” I get lots of that–when we attend events together, when we drive to school, even when random people see me unbuckling them from their seats in a parking a lot.
The simple answer is I trained them young. The Little Man have always been securely placed in a car seat ever since he was a little baby while The Princess started using a car seat when she was about 5 months old so they sort of got used to the idea that that is their place in the car.
Let me tell you, though, that it was not super easy getting them used to it. Sure, it was a breeze getting them settled in a car seat when they were infants. But, as soon as they started to move more, it became more difficult to keep them still. I believe the hardest phase was when we shifted from the rear-facing baby seat to a forward-facing car seat. They were about 6 months then.
You know how 6-month olds are so eager to explore, right? This constant want to explore makes them so impatient, especially when they are buckled in a car. So, what is a parent to do? Here’s how we dealt with uneasy little ones:
TIP #1: Explain why they need to stay in a car seat.
They may not seem to be listening to you, but they are. When The Princess was 6 months old, I used to tell her every single time I strap her in that it’s for her safety. Now that she’s 3 years old, she immediately heads to her car seat as soon as she enters the car. If you ask her why she needs to stay on her seat, she’d answer that it’s for her safety.
This won’t do the trick all the time since there will be days when the minis would throw tantrums when we try to strap them in, but it works most of the time. :)
TIP #2: Take short trips while the child is in the car seat first before taking longer trips.
Now, this tip–cross my heart–works wonders. Don’t expect your child to get used to the idea of getting strapped in a seat right away. Instead, help her get used to it by taking what we call practice trips. These are car rides, with the child on her car seat, the last for just a couple of minutes. Go around the block or drive from your house to your village’s gate while playing nursery rhymes in the background or playing I Spy. The key here is to keep it short and fun.
Do this every day. We did this for about a week, then took a longer ride the following week. Before we knew it, the minis can already stay in their seat for hours at a time! Trust me, this works–we drove all the way from Manila to Tuguegarao (and back) thrice already! :D
READ: Baby 1st Car Seat Review
TIP #3: Give her something that will keep her preoccupied.
As I admitted in no. 1, there will be days when your child would throw crying fits just to get out of the seat. This is the top reason why most parents I know no longer force their child to stay in a car seat. “Nagwawala eh!” they would say. Well folks, that’s normal. Kids get bored and they become extra grumpy when they’re bored.
Instead of unbuckling them from the car seat, give them something to play with. Again, trust me, they will stop crying on their own once they are given something more interesting. This is why when we drive with the kids–even if we’re just heading to the grocery–we always make sure that we have books, toys, and snacks. Do not forget the snacks. :D
Most of the time, after playing with their toys, reading books, singing songs, and snacking, our little ones go to sleep already. I suggest that you play soft music when your child finally dozes off. Soft music paired with a cold, moving car is a perfect combination for hours of sleep. This is especially amazing when you’re in a long road trip.
With the minis trained to stay in their seats, driving–even when it’s just me with both of them–is much easier. As I already mentioned before, I drive The Princess to school every day with The Little Man tagging along and it has always been a breeze because of car seats! I don’t need to worry about what the kids are doing in the back or get distracted because someone’s climbing into the front passenger seat.
Did you train your child to stay in a car seat while you’re on the road? If you have more tips for parents who may be having problems getting their kids used to the car seat, share ’em in the comments section below. If you have questions about “car seat training,” you’re welcome to comment as well!