As a parent of a toddler, there is no limit to the things that will turn your normally happy, exciting, and fun child into a screaming, tantrum-throwing monster. One of those big culprits is trying to get a toddler into a car seat.
What makes the meltdowns even more frustrating is they tend to pick the perfect time. It knows that you’re in a hurry seems to put my toddler into a tailspin. So we’re here to provide you with a few tools to help you convince your opening thinking toddler to buckle up.
1. Give your baby car seat options.
Toddlers like to feel in charge. So by negotiating with them, we can convince their tiny independent brains to do what we need them to do. A little trick I use with my toddler is to ask him if he wants me to buckle him in, or pick him up. Or does it want to do it by himself?
Making your child feel like he’s a big boy and not a baby helps convince him to go along with what you need him to do.
2. Explain car seats to your baby.
It’s never bad parenting to negotiate with your child. Not only are you building a strong foundation for them to use at adults. But it teaches them that talking through their problems instead of throwing a temper tantrum. For getting in the car seat and buckling up, my toddler gets to play with car only toys, but snacks are also great tools to use.
I’ve noticed that the biggest obstacle I face with my 4-year-old is to get him to understand. Sitting down with him and explaining to him. “Hey, I know you don’t want to get in the car seat, but I need you too,” is what works for us. My son loves just to understand what’s going on. It’ gives him that sense of control; they often feel like they are missing.
3. Games or Music
Don’t be afraid to get creative, sing, be funny, and having fun with your toddler while in transit. It’s very hard for them to sit still, with all that energy coursing through their little bodies. I act out a scene of dinosaurs chasing us, like his favorite show Dino Dana.
Bilingualkidspot.com has a great list of 10 games you can play in the car. Here’s the link – https://bilingualkidspot.com/2018/09/27/fun-car-games-for-kids-road-trips/
- Fun car games
- I Spy
- Don’t Say It
- I’m going on a picnic.
- Who am I?
- Alphabet Race
- Car Colour Game
Distraction is another great way to keep your toddlers mind off of being strapped down. Take this time to talk to your child, asking them how their day is, ask them what they had for lunch (and it’s ok for you already know the answer, you’re trying to distract them). Talk about the cars driving by, or the colors on the trees. Teach them to recognize stop signs or stores along the way.
5. The Escape Artist
Does your toddler unbuckle their seat belt? What about pulling their arms free on the shoulder straps?
Here’s a little trick that may help curb this dangerous habit:
- Place your toddler in a button-up shirt
- Leave the shirt unbuttoned
- Strap your toddler into his car seat (like you normally would)
- Button up the shirt, covering the latches
6. Focus on the destination.
Talk to your toddler about all the adventures you are going to do. If you are headed to the park, get them excited to go play, talk about the swings or the slide. If the destination isn’t so fun, talk about smaller parts that they might find fun, like riding in the grocery cart, or seeing Aunt Bettie.
If you notice your toddler heading into the downward spiral of a temper tantrum, take a second to find a way to distract them. Breaking out in a silly song, or dance is a sure way at my house to stop a meltdown.
8. Stay calm and be firm.
The most important advice I can give is to stay calm. We understand that some days your toddler has his agenda. But, when it comes to buckling up, there is no other option. So stay firm, and stand your ground.
9. The waiting game
If you have a toddler, like mine, then eventually they will give in, getting bored of the game and let me win. I take this time to explain to him about all the fun things you are missing out on. He doesn’t get to get up and play, as then he associates it with something fun, but we sit in the car and talk for a few minutes.
When it comes to buckling up in a car seat, there is no limit to the imaginative things you can do. Take a deep breath; it’s going to be ok. This hurdle is just a small step to creating an amazing person. And, with the right attitude and tactical plan, this, like all of your toddlers, meltdowns, will soon pass.