Driving Me Crazy
Surviving a road trip with a toddler
Whoever said it’s the journey not the destination wasn’t traveling by car with a toddler. You’ll have to steel your nerves and endure some rather vocal objections when shackling a tornado of energy into a car seat for hours.
However, driving is an efficient, relatively economical way to get from point A to point B and chances are at some stage you’ll be embarking on a road trip with your toddler. Here are a few tips to help you survive the drive and maybe even glean some happy memories from the effort.
Safety comes first. Always place your child in a securely installed car seat, preferably in the center position of the back seat. By one year of age and 20 lbs, you can turn the seat to be forward facing, but it is safer to remain in the rear facing position as long as your seat manufacturer (and child’s tolerance) allows. It’s best to travel with your own car seat rather than borrow one from a relative or through a car rental agency, just to ensure it’s a quality seat.
Some kids are soothed by the sound of the motor, whereas others are roused by the adventure or incensed by the confinement of it all. The goal is not to get to your destination in record time but to get there safely and with your sanity intact. Regular pit stops to stretch legs, run around a park, go to the bathroom, grab a snack, breath some fresh air and break up the journey are essential for a toddler – and you. Find a rest stop, a play ground or a safe place to pull over every hour or two. Don’t consider this an inconvenience, but rather a welcomed respite and an opportunity for everyone to recharge their batteries for the next leg of the journey.
If possible, try to time your excursion to maximize nap potential or take advantage of night time sleep. A slumbering cherub makes a better car companion than a whiny, cranky, vocal one.
It won’t be long into the journey when you hear the demand for food and drink. You’ll need an assortment of road snacks and beverages (water is best) for when the munchies strike. Stock a cooler and keep it handy in the front seat so you can pass out the goodies when needed.
Some toddlers are prone to car sickness, especially on an extended journey or if stuck in stop-and-go traffic. In an effort to prevent this unpleasantness, don’t start the trip on an empty stomach – try to have your child eat something light before the trip. If the queasies strike, roll down the window for some fresh air or, better yet, find a safe place to pull over until the feeling subsides (or your child vomits, which will bring relief). Some kids are helped by a snack of dry crackers. Have a bib, some wipes and a change of clothes in the car in case of illness. Ask your pediatrician about medicines for motion sickness if this is a real concern. Most have to be taken before you set forth, and many cause drowsiness – but that might be a welcomed side effect for a long journey. It could backfire, though, and make your child more agitated, so use with caution.
Pass the time
Bring a few comfort items in the car for your little one – a favorite blankie, a neck pillow, a cuddly toy. Toddlers aren’t known for their long attention spans, so you’ll need a bevy of distractions on hand to stimulate, engage and entertain your tyke. Mix in a few new items with some familiar favorites and bring them out in intervals. Music is one of the most absorbing activities for a confined toddler. Stock the sound system with kiddie tunes and make the most of your together time by enjoying a family sing-along on wheels.
Portable DVD players are wonderful tools for road trips (make sure the battery is charged). Even if you usually prefer to limit your toddler’s TV time, a carefully chosen program or movie can help pass the idle time and make a long journey more tolerable. Audio books are another great option.