Gentle Parenting Ideas: Getting Into the Car Seat

May 25th, 2010 by Dionna | 17 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Children, Consensual Living, Eclectic Learning, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Infants, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity, Toddlers

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This post is the second in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love and logic to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, eating, grocery shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback; thank you to everyone who has already contributed ideas.

2008-09-27 1Ideas to Make Getting Into the Car Seat a Positive Experience


Build Time In: if you know your toddler is always going to ask to “steer” the car for a minute before leaving, build an extra 5 minutes into your getting-ready routine so that you will have time to indulge her. And take heart, it won’t go on forever. They’ll be excited by the idea of steering (or climbing in the back, or honking the horn, etc.) for a few weeks, and then they’ll get over it. Ask yourself this: if all it takes to make your toddler’s face light up is to let her steer the car for two minutes a day, why would you not want to do it? (A story about the picture on the right: when Kieran was about 9 months old, every time we got in the car, he had to play peek-a-boo with papa. Every.Time. If we didn’t do it, he would SCREAM. It got old, but after about 5 weeks, the game had lost its allure. That’s happened over and over in various forms, and I’m sure each variation is sparking some new set of neurons in his brain, which is why we play along.)

Ticket to Ride: have a hard time getting them to move toward the car? Give them a “ticket” for the train (or the boat, airplane, etc.). Make a show of it. Say “all aboard!” as they’re climbing in. In our house, Kieran is the conductor and I am the engineer.

Buckle a Baby in: let your toddler buckle his favorite doll or stuffed animal into another seatbelt. Sometimes letting the toddler “mother” another baby will help them feel better about things.

Choose a CD: have a CD selection accessible in the car or on the way out the door. Let your toddler pick the drive time music.

Make Her Look Forward to the Drive: try making your car rides fun and something your toddler will look forward to. Play “I Spy” on the way to the grocery store. Sing silly songs in traffic jams. See how far you can count while waiting for a red light to turn green.

Blast-off: buckle your toddler into the “spaceship,” then do a countdown as you blast off (out of the driveway). You could also make a show of putting on your space suits before getting into the car, talking about the planets you are passing, etc.

Musical Car Seats: if you have more than one toddler and they are in the same car seats (both rear/forward facing, straps in the same slots), let them choose what car seat they’d like to sit in.

Snacks: for when things really get tough, keep an arsenal of healthy (and non-messy) snacks handy.

Let Him Buckle Himself in: there will come a point when your toddler wants to do everything by himself. Buckling themselves into their car seats can be a very empowering experience. Just make sure that the straps are fit securely/properly on your toddler after he has buckled them.

Sing Silly Songs or Songs with Hand Motions: sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Head Shoulders Knees & Toes, anything that lets your toddler sing along, move in a silly way, and/or laugh while you get the car seat buckled.

What ideas do you have to help make getting into the car seat a good experience? Please share them in the comments so I can add them to the list.


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17 Responses to:
"Gentle Parenting Ideas: Getting Into the Car Seat"

  1. MomAgain@40   karentoittoit

    Great advice!
    I hope you will do a post on how to entertain them on a longer drive? (Like going on holiday)

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      That’s a really good idea – I will see what I can come up with. Kieran is a very reluctant car rider – our method involves one adult sitting in back with him ;)

  2. Melody

    For the little ones, we bring along musical toys or the current favorite toy to distract while we buckle in.
    After 18 months or so, we sometimes play a game asking silly, over-the-top questions about where we are going and what vehicle we are buckling in to -“Are we on a motorcycle? A submarine? A garbage truck? A safari jeep? Are we going to space? Africa? The ocean?” We often try to tie it in with books we have read recently. We let him decide which sounds the most interesting and then we have fun imagining the adventure.

    For our older son, we showed him how the adults buckle in. We have always done it but he had never seen it from the front seat. That helped him to understand that just like him, we have to be buckled in while we are in the car.

  3. Rebecca

    We frequently race (this works for just about everything all the time, clean up toys, get hands washed for dinner, you name it). Amelia insists (and has for years) that she get in and out our door (more out than in) and seriously, I don’t have the energy to care. So, she gets in our door, and races us to her carseat to see if she can be in the carseat when we get around the car to buckle her. We set timers for cleaning up and getting ready for bed. Can you be done before the timer goes off. (Did I mention she was a competitive little bugger). Can you go potty and have hands washed before mommy gets your plate ready and on the table for dinner, you name it.

  4. Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)   ALotofLoves

    I chuckled at the musical car seats idea. I tried that myself with my kids and although they initially liked the idea not five minutes into the drive both of them were monumentally upset about being on the “wrong” side of the car. I won’t try that again. I’m sure other kids aren’t as stuck in their ways as mine are though. :)

    • Julie

      Don’t count on it. To this day, when my sister and I ride in the back seat together, we both have to sit in “our” side from when we were kids. I’m 31, she’s 25.

  5. We took a loooong car trip last summer with our then-2.5-year-old, and she was the best traveler out of all of us! I posted about some things we tried here – as well as some we didn’t try, and how we liked or didn’t like things. I’m very blessed in that the little one really likes her car seat!

  6. Ashley Ward

    I have just recently found your blog and love it! I was looking forward to these recent blogs because my daughter hates getting her diaper changed and getting into her car seat. Do you have any advice for a 22 mo old? She wouldnt really understand some of this. I do try music and even stories but before I even lift her up to get in the car she is already arching her back and throwing a tantrum. Ive tried waiting on her to sit in her car seat at her own time and that never happened. Thanks!

    • Rane dae

      Would you consider letting her get into her seat by herself? I have always had to give my son a head’s up about what is happening next. Now that he’s 2.5, we talk in the morning about what is planned for the day. I talk to him about what is happening now, and what will happen next and when. I find that the freak out often has little to do with just an immediate situation but is something that may have built up for a while. For the moment, just be there with her as a quiet presence and love her. You’ll get through it!

  7. kaila

    I have always felt terrible for making my children get in the car when they were so young they really couldn’t comprehend that we HAVE to sit and be buckled and drive a few minutes before we can get somewhere where we will have fun! These are some very creative ways of getting little ones to enjoy getting in their car seat. My children love picking out music and exploring the car a bit before taking off. Taking the extra time to help them enjoy buckling up sure beats struggling with a strong, kicking, and screaming two year old! Thanks for the good post Dionna!

  8. Melodie   bfmom

    My kids have always liked trying to buckle themselves. When they first got to that atage it was so frustrating and I HAD to remember to get them in with time to spare otherwise it was just a big fight or everyone had to endure quite a bit of hurt feelings and screaming for the first part of the journey. Great ideas! But I’m so glad to admit I’m done with this now. ;)

  9. Deb Chitwood   DebChitwood

    What a great post! Sitting in a car seat is difficult for so many children, and you have some great ideas. For longer drives, we often used your technique of having one adult sit in the back.

  10. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    Picking the music is what works best for us right now. I bring the iPod and Mikko gets to say (most times) what song to cue up. For instance, right now it’s “Mamma Mia” or “Day-O.” Which he then asks to play fifteen times in a row, or whenever we get to our destination, whichever’s (thankfully) sooner. But it keeps him occupied with singing along, because he loves learning songs through by heart. Like you said, some sort of neurons firing, so I let him at it and try to tune out the twelfth through fifteenth renditions.

  11. Shane   520eastbrands

    I definitely used the “buckle your own baby” with my daughter. And with my son, if I empower him to buckle himself, we definitely get going a lot faster – and a lot happier. Great tips!

  12. Stephanie   stephsday

    These are excellent ideas! Gentle parenting definitely requires creativity and patience, but it’s worth it (and it’s more fun). :)

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