This post is the second in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love, patience, and creativity to work through some fairly common areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, shopping, diaper changes, picking up toys, traveling, transitions, and more. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback.
Ideas 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 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 seat belt. 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.
Race: On your mark, get set, go! See who can get to the car the fastest (but be careful of little fingers trying to close doors). See who can buckle their seat belt the fastest (this often works for us when we’re trying to leave and Kieran simply does not want to go). See who can buckle their seat belt and sing the ABC’s the fastest. You get the picture.
What ideas do you have to help make getting into the car seat a good experience?